New take on ‘Casey at the Bat’ praised by MLB legends

'The Deal Is on Strike Three: The Story Mudville Never Knew' (LIR Photo by Jim Mancari)

Most baseball fans are familiar with Ernest Thayer’s poem “Casey at the Bat,” in which the mighty Casey strikes out to end the game for the “Mudville nine.”

First published June 3, 1888 on Page 3 of the San Francisco Examiner, the poem has gained legendary status.

But for two men, the story of “Casey at the Bat” inspired them to dig deeper.

More than 11 years ago, Huntington resident Peter Fertig and Ronkonkoma resident Rudy Saviano set out to develop the back story to the literary epic. In their children’s book “The Deal is on Strike Three: The Story Mudville Never Knew,” Fertig and Saviano offer a new twist on an American classic.

'The Deal Is on Strike Three: The Story Mudville Never Knew' (LIR Photo by Jim Mancari)

'The Deal Is on Strike Three: The Story Mudville Never Knew' (LIR Photo by Jim Mancari)

The initial steps

Fertig said he “fell in love” with the concept of “Casey at the Bat” when he first read the story, which led him to study the poem’s history in-depth.

“I was always chasing this poem as a kid,” said Fertig. “I woke up one morning and said ‘What ever happened to Casey?’ And that’s how it started.”

Fertig brought the idea to Saviano, who grew up an avid baseball fan in the Bronx, N.Y. The two embarked on a journey that has not only led to the sale of over 4,000 books but also, more importantly, spread the book’s message to children.

“We made a good team,” Saviano said. “He [Fertig] had the ideas, and I had the words. When we put them together, we came out with a pretty good product.”

“I like to think that I had the skeleton, and Rudy put the muscle and the heart into it,” said Fertig.

Both men did not have a background in writing or publishing, so they had to learn on the fly throughout the process. Fertig is a sales representative for ADP Payroll Services, while Saviano is the president of his own company—RSI Fundraising Auctions—that raises money for charity by holding auctions for sports memorabilia.

The two authors made the decision to be self-published so they can use the book as tool for charities. Saviano deals with over 100 charities per year at various events, and $5 from every book sold is donated to the charity hosting a particular event.

Through both hidden and specific messages, the book seeks to instill in children life lessons that they will someday teach their own children. While baseball provides the premise of the book, the book’s pages highlight the importance of family and believing in oneself.

“When we read it to young kids, they know that it’s not a book about baseball, and that amazes me,” said Saviano.

Endorsements from MLB Hall of Famers

The authors also said they were amazed by the reception the book has received from former MLB players. Before the first publication, the authors sent the book to New York Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. They said they were astounded with Seaver’s response.

“When you read this book to your child, you will be instilling values that your child will take to the schoolyard today and to the world tomorrow,” said Seaver, who voluntary wrote the foreword to the book.

“When I asked him [Seaver] what he wanted, he just said to me, ‘I want as many children as possible to read this book,’” Saviano said.

In addition to Seaver, the authors sent a copy of the book to former Cleveland Indians Hall of Famer Bob Feller, one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game. One day, Saviano received a phone call at his office from Feller who said the book was the best children’s book about baseball he’d ever read and that he’d be glad to write an introduction.

“I have never seen a baseball book that teaches family values and life’s lessons to children as does ‘The Deal is on Strike Three,’” said the late Feller, who passed away in December 2010. “Parents should discuss it with their children. I am very proud to be part of it.”

When the book went to publication for the first time, Fertig said he thought that it was the “greatest book ever written,” while Saviano thought it was a good attempt by two amateur authors. However, after hearing what Feller had to say, Saviano’s outlook changed.

“His [Feller’s] response was what really turned my head around as far as the quality of the book,” said Saviano. “I knew enough about Bob Feller to know that if he thought the book was just OK, he would have said it was just OK.”

But the endorsements did not stop there. Fertig sent a copy to another Hall of Famer: Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles. Ripken gave his endorsement, which will be included in the second printing of the book.

“‘The Deal Is On Strike Three’ is a wonderful and fun take on the most legendary baseball story,” Ripken said. “Peter Fertig and Rudy Saviano paint a vivid picture and tell an uplifting story that continues the tradition of baseball’s magical tales. Baseball is a game shared by families, and this story takes that to a new level.”

Peter Fertig (left) and Rudy Saviano (right) are proud of what they've accomplished and look forward to spreading the book's message even further (LIR Photo by Jim Mancari)

Peter Fertig (left) and Rudy Saviano (right) are proud of what they've accomplished and look forward to spreading the book's message even further (LIR Photo by Jim Mancari)

Future plans and goals

As they look ahead, Fertig and Saviano said they hope to continue appearing in schools in order to distribute the book to as many children as possible. They are also in the formative stages of developing a program that will involve the U.S. military.

In honor of the late Bob Feller—who served nearly four years in the Navy—the authors want to send books to soldiers overseas. Once the soldiers receive the books, Fertig and Saviano hope a soldier will inscribe the book to his or her child, with the book serving as a family keepsake.

“We’re always looking forward, so we never really take a few minutes to reflect,” said Fertig of the whole process. “We’re not getting rich; we’re not getting wealthy. We’re not looking to. It took a life of it’s own, and it’s been a great experience.”

“If nothing else happens, we’ve surpassed our goals,” Saviano said. “We feel like we’ve accomplished something. We feel like we’ve touched some people’s lives.”

Though the authors have achieved all their original goals with the book, that hasn’t stopped them from continuing their dream.

“We don’t know where this is going,” said Fertig, who believes the book adds to the legend of “Casey at the Bat.” “As of now, we’re in the first inning. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Visit the book’s website to find out more information or purchase your hardcover copy.