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Casey at the bat  “Effective”≠ Monotone

While teaching public address at Keiser University in Clearwater, Florida over the previous three years, I began with an assignment which was aimed at promoting vocal variety — an oral interpretation presentation.

I started with this first-week assignment for two reasons:

#1) “Public Adress 1007”  was a four week, 48-hour module — so we were moving fast.  An oral reading did not require the creative ability inherent in constructing a speech.  The creative element was already present in their selected prose or poetry reading.

During that first week of class, they could work on their oral reading as well as begin constructing their first speech.

#2) Doing an oral interpretation had the potential of demonstrating the value of vocal variety.  Most students are not used to hearing their voice used in any other way than as heard most every day.  Hopefully, they would realize,  as they listened to others and presented their own reading, that their voice could communicate so much more by using pause, pitch, resonance, rate, emphasis, and tone.

Some of the oral readings included . . . . .

The Lady & The Tiger
Still I Rise ( by Maya Angelou)
The Charge of the Light Brigade
The Cremation of Sam McGee
The Highwaymen
Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

AND . . . .

“Casey At The Bat”1   

. . . . which was always one of the ones selected.   It was a great reading and a story poem which lent itself to great opportunities for vocal variety . . . .

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to six with but an inning left to play.
And so, when Cooney died at first, and Burrows did the same 2

 

Take that first line and just change one vocal technique — emphasis.

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.
It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.

 

A few emphases sound strange —  if not bizarre (i.e. — it – for – the – day).  In another context, such emphasized words would work . . . .

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life”

Nevertheless, the point is made, change the emphasis and you call up a different thought in the mind of the audience.

You are saying something by the emphasis.

Even when you do one of the odd words, the audience is caused to think . . . .
— “What does that mean? –“It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day.”

In any event — vocal variety matters when it comes to meaning and attention.

It’s another element of effectiveness — listen to some of the most effective speakers and notice their vocal variety — especially the use of pause! 3



 

Other Information & Links:

1. There are some different version of this story poem, as well as “Casey Twenty Years Later,” as a writer seeks to redeem the fallen hero.

Background Of “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer

“It all started in 1885 when George Hearst decided to run for state senator in California. To self-promote his brand of politics, Hearst purchased the San Francisco Examiner. At the completion of the election, Hearst gave the newspaper to his son, William Randolph Hearst.

William, who had experience editing the Harvard Lampoon while at Harvard College, took to California three Lampoon staff members. One of those three was Ernest L. Thayer who signed his humorous Lampoon articles with the pen name Phin.

In the June 3, 1888 issue of The Examiner, Phin appeared as the author of the poem we all know as Casey at the Bat. The poem received very little attention and a few weeks later it was partially republished in the New York Sun, though the author was now known as Anon.

A New Yorker named Archibald Gunter clipped out the poem and saved it as a reference item for a future novel. Weeks later Gunter found another interesting article describing an upcoming performance at the Wallack Theatre by comedian De Wolf Hopper – who was also his personal friend. The August 1888 show (exact date is unknown) had members from the New York and Chicago ball clubs in the audience and the clipping now had a clear and obvious use.

Gunter shared Casey at the Bat with Hopper and the perfomance was nothing short of legendary. Baseball Almanac is pleased to present the single most famous baseball poem ever written.” — http://www.baseball-almanac.com/poetry/po_case.shtml

 

2. Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to six with but an inning left to play.
And so, when Cooney died at first, and Burrows did the same,
A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest,
With that hope which springs eternal within the human breast.
For they thought if only Casey could get a whack at that,
They’d put up even money with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, and likewise so did Blake,
And the former was a pudding and the latter was a fake;
So on that stricken multitude a death-like silence sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single to the wonderment of all,
And the much despised Blakey tore the cover off the ball,
And when the dust had lifted and they saw what had occurred,
There was Blakey safe on second, and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from the gladdened multitude went up a joyous yell,
It bounded from the mountain top and rattled in the dell,
It struck upon the hillside, and rebounded on the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place,
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face,
And when responding to the cheers he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt, ’twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt,
Five thousand tongues applauded as he wiped them on his shirt;
And while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip—
Defiance gleamed from Casey’s eyes — and a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there;
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That hain’t my style,” said Casey—”Strike one,” the Umpire said.
From the bleachers black with people there rose a sullen roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore,
“Kill him! kill the Umpire!” shouted someone from the stand—
And it’s likely they’d have done it had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone,
He stilled the rising tumult and he bade the game go on;
He signalled to the pitcher and again the spheroid flew,
But Casey still ignored it and the Umpire said, “Strike two.”
“Fraud!” yelled the maddened thousands, and the echo answered “Fraud.”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed;
They saw his face grow stern and cold; they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey would not let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip; his teeth are clenched with hate,
He pounds with cruel violence 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 Casey’s blow.
Oh! somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has “Struck Out.”

 

3. “Pause” is a verbal clue that typically suggests to the listener of mp3s whether one is reading from a manuscript, and/or stuck to a manuscript.

 

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/casey-bat

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/poetry/po_case.shtml

 

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