The Mudville team was surely up against a rocky game;
The chances were they'd win defeat and not undying fame;
Three men were hurt and two were benched; the score stood six to four.
They had to make three hard-earned runs in just two innings more.
"It can't be done," the captain said, a pallor on his face;
"I've got two pitchers in the field, a mutt on second base;
And should another man get spiked or crippled in some way,
The team would sure be down and out, with eight men left to play.
"We're up against it anyhow as far as I can see;
My boys ain't hitting like they should and that's what worries me;
The luck is with the Dustburg team, no pennant will we win;
It's mighty tough, but we must take our medicine and grin."
The stands were filled with baseball fans who called Mudville their town,
They’d been waiting twenty years for a shiny baseball crown.
From the box seats to the bleachers they stamped their muddy feet,
And mopped their brows with handkerchiefs in the sultry summer heat.
The eighth round opened and the Dustburg team stood tall,
But the shortstop, Miller, three times swung and missed the grimy ball.
The second baseman, Randall, hit a long fly ball to right,
And the Dustburg pitcher, Yankovich, was a miserable sight.
It was looking pretty dicey but still hopeful was the crowd,
They threw their hats and clapped their hands and yelled out long and loud.
But the Mudville boys went out the same- the captain wore a frown,
And he knew their fans were groaning in bars all over town.
The first half of the ninth came round, two men had been put out,
When Mudville's catcher broke a thumb and could not go the route.
The grizzled umpire raised his hand and said “Well then,”
“We’ve got to stop, you can’t go on, you’ve only got eight men.”
A deathly silence settled o'er the crowd assembled there.
Defeat would be allotted them; they felt it in the air;
With only eight men in the field 'twould be a gruesome fray,
Small wonder that the captain cursed the day he learned to play.
"Lend me a man to finish with!" he begged the other team;
"Lend you a man?" the foe replied; "My boy, you're in a dream!
We came to win the pennant, too - that's what we're doing here.
There's only one thing you can do - call for a volunteer!"
It was a wild suggestion, no one had heard its like,
From the oldest Mudville denizen to the smallest Mudville tyke.
But it was a desperate situation and the choice seemed pretty clear,
Either lose the longed-for pennant or ask for a volunteer.
The captain stood and pondered in a listless sort of way.
He'd never been a quitter and he would not be today!
"Is there within the grandstand here"- his voice rang loud and clear
"A man who has the sporting blood to be a volunteer?"
Again that awful silence settled o'er the multitude.
Was there a man among them with such recklessness imbued?
The captain stood with cap in hand, while hopeless was his glance,
And then a tall and stocky man cried out, "I'll take a chance!"
On to the field he bounded with a step both firm and light;
"Give me the mask and mitt," he said; "let's finish up the fight.
The game may be beyond recall, but I'll last at least a round;
Although I'm ancient, you will find me muscular and sound."
His hair was sprinkled here and there with little streaks of gray;
Around his eyes and on his brow a bunch of wrinkles lay.
And yet there was a confidence that marked his eager face,
And he stepped behind the plate with a lively kind of grace.
The captain smiled despairingly and slowly turned away.
"Why, he's all right!" one rooter yelled. Another, "Let him play!"
“He may be old, he may be stiff, he could lose a pound or ten,
But, and here’s the point, now at least we have nine men.”
"All right, go on," the captain sighed. The stranger turned around,
Took off his coat and collar, too, and threw them on the ground.
The humor of the situation seemed to hit them all,
And as he donned the mask and mitt, the umpire cried, "Play ball!"
Three balls the pitcher at him heaved, three balls of lightning speed.
The stranger caught them all with ease and did not seem to heed.
Each ball had been pronounced a strike, the side had been put out,
And as he walked towards the bench, he heard the rooters shout.
The Mudville boys all gathered round as Dustburg took the field,
The captain slapped them on their backs, said “Now our fate is sealed.”
“We’ve come this far, we can’t quit now.” A smile was on his face.
“Let’s get three hits, let’s get three runs, let’s finish off this race.”
One Mudville boy went out on strikes, and one was killed at first;
The captain saw them fail to hit, and gnashed his teeth and cursed.
But the third man smashed a double and the fourth he swatted clear,
Then, in a thunder of applause, up came the volunteer.
His feet were planted in the earth, he swung a warlike club;
The captain saw his awkward pose and softly whispered, "Dub!"
The pitcher looked at him and grinned, then heaved a mighty ball;
It whizzed and then… “Strike one” rang out the umpire’s call.
The stranger stood and stared as the pitcher leaned toward the plate,
And then cast another pitch which was a strike just like its mate.
But the stranger watched it blandly with not overmuch concern.
He scuffed his feet and winked his eye, and the captain said, “Oh durn.”
The pitcher wound up, let it go, and toward the plate it flew.
The masses there all held their breath, but he knew what to do.
A smile was on his face as he swung and hit that dusty ball
And the echo of that fearful swat still lingers with us all.
High, fast and far the spheroid flew; it sailed and sailed away;
It ne'er was found, so it's supposed it still floats on today.
Three runs came in, the pennant would be Mudville's for a year;
The fans and players crowded round to cheer the volunteer.
"What is your name?" the captain asked. "Tell us your name," cried all,
As down his cheeks great tears of joy were seen to run and fall.
For one brief moment he was still, then murmured soft and low:
"I'm the mighty Casey who struck out just twenty years ago."