The Great Zim and the 'Split Century,' epilogue

Sports writers in the late 18th and early 19th century loved to write baseball-flavored parodies of famous literature.

Ring Lardner of the Chicago Tribune was especially adept at the craft.

A 4-part post that concluded yesterday included Lardner's version of Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" about the quest by mercurial Cubs third baseman Heinie Zimmerman to win $100 by playing 2 straight weeks in June and July of 1913 without being thrown out of a game by an umpire.

An anonymous fan had sent the Tribune half of a $100 gold certificate, asking that it be presented to Zimmerman. The other half would be sent, he said, if Zimmerman behaved for 14 consecutive days.

A few days after Zimmerman won the prize, the Tribune revealed that it actually had purchased the certificate.


On June 2, the final day of the 2-week trial, Lardner began his "In the Wake of the News" column with a Shakespearean riff peppered with names of umpires:



The C, or not the C, that is the question --

Whether 'tis nobler for the dough to suffer

Mistakes and errors of outrageous umpires,

Or to cut loose against a band of robbers,

And, by protesting, lose it? To kick -- to beef ---

To beef! -- perchance to scream: "Aw, there, you dub,

You ----- ----- ----- ----- -----!!!"

But that sharp flow of breath, what it would cost,

A sloughing of those one hundred bucks,

Must give me pause -- there's the respect

That makes dumb agony of two long weeks;

For who would beat the crazy work of Klem,

Cy Rigler's slips, the raw mistakes of Quigley,

The guesses wild of Orth and Hank O'Day,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a few cuss words! Who could Brennan bear,

Or shut up under Eason's worst offense,

But for the dread of dropping all that dough,

Of losing all those togs, deprived of which

No guy is really swell! -- Yes, I'll keep still.

Thus money does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native Bronx disposition

Is stifled by a bunch of filthy luc;

And ravings of my own fantastic sort

Are all unheard, though my long silence does

Disgrace the name of Heine.


The following day, Lardner's column included this item:

Hint to R. C. J. and other contributors: Why not wait until Heine's fight for the hundred is all over and then flood us with poetry about it?

But right below that, he devoted a large portion of the column to this parody of the best-known, most-mimicked baseball poem of them all, "Casey at the Bat."

Its author was a reader identified as "DADIE A MACK GAFFNEY T. T." -- your guess is as good as mine!


JULY 2D, 1913.

It looked like ready money for our Heine Zim that;

The Cubs were in the lead with just an inning left to play,

So as he took his war club and ambled to the plate

He had visions of that half a C a-plastered to its mate.


The first one he looked over -- it was wide, he knew, a mile --

But when the umpire yelled out "Strike one" then Heine dropped his smile.

Next came a teasing floater many yards above his head,

And ne'er a word from Heine as "Strike tuh" the umpire said.


With waving hand he quelled the mob, stilled Rajah's angry shout.

And with his cap he deftly wiped the froth from Evers' mout'.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he lad down his stick,

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he reached down in his kick.


And as he gazed so fondly there at something in his mitt

The multitude was hep that it was one-half of the split.

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,

But Heine, turning to the bench, "Too low," says he, "Too low."


But, unheeding the tumultuousness or tumultuosity of the bleachers' angry shout,

The umpire most stentoriously yells, "Strike te-ree an' out!"


O, somewhere in this favored land Split C is still about,

And somewhere hounds are on the scent, trying to root him out,

And somewhere else there is sunshine bright, somewhere there is no gloom;

It's somewhere else than our west side -- Zim's in a padded room.


In my opinion, baseball would be much more fun in 2021 if it only had more poetry!

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