On June 3, 1888, the San Francisco Examiner published an anonymous baseball poem titled, "Casey at the Bat." It would go on to be popularized in vaudeville shows by DeWolf Hopper, who would recite the poem over 10,000 times in his career.
In the poem, the "Mudville Nine" trailed their opponent in the bottom of the ninth by two runs with two outs. Miraculously, two hitters got hits and were on base for the team's hero, Casey, coming to the plate.
Fans in the stands were confident that their slugger would come through and save the day for the Mudville ball club that day. Unfortunately for all involved, the mighty Casey was unable to play the role of hero that day, as he struck out on a mighty swing.
The 2009 Milwaukee Brewers have their own version of Casey at the Bat, but their version has done everything but be a disappointment for the team.
McGehee has come out of nowhere to shine for the Brewers this season. In only 73 games this season, he is batting .308 with nine home runs and 35 runs batted in. Those numbers also include a rough April, which saw him make only one start and finish with eight at-bats for the month.
McGehee is anything but a typical major league rookie. He was drafted in round 10 of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He came to the Cubs from Fresno State as a three-time all-WAC player and even earned All-American honors as a freshman in 2001.
He had many moments of success in the minors and bounced up and down the Cubs' system between 2003 and 2008. He was finally rewarded for his play by being a September call-up for the team last year.
Despite finally getting a chance with the Cubs, McGehee was unable to produce when called upon. He played in only nine games last year, hitting .167 with only four hits and five runs batted in. The Cubs decided he was no longer in their long-term plans in the winter and cut ties with him, placing him on waivers.
The Brewers quickly picked up McGehee and placed him on their 40-man roster. It was thought he would be a good backup infielder, possibly getting a spot start at third base for Bill Hall.
Once the season started, Hall quickly fizzled out. Mat Gamel was called up but did not receive consistent enough playing time to be a major factor. McGehee began to play more and began playing the way he did for so many years in the Cubs' minor league system.
Although he has been slowed lately by knee tendinitis, McGehee still is a frequent pinch hitter and will regularly start against left-handed pitching.
He is also the current front-runner to be the everyday third baseman in 2010, especially if Gamel is moved to the outfield in the offseason.
All of that would be a great story if there were nothing else added, but Casey McGehee is much more than just a star rookie for the Milwaukee Brewers. Away from the field, he is the father of a special needs child. His son, Mackail, suffers from cerebral palsy.
McGehee's highlight of the year, both on and off the field, came on July 30 in a game against the Washington Nationals. Although he didn't start the game, he came on to pinch-hit in the sixth inning with the Brewers down a run.
McGehee proceeded to launch a changeup from Nationals pitcher Tyler Clippard into the Brewers' bullpen. The two-run home run turned out to be the game winner for the Brewers, who had dropped the first two games of the series to the Nats.
Again, it would be a great story on its own merit. For McGehee, though, his proudest moment came before the game even started.
Prior to the game, Mackail, aided by his walker and along with his favorite player, Prince Fielder, made his way onto the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game. Mackail threw the pitch to the proudest father in the stadium that night, and there was hardly a dry eye in the stadium.
The elder McGehee then embraced his son and carried him back to the dugout. The moment served as an emotional boost for a team that seemed lifeless in the days prior to the event.
Mackail's pitch was much more than a father-son bonding moment. It put the spotlight on United Cerebral Palsy and the $50,000 raised by the Brewers with a promotion they ran. It also served as the launch point for another fundraising effort for UCP and the Brewers.
On Sept. 4, the Brewers have a special ticket offer open to all fans. The "Casey Goes to Bat" promotion is geared to raise money for UCP while giving fans an opportunity that most wouldn't get. For $149, fans get a ticket to the Gehl Club, an exclusive club in the third level of Miller Park, full buffet, two drinks, and an autographed baseball bat from Casey McGehee.
McGehee has had to overcome more than just adversity in baseball to become a success. His story is one of not only a baseball player, but also a father with the incredible task of dealing with a special needs child. In a world filled with "heroes" that continue to disappoint fans day after day, McGehee is an example of an everyday hero that just happens to play a sport.
The Brewers are lucky to have McGehee on their roster for multiple reasons. In a season that is becoming more and more frustrating every day, McGehee has been a bright spot. For this Casey, even a strikeout in a big situation can't take away from the pride and joy of his most important job—a proud father.