Baseball season has snuck upon us again and it remains one of my favorite times of the year. I had my first taste yesterday, watching the Mets squander a lead then lose in extra innings to the Washington Nationals as I worked in the studio. It felt pretty good. I have written many times over the years here about my affection for the game and how its history and its folklore is woven into the mesh of our country.
One of my favorite things to listen to when I was a kid was an album called Baseball: The First 100 Years . It was from 1969, the year that marked professional baseball’s first century, and I can’t remember if I got it in Cooperstown or at Shea Stadium. But I would play it over and over, listening to the calls of the great plays and great games of the past. Willie Mays’ over the shoulder catch. Bobby Thompson’s epic 1951 home run that ended with perhaps the most famous sound clip in baseball history– The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!
It had Abbott & Costello with their classic bit Who’s On First?, which still makes me laugh even though I’ve heard it a thousand times. There were songs about Joltin’ Joe and Say Hey Willie and the classic Take Me out to the Ballpark. And, of course, there was a recitation of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem Casey At The Bat.
I’ve heard many versions of Casey At The Bat over the years. Some are goofy, some are dead serious and some are emotionally overwrought, especially some of the earliest ones that featured stage actors who exaggerated every feeling and syllable in the poem. They are all good fun but I prefer a more straight approach. Today I am featuring a version with the wondrous voice of James Earl Jones followed by a version from another wonderful voice, Garrison Keillor, giving the other side of the story, speaking in a strong Bostonian accent. Casey was obviously a Yankee in this version. It’s pretty funny and sends me into the season with a smile. Hope it does the same for you.