Casey (Pentium) at the Bat

The poem “Casey at the Bat” was written by Ernest Thayer in 1888. However it was New York singer/monologist William de Wolf Hopper who after countless on-stage recitals was the catalyst that made the poem immortal. This is my revisionist non-poetic rendition.

It was autumn and World Series time. The two teams from the Processor League were meeting to determine once and for all who was the better team and which would take home the coveted Silicon Copper Cup. A sellout crowd at Tampa’s iDome was watching breathlessly as old timer Casey (nicknamed Pentium) was announced. It was the the final game and the bottom of the ninth inning. The score was PPC 4, Intel 3. The bases were loaded, two runners out and Casey, the old powerhouse, was up to bat. It was your classic, nail biting, suspense driven series finale, the type of finish the advertisers dreamed about as they sold their beer, deodorants, and widgets.

Casey had put on a lot of weight since his early rookie days. His dark, wavy hair of youth had become thin and speckled with gray and his flat stomach of had been replaced by a protrusion affectionately called a pixel belly. It was the dreaded dead weight gained as a result of sitting in one place too long and without processor activity. In his young days he could shift about with ease. In theory he was faster now, but in the old days he didn’t have the overhead of all the backward compatibility that he had to carry today. So his overall speed had in fact gone down. His doctor compared it to renting one of the new Mega cars from Hertz. The numbers looked impressive. Horsepower had jumped radically, but the reality was that the rental cars were actually slower now because of the added steel for protection, emission controls for clean air, and safety accoutrements such as air bags and ABS. He had also been drinking and smoking more. Hey, you gotta live, right? All that training and discipline was fine when you were a young hopeful, but after all those years of service it was time to let loose just like his third wife said (or was it his second… hmmm… maybe it was his first). Ah well, it didn’t matter ’cause he couldn’t remember what she said, anyway.

The Intel team was wearing its newly designed jet black uniform with white socks. The PPC opposition looked sort of dorky in an all white uniform and white socks. Who did they think they were, Horatio Alger? What did they think those uniforms would look like after sliding into home plate a few times? Yeah, he knew they were partially sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, but how much Tide could you carry in your back pocket? At least he could hold a couple of packs of Marlboros in his and even sneak a puff in the dugout when the cameras were off shooting the crowd. He started to laugh at the thought, but ended up coughing and wheezing. It took him awhile to catch his breath. That breeze blowing into the park from the ocean was a killer. Why did they spend all that money on a domed stadium and leave the sides open? He didn’t get it. So they were in Florida. Big deal. Someone had been paid under the table–or dome–as the case may be. When he was asked if he knew what the “i” in iDome stood for, he simply shrugged. Someone said it wasn’t for Internet; it was for Intel.

They announced his name over the loud speaker and he sauntered out from the dugout. There were wild cheers. He waved to the crowd in acknowledgement. “I still got it,” he thought. After all those years, maybe this wouldn’t be his swan song. He was forty-five, but he still felt like a kid. He picked up a bat and tried it out. Picked up another and then another. He settled on the third, handling and caressing it, deciding if the weight and balance felt right. He didn’t care what the experts said, he could tell the difference.

He walked up to the plate. The crowd was still hollering and then began to chant, “Pentium one, two three–we want a hit, yes-sir-ee.” It was his signature chant. They had started it in early ’99 when the Pentium III had come out. It was a love chant to the old pro. It felt like salve on a raw cut. He was deeply appreciative and became more determined and focused. The Florida sun was shining brightly through the ribbed and tinted plexiglass roof. Again he felt the ocean breeze blow in from the Gulf but it was still as hot as hell. He was perspiring so much that his shirt was drenched. His forehead, too. The PPC pitcher was getting set when the PPC manager called for a timeout. It was too critical a spot not to put in the new pitcher. The manager waved to the dugout. Casey shuddered, he knew what and who was coming. Sure enough, they were sending in the new kid on the block: Gefore Smith. The crowd went wild! It was exactly what they wanted.

Gefore was Casey’s nemesis. He had youth, recklessness, speed and power. He was small in stature–the smallest player in the league–but his size belied the power within. It only took one time to underestimate him and that would never happen again. Their mutual dislike was strong, but they still had a grudging respect for each other. Casey had to be careful because this guy was fast, very fast. His bullet-like throw and his ‘VE’ curves and fancy maneuvers were as startling and breathtaking to behold as was his pure, raw power. One second he was preparing for the pitch, the next second the catcher had the ball in his glove. He saw the start of the pitch and Gefore’s narrowed copper brown, determined eyes. He swung hard and knew instantly that he missed. There was no connection crack. No thrill of the vibrations running up the bat to his hands and fingers. “Steeee-rike one!” the umpire’s gravelly voice barked. The fans were on their feet in expectation of a hit. They did not appear disappointed that Casey had missed. They were caught up in the passion of the moment.

Casey stretched and tapped his cleats. Like baseball heroes have done for a hundred years, he cleared his throat and spit out a foul mixture of tobacco juice and saliva . He stood up to the plate, making sure to avoid the wet mess at his feet. The stadium spectators burst out into the Pentium chant again. “Pentium one, two three–we want a hit, yes-sir-ee.” The perspiration was dribbling down his forehead and he lifted his helmet off and wiped his brow with the sleeve of his jersey. He could use an ice cold beer right now almost as much as a hit. He was ready though, and he could have all the beer or champagne he wanted if he got just one hit. He squinted his eyes to try to guess Gefore’s strategy. He wondered how such a little guy could manage to work up so much power and still seem so cool and relaxed.

He was gonna show that li’l runt what power really was. When he connected on the next pitch, he was gonna rip the hide off that ball and hit it into kingdom come. Gefore was about to wind up for the pitch but first he checked each of the runners on their respective bases and gave them an evil look. Then in a millisecond the ball was out of his hand and in the catcher’s glove again. The crowd was stunned at its blinding speed. Casey was stunned because he was still in the midst of his home plate swivel-hip maneuver. He couldn’t hear the cheering fans. All he heard was the umpire’s ringing voice crying out “Steeee-rike one!” He looked at the stands and saw the fans jumping up and down, waving their arms and they seemed to him to be a solid mass of movement and noise. But Casey heard none of it. The only sound that reverberated in his skull was the umpire’s call.

He let out a string of choice expletives until he had exhausted his entire collection of four, five, six and seven letter profanities. The sum total was extensive, befitting a twenty-six year professional baseball veteran. But fortunately no one heard him over the pandemonium that ensued. Finally the crowd began to quiet down and almost immediately an eerie calm settled over the iDome. The manager of the PPC team called for a short timeout to confer with Gefore. They only exchanged a few words. Gefore nodded in agreement, and then the manager slapped him on the rump and walked back to the dugout. All during the break the crowd maintained their unnatural quiet.

A heavy air of anticipation hovered over the iDome. It hung over the bleachers, the playing field and it could have engulfed the entire city. The fans knew they were about to see history happen before their very eyes. Could the old pro still manage to excel? Many of the throng were ready to shout his acclaim over this tiny newcomer. They felt a begrudging loyalty to the grizzled veteran, and recalled his and their glory days at the top of the heap. However, nothing remains the same. Life is change. Perhaps this very afternoon the new guy would exhibit more of the star power the old man had rekindled. The sun pierced the translucent roof of the iDome. Casey looked up, shifted his helmet yet again and ran his right hand over his handlebar mustache; first the left side then the right. His hand came away damp from the perspiration. He was riveted back to reality when he heard the umpire’s order to play ball. Only for a few seconds did a murmur of interest run through the crowd like the earlier breeze from the Gulf. But there was no breeze on the field–only the suffocating Florida heat. Someone in the vast sea of spectators tried to start the Pentium chant but no one else picked up on it and it died like a throttled chicken.

All eyes fell on the two protagonists. It was so quiet you could hear a pixel change colour. Casey was ready. He gripped the bat with such ferocity that his fingers were whitish-blue. Some brave soul in the crowd shouted out to change the pitcher. Gefore ignored or didn’t hear the shout. His concentration seemed to consume him entirely. He checked the bases one last time and made the final pitch of the game…

The special late edition of the Tampa Sun said it all. The huge black letter headline covered the entire front page of the tabloid:

Pentium I, II, III strikes and you’re out!!!

Ralph J. Luciani

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