CASEY ON THE LOOSE by Frank Deford


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"But there is no joy in Mudville--Mighty Casey has struck out." Sports Illustrated editor Deford (Everybody's All American, The Spy in the Deuce Court, etc.) bloops a hit, though, with this slim (128 pp.) and lightly charming tale--expanded from its original appearance in Sports Illustrated--that tells the story behind Casey's fabled swing. It's 1888, and Mudville's star "ballist," Timothy F.X. Casey, and his sweetheart, Florence "Flossie" Maureen Cleary, are traveling to the rich folks' haven of Nantasket Beach, Mass., guests of the monied Chester Drinkwater. At Nantasket, Drinkwater (whose motives Deford leaves in the dark) offers Casey much money if he'll stop hitting those home runs for the rest of the season. Needing cash to marry pretty Flossie, and thinking that baseball is, after all, only a game, Casey agrees--and then mentions the deal to Flossie, who's shocked at her beau's casual betrayal of Mudville's trust. Meanwhile, swaggering world boxing champ John L. Sullivan shows up in Nantasket and picks a bar brawl with Casey. The ballist bets the boxer that he can beat him in a fair fight, and a few swings later Casey's $10,000 richer while Sullivan sprawls on the ground. Soon after, the big day arrives, and just like in the poem, Mighty Casey steps up to the plate. Try as he might to hit a homer--he doesn't need Drinkwater's money anymore--he can't; but in this version--the catcher drops the ball, and Casey stumbles into heroism after all. But can he convince skeptical Flossie that he's no traitor at heart, and meant to swat the ball over the center-field fence? Tissue-thin characters, but baseball's the real focus of Deford's tale, and he captures its youth in all its glory. (Compare Gordon McAlpine's Joy in Mudville, p. 152, which has fleshier historical cameos, but they're woven into a tattered, forced tapestry.) Deford's engaging text sports eight b & w photos and comes with a 7" record of DeWolf Hopper's rendition of the Thayer poem.

ISBN: 670-82780-0
Publisher: Viking
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