Mighty Casey's Dying Vision of the Twenty‑First Century

                  (another poem by David E. Manuel)

     I expected, as Casey lay dying that day,
     That his head would still be spinning
     With thoughts of that epic Mudville failure,
     The pride that proved his unmanning.
     But his eyes glazed o'er with a far‑away look,
     His face shone, he broke out grinning
     And described in detail his wondrous vision
     Of another, more fateful inning.

     "'Twas the seventh game of the World Series,
     A snowy, December day.
     The field was plowed each half‑inning
     To facilitate the play.
     The wind from the north was biting.
     The sky was charcoal gray.
     'What a perfect day for baseball,'
     All the broadcasters did say.

     The crowd shouted loudly and avidly
     From beneath woolen blankets and hats,
     Old, patient men sat in outfield seats,
     Examining volumes of stats.
     The small children, though, were too cold to behave
     Like obnoxious little brats,
     And in silence they waited nervously
     For the home team's last at‑bats.

     The Buffalo Blows stood steadfast,
     Down two runs, they felt they could score.
     They'd fought too hard through the first six games
     To lose hope with still one chance more.
     The pitcher's position was due up first,
     The top of the order in store,
     And up to the plate stepped a rookie pinch‑hitter
     Name of Delchanseter Dior.

     Del was a tall, skinny left‑handed kid
     Without any power or punch.
     He was known for his quiet demeanor,
     Although some thought him out to lunch.
     His teammates respected his endless supply
     Of pistachio nuts to munch.
     A sage in the stands loudly commented,
     'The manager's playing a hunch.'

     The Vancouver skipper, armed with scouting reports,
     Asked for time to confer with his battery.
     He signaled the catcher to come to the mound
     Where they chatted with Enderpup Lollerby.
     Big Endie had entered to pitch in the eighth,
     Retiring two Blows batters handily.
     They noted the scouts all said Del couldn't take
     High, tight fastballs, and struck out frequently.

     Now Del had just one solitary bloop single
     To show for his season that year,
     But his skill with the glove had earned the respect
     Of his colleagues and baseball peers.
     The visiting infielders laughed at his average.
     Del stepped to the plate without fear,
     Cocksure he'd reach first‑base and start a late‑rally.
     A fastball hit Del in the ear.

     The pinch‑runner took a conservative lead
     As the number‑one hitter stepped up,
     Already with two hits and one base on balls;
     All cheered shortstop Lattimore Lup.
     He dug in his back foot, rubbed dirt on his bat,
     Devoutly adjusted his cup,
     Slapped a Lollerby curveball to shallow right‑field,
     A base‑hit that chased Enderpup.

     The new moundsman, monickered Sidearm Simpson,
     Warmed up as the sky grew blacker;
     Cursed Blows' second‑baseperson Valerie Alice,
     Who bunted out to the third sacker,
     Advancing the tying run to second‑base
     To wait for the three and four hackers.
     But when Fred Goat popped up, the crowd's last hope lay
     With first‑baseman, Clavius Whacker.

     Brawny Clavius, who'd had quite a year, was a cinch
     To be League Most Valuable Player.
     In two‑hundred games he'd hit ninety home runs:
     Eighteen cities had named him Mayor.
     The bench thought he should be intentionally walked,
     But the pitcher made clear with a glare
     That he would not put on the potential lead run:
     Whacker's swing would decide this affair.

     The crowd grew hushed as big Clay stepped in.
     The snowfall began to decline.
     Whacker hefted his forty‑ounce bat to his shoulder.
     Simpson looked in for the sign.
     Then, somewhere far off, mournful bells began ringing;
     Mighty Clavius asked for time.
     'The basic agreement's expired,' he said,
     'I won't bat, as we're yet unsigned.'

     'Play ball,' growled the shivering senior umpire
     While he swept off the snow‑covered plate.
     'It's been a long season.  Let's finish it now.
     This contract dispute can wait.'
     'Play ball!' came a shout from the Buffalo bench,
     The manager stood, irate.
     'Play ball!' the crowd chorused, indignantly loud.
     Clavius would not cooperate.

     The Buffalo owner responded with outrage
     To Clavius' insolent temerity.
     Refusing to buckle to labor unrest,
     He expressed with decisive clarity
     That he'd rather the manager pinch‑hit for Whacker
     Despite the offensive disparity.
     But no player budged from the Buffalo bench.
     Proletarian solidarity?

     The umpires ordered the Vancouver pitcher
     To throw as if Whacker were hitting.
     He'd bat once he realized the game would continue
     In spite of his effort at quitting.
     But Simpson sat down on the rubber in protest:
     He'd not do management's bidding.
     Vancouver's reserves formed a picketer's line
     To show ownership they weren't kidding.

     The President phoned the Commissioner's box
     From his office at Thunder Lake.
     He'd been watching the broadcast and earnestly feared
     That the nation's health was at stake.
     He offered to fly in the National Guard
     In order the strike to break,
     But the players' attorneys obtained an injunction
     For the quality of the game's sake.

     The World Series' outcome now lay in the hands
     Of professional arbitrators
     Who solemnly said that the talks were deadlocked
     On a cost‑of‑living inflator.
     Both could only agree that the other was clearly
     Irresolute over this matter,
     Thus the talks had been postponed indefinitely
     As a bunch of meaningless chatter.

     The players, the owners, the vendors and fans
     Settled in for a prolonged delay.
     All ardently eschewed compromise
     On the issues of the day,
     Yet no one would exit the Buffalo park
     Lest a miracle restart play.
     And time itself came to an unseemly halt.
     All motion was held at bay.

     Eternally after the teams on the field
     Stood frozen inside their spikes.
     Their entropy spread to the universe through
     TV cameras and broadcasters' mics,
     Arresting the spiritual essence of
     Baseball lovers and haters alike.
     Now history stands in abeyance forever:
     Mighty Clavius is still on strike."

     Casey just smiled as he finished the story
     And laid back his head to rest,
     Appearing content as his breathing slowed
     And he passed to the land of the blessed.
     Few mourned the formerly villified batter
     Who'd lived his life with such zest,
     For Mudville has faded since Casey struck out
     And baseball was simply a contest.

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