1. The first significant literary work about baseball;
2. Still the best-known literary work about baseball, or at the very least, the best-known poem, and there are many excellent ones; and,
3. Really good.
I didn’t really appreciate the beauty of the poem until I realized it’s not about Casey; it’s about Mudville. The hero is the town and the fans.
The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day….
and ends with this poignant stanza:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.
Mudville, as I tell kids on every school visit, and blogged about before, is now the most famous sports town in America. It’s anywhere that’s suffered a sports tragedy. Yesterday, when a Detroit pitcher missed out on a perfect game due to a bad call on the 27th out, Detroit became the muddiest of Mudvilles even though the Tigers won the game. I named my book Mudville to play on the rich tradition of Mudville in sports lore and because my Mudville is, you know, pretty gosh darn muddy.
I think identifying with Mudville is a way to heal the aching heart. It connects a pitiful, heartbroken fan to the greatest sports town in the world and an ageless tradition of bitter defeat. It makes you part of something big and, in its own way, great. Nobody ever wrote a poem about the winners, but the Mudvillians are immortal. Or, at the very least, alive and well at the ripe old age of 122.