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A Nod to Casey, Jackie Robinson Style

On this Martin Luther King Jr. day, we present a special poem by Ron Gabriel that is a take on the famous "Casey at the Bat." However, this poem looks at Jackie Robinson and comes with a decidedly different ending. Special thanks to Richard Zamoff for sharing.
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The following was a reply to Larry Canale's article "Mudville: Still No Joy" that ran in the Nov. 16 issue of SCD focusing on the legendary poem "Casey at the Bat." Thought now was a good time to run this, and Brooklyn Dodger and Jackie Robinson fans will love it.

Just wanted you to know that I really enjoyed your article “Mudville: Still No Joy,” in the Nov. 16 issue of SCD.

As the director of The Jackie Robinson Project at George Washington University for the past 16 years, I’ve had the good fortune to meet many persons influenced by Jackie Robinson’s life and legacy. One such person was the late Ron Gabriel, who often participated in our programs and spoke to students in my classes about Jackie Robinson’s impact on America and his role as an informal civil rights leader.

Several years ago, Ron wrote a takeoff on “Casey at the Bat” that was a tribute to Jackie Robinson. He would always close his presentation to my students by reading the poem (with its special ending). I’ve included it below because I thought you might enjoy reading it. Thanks again for a most interesting and enjoyable article.

– Richard Zamoff, Director, Jackie Robinson Project, George Washington University

Jackie at the Bat
It looked extremely grim for the Brooklyn nine that day.
The score stood two to four with but one inning left to play.
And so when Big Newk died at first and Gilliam did the same
A deadly anger fell upon the fanatics at the game.

Not a single fan would ever leave …
We had said “Wait till next year” long enough.
“Never say die” was our battle cry,
‘Cause Brooklyn fans were made of the right stuff.

They thought if only Jackie could get a whack at that …
They’d put up even money now, with Jackie at the bat.

But Pee Wee preceded Jackie and so did Mr. Duke.
The former was in a rare slump; the latter could make the Yanks puke.
So upon the Flatbush faithful grim melancholy sat.
For there seemed no good chance of Jackie getting to the bat.

But Pee Wee bunted safely, exciting one and all.
And Duke, aiming for Bedford, tore the cover off the ball.
And when the dust had lifted and they saw what had occurred.
There was Duke safe at second and Pee Wee a-huggin’ third.

Then from the Flatbush faithful there went up a joyous yell.
It rumbled in the bleachers; it rattled in the dell.
It struck as far as Brighton Beach and rebounded on the flat.
For Jackie, fearless Jackie, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Jackie’s manner as he stepped into his place.
There was pride in Jackie’s bearing and a smile on Jackie’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly touched his hat.
No fan at Ebbets Field could doubt ‘twas Jackie at the bat.

Now would Stengel walk Jackie?
Putting the winning run on base.
Then Casey saw Gil Hodges on deck.
And he knew Reynolds was his ace.

Sixty thousand eyes were on Jackie as he fixed the home plate dirt.
Thirty thousand fans applauded as he straightened his Dodger shirt.
Then, when the Yankee pitcher perfected his fast ball grip …
Defiance was in Jackie’s eyes, a sneer curled Jackie’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air.
And Jackie backed away from it, portraying great despair.
Close to the sturdy batsman the baseball quickly sped.
“I think he’s throwing at me,” said Jackie.
“Strike one,” the umpire said.

As far as Coney Island there went up a muffled roar.
Like the beating of the storm waves on its old Atlantic shore.
“Kill him, kill the umpire,” shouted many from the stands.
And in Brooklyn no doubt they’d do it, had not Jackie raised his hands.

With a smile of Brooklyn charity Jackie kept alive the dream.
He assured the screaming multitude there was no need to scream.
He signaled the Yankee pitcher and again the spheroid flew.
And again Jackie ignored it; and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Blind,” cried the Brooklyn fanatics and Hilda echoed, “Blind.”
But with a calming look from Jackie the bleacher fans could unwind.
But now Jackie looked cold and stern; they saw his muscles strain.
And they knew that Jackie would not let that ball go by again.

The smile is gone from Jackie’s lips.
He wants no time to wait.
He focuses straight at Reynolds and taps his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball … and now he lets it go.
And now the air is shattered by the force of Jackie’s blow.

Oh somewhere in this promised land the sun is shining bright.
The Sym-phony is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light.
And somewhere fans are laughing and somewhere children shout.
But they're going wild at Ebbets Field
'Cause Jackie hit one out.

— Ron Gabriel, 2002