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Hinkle Pinch Hits, But Did He Steal?

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Correction: In earlier print and online versions, Style incorrectly identified Times-Dispatch spokeswoman Frazier Millner. We regret the error.

Imitation -- lifting from another artist's work to make an artistic or social statement — can be the sincerest form of flattery. Even the Beatles did it. Heck, John Fogerty copied himself — and got sued for it.

So there was ample precedent when writer Don Harrison cribbed turn-of-the-last-century journalist and baseball humorist poet Ernest Lawrence Thayer on his blog, Saverichmond.com. He posted his take Jan. 15, the day after details of Wilder's bungled negotiations with the Richmond Braves ownership emerged. The poem (reprinted on the Back Page of Style, page 63) was a word-perfect send up of Thayer's most famous work, "Casey at the Bat."

But the question becomes, exactly who was columnist Barton Hinkle cribbing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch commentary section Jan. 18 when he, apparently unaware that Harrison had already told this joke, also parodied "Casey at the Bat"?

Harrison's sendup already had made the rounds of Richmond by the time Hinkle's column ran. Former Wilder adviser and current WLEE radio pundit Paul Goldman invited Harrison on his show to talk about the piece. He appeared on the show the same day Hinkle's column ran.

"Bart's column is an original," says Frazier Millner, a Times-Dispatch spokeswoman. "He had no inkling of anybody doing this when he wrote the column."

For his part, Harrison says he doesn't mind — and certainly doesn't flatter himself to believe Hinkle's imitation was of the Saverichmond.com posting.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of commentary," Harrison says. "[Hinkle] probably hasn't been following the blogs too closely, because they've been so busy justifying the impeaching of Bill Clinton."

Besides, a humble Harrison says, "It's not the most original idea in the world."





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