Casey At The Bat

On June 3, 1888 The San Francisco Examiner published a poem entitled Casey At The Bat: A Ballad Of The Republic . The author was simply listed as “Phin”. As most of us know it was written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, an old Harvard acquaintance of William Randolph Hearst the owner and publisher of the Examiner, for which Thayer wrote a  humor column. Thayer received $5 for his efforts, and insisted it be published under the nom de plume of Phin, his nickname at Harvard.

The poem received very little recognition until 2 months later when a comedian and baseball fanatic by the name of DeWolf Hopper recited the poem after a showing of Prince Methusalem at Wallack’s Theater, a broadway theater in New York City. Hopper wanted to include something special for the members of the Chicago White Stockings and the NY Giants who he knew would be in attendance.  Receiving a copy of Casey At The Bat from a friend, he memorized it and performed it for the 1st time on Aug. 14, 1888. The players, as well as the rest of the audience “went wild”. The rest, as they say is history.

Hopper and Casey At The Bat would both become famous, with Hopper performing Casey an estimated 10,000 times over the next decade.

For many years there was mystery surrounding who was in fact the author of the poem. Thayer was reticent to claim authorship of a poem he felt was merely an amusing doggerel. It was only after others claimed authorship that he reluctantly came forward.  

A Recording of DeWolf Hopper reciting Casey at The Bat



The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

“Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy its sombre story in measured lines. Baseball has Casey at the Bat.” – Albert Spalding

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2 Responses to Casey At The Bat

  1. Well, it’s not great poetry, but it’s a great piece of Americana. Funny how the most famous poem ever written about baseball ends on a down-note. Yet it somehow seems truer to the game that way; even for a good hitter, baseball is still 70% failure.
    Cool post,

  2. Kevin Graham says:

    The Natural, the book, not the movie, ends on a downer as well. So does Pride of The Yankees. I’m sensing a pattern.

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