Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Return of Casey

The action wasn’t groovy for the Endsville nine that day,

The beat was 4 to 2 with just one chorus more to sway,

And when old Cooney conked at first, and Burrows also sacked,

A nowhere rumble bugged up all the cats who dug the act.”

from Mad Magazine

It was with great, groovy joy that I attended a baseball poetry reading last week to kick off the 2011 baseball season. What a night: nine women reading an incredible range of poems, with a couple of token guys thrown in for good measure. The whole event was inspired and breathtaking. Highlights included Ann Menebroker's always thrilling triple plays and chin music, Peggy Kincaid's surprising rookie explosion on the scene with new work and riveting execution, and the ninth inning antics of home run slugger Viola Weinberg, resplendent in eye-gear that hinted at Winged Eel Fingerling, with verbal gymnastics and spoken jazz/rock to match. The seventh inning stretch featured one of the above mentioned dudes, who recited portions of about a half dozen variations on Ernest Thayer's Casey at the Bat, including my personal favorite, Mad Magazine's Cool Casey at the Bat. And then, as an extra innings treat, one of the women (whose name I must confess I don't have), who arrived late and didn't even hear the Casey Variations, took the batter's box and recited the original Casey at the Bat in all its amazing, dramatic glory! Ah, baseball bliss!

As I listened to her rendition of the great baseball poem, some memories came flooding back from many years ago, memories that I hadn't thought of in years. I actually began my performing life in elementary school, around the sixth grade, reciting Casey at the Bat. It must have been a school talent show. I remember getting up on the multi-purpose/cafeteria stage and emoting my way through a stirring rendition. The crowd went wild and I was hooked, setting out on a path of performance that I have maintained, although lately much less, to this day. At the time, I wasn't really that interested in baseball or any other professional sport; I loved to play, but never followed any sport. I can't say why I picked Casey at the Bat; it wasn't until 15 years later that I began to come under baseball's spell, eventually becoming hopelessly addicted after moving to Los Angeles, very close to Chavez Ravine.

And what happened after that was called Baseball Diary, a zine I published and edited, devoted to baseball and art (!), whose back issues will begin to be posted here in the next week, and whose new incarnation will also begin here within a few weeks. Play ball, indeed.

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