Initially published in 1960 and republished courtesy of Anne Serling in a collection of her father’s short stories entitled Stories From The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling’s short story “The Mighty Casey” was the inspiration for the penultimate episode of Season 1 of The Twilight Zone. The story is a light-hearted, playful narrative which explores a now-prevalent topic: the delineation between humans and androids in traditionally human endeavors, such as competitive sports. What is truly fair practice for open competition?
The story opens many years henceforth with a personal reflection on the decline of the Brooklyn Dodgers (in The Twilight Zone television episode the team is the Hoboken Zephyrs). We are offered a glimpse at a once-great baseball stadium (Tebbet’s Field) which is now overgrown with weeds and little else aside from decaying wooden seats and ghostly memories of its former glory. However, many years ago in one of the team’s final seasons before being kicked out of the National League, the Dodgers had a phenomenal month and a half led by one left-handed pitcher: Casey.
The ball club’s gruff manger Mouth McGarry seeks to reverse the prospects of his failing team (popular labeled “schlumpfs!”) and impress the general manager Bertram Beasley so he makes a deal to acquire a new pitcher, Casey. But Casey is no ordinary man. He is, in fact, a robot built by one Dr. Stillman. In game after game, Casey throws smolderingly fast pitches which leave a trail of smoke in the catcher’s mitt. However, one day Casey is struck in the face with a line-drive baseball. As a matter of recourse –and in order to keep up the ruse about Casey being a legitimate player– he is sent to the hospital where the doctor discovers that Casey has no pulse! This causes a minor controversy because the league only allows men to play baseball, not robots. Therefore, Mouth McGarry works out a deal to give Casey a heart, as this will apparently suffice to consider Casey a man, but with his new heart comes newfound compassion. Casey quickly makes it apparent that he can no longer ruthlessly strike out batter after batter. The Dodgers are now right back where they started.
Unlike in the television episode, which ends on a whimsical note as McGarry considers building a whole team of robots, the short story ends on a sobering, noir-esque note: “He [Mouth McGarry] walked past the reporter and disappeared into the night, a broken-nosed man with sagging shoulders who thought he heard the rustle of pennants in the night air, and then realized it was three shirts on a clothesline that stretched across two of the adjoining buildings” (31).
In general, this was a much funnier story than I had expected. Rod Serling clearly had a fun time writing these immensely enjoyable little tales of pulp fiction.
Serling, Rod. Stories From The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling Books: 1960 (republished in 1990 by the Serling family), Paperback Edition.