Baseball’s Greatest Poem Is About a Loser

Credit: Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

For all of the carping these days about the slow pace of baseball, there was a time when our grand, clockless sport fired millions of imaginations.

Said firing was helped along by a 24-year-old Easterner named Ernest Thayer, who had gone west to San Francisco to make his journalistic name. If you knew a Thayer who was a writer, you were probably a classical music aficionado, and had tracked down a copy of Alexander Thayer’s first-ever biography of Beethoven. But our Mr. Thayer was interested in another mighty B, you might say, that being baseball in all of its attendant, grand-sweeping powers, as borne out in poesy.

It was 130 years ago that Thayer published “Casey at the Bat,” a 13-verse poem that he regarded as doggerel. But this was high-level doggerel, if the term ever fit. You may have never sat down to read those 13 verses, you may have nary a clue who Ernest Thayer is, you may not like baseball, you may detest all things “sports ball,” but there is no way you have not come in contact with some aspect of the finest poem about athletics ever penned in this country.

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Your Next Car Will Be Self-Driving—If You Buy a Car at All

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Autonomous cars are not a theoretical, maybe-if proposition that depends on a lot of different pegs falling into place. They’re already driving themselves. You may have seen one beside you in traffic. (I recently saw one next to me at a red light, and it was weird.) There’s already a full-blown trial in Chandler, Arizona.

If you bought a car in the last few years, there’s a decent chance you won’t buy another one. In a decade—maybe less—you may subscribe to a car service the way you subscribe today to Netflix or Blue Apron. When you need to go to Whole Foods, you send for a car on your iPhone or tell Alexa to send you one. Or you’ll order Whole Foods online, and an autonomous car will bring the groceries to you.

The revelation that that comes through like high-beam headlights in Lawrence D. Burns’s Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—and How It Will Reshape Our World is how much of the work is already done. General Motors introduced an autonomous concept car in 2002, and engineers started racing self-driving trucks and SUVs across the Mojave Desert in 2004. In the decade and half since, a long list of companies—Google, Uber, Tesla, Ford, GM, and many others—have spent tens of billions of dollars improving the technology to the point that it’s ready for the world.

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