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Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 1 — Baseball fever happens every spring. First published April 14, 2007, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

 

Baseball fever happens every spring

More than flowers or sunshine or April showers, it is baseball that is our true April love. It has been that way as long as most of us can remember.

 

After all, baseball is America’s game. Granted it may have gone global, but we invented it, and we love it.  In fact, we love it so much, that when opening day of baseball season finally arrives, folks take off work often braving bitter temperatures and cold rain just to watch. You know the drill. Some of us just have to be there. Period.

 

Others of us prefer the coziness of our homes or offices on opening day, but make no mistake we are paying attention just the same.

 

Each spring, baseball makes us believe all over again that all things are possible, for a few weeks at least.

 

Any team can win the Pennant on opening day, maybe even the World Series. The worst team in the league can be at 500 in mere days. The coaches have winning records, and the pitchers have great stats. Every batter can be Babe Ruth, every fielder Jackie Robinson, on opening day.

 

If they can be all things, then so can we. At least that is our hope each and every spring.

 

To be on the safe side, we throw up a silent prayer along with our hopes, “Please do not break our hearts this season!” How well we remember last year when our home team had an indescribably miserable and embarrassing record.

 

Let’s face it. Some years, it is nearly impossible to be a fan. We pray it will not be such a year.  We pray hard.

 

“No more 3 to 2 losses in the ninth, please,” we beg.

 

“No more pitchers losing their groove.”

 

“No more batting slumps by our star hitter.”

 

Ernest Lawrence Thayer understood our baseball psyche, our worries, and desperate baseball prayers such as these as long ago as 1888. That is when he wrote “Casey at the Bat”, the single most famous baseball poem ever written. “Casey at the Bat” was first published June 3, 1888, in the San Francisco Examiner.

 

Another writer Albert Spalding once wrote of it, “Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy its somber story in measured lines. Baseball has Casey at the Bat.”

 

In his legendary poem, Thayer describes a baseball hero, the mighty Casey who is advancing to the bat just in time to save the day for Mudville’s home team.

 

It is fun to remember some of the poem’s perfectly written verses. Here are some excerpts:

 

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day.

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play…

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.

The rest clung to the hope that springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that,

We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat…

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped,

‘That ain’t my style,’ said Casey. ‘Strike one,’ the umpire said…

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;

But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, ‘Strike two’…”

 

So the legendary story goes, but let us pretend we do not know how the game ended.

After all it is April. Baseball season has just begun. It happens every spring.