Play Ball: Hope Springs Eternal


Even with a winter that won’t go quietly away, baseball and other spring sports are now underway. Sort of. Young men find places indoors to hit baseballs into nets or off tees. On those dreary days of thirty degree temperatures and a steady rain, a baseball game may still be contested. Even avid fishermen(women) would likely have packed it in for another day.

Baseball is most linked to a proverb borrowed from Mr. Alexander Pope who wrote in his 1730s ‘An Essay on Man’. . . hope springs eternal. Hope does what? Simply put, baseball starts with spring training, and, regardless of where a team finished in the previous season, there is cause for optimism. The boys of spring training quickly turn into the boys of summer when July and August arrive. Reality sets in. But relying on Mr. Pope’s wisdom, people will keep hoping, regardless of the odds. Hope springs eternal. There’s only one fill-in-the-blank (youth league champion, conference champ, state champ, college champ, and finally, World Series Champ). But in preparation for a new season, all teams start with the same record, No Wins and No Losses.

Ernest L. Thayer referred to Mr. Pope’s hope and optimism in his immortalized, Casey at the Bat:

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Burrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.”

“A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast:
They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that,
They’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

With two outs recorded, Mudville’s next two batters reach base, bringing Casey to the plate. A hit will tie the score. Fast forward to the end of Thayer’s poem:

“The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in 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!”

Alas, Casey failed to deliver for Mudville. For all we know, Mudville played a doubleheader the next day and Casey went five for five in each game.

Whether it’s in sports, business, or life . . . hope springs eternal.