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June 6, 2013

Deford gives keynote for baseball symposium

Writer speaks about 'Casey at the Bat'

(Continued)

Thayer never spoke much about the poem, and the details have been filled in over the years by other artists, poorly according to Deford.

“Casey has been destroyed over the years. They made him this portly fellow; like a modern day Prince Fielder,” he said. “Why did they do that to him? Thayer doesn’t describe him that way. The only word used to describe him is ‘mighty.’

“On the other hand, it offered me a tremendous opportunity to create the rest of Casey’s story.”

Deford’s book takes Casey away from Stockton, the California city that most scholars agree the fictional Mudville is based on, and makes him an Irishman from Boston named Timothy Casey. Deford gave Casey a love interest named Flossie and a daughter named Katie, which connects two famous baseball writings. The 1908 song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by Jack Norworth, was written about a girl named Katie Casey. In a later version of the song, her name is changed to Nelly Kelly.

“My only problem was the plot,” Deford said, “because as some of you know, it doesn’t end very well. I had to stay true to the story.”

Deford said that there have been several attempts to turn his book about Casey into a musical. 

“We have come so close to getting it on Broadway, but so far we have not gotten past first base,” he said. “If we did, then Casey at last could be portrayed as something other than a fat loser. That’s my dream.”

Deford said he found it amusing that the most famous writings about baseball have sad endings.

“Isn’t it amazing, that the two most popular pieces of baseball literature are both tragic downers? It is ‘one, two, three strikes, you’re out, at the old ball game.’ Why didn’t it say it’s a hit at the old ball game?” he said. 

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