CASEY ATTHE BAT
by Ernest L. Thayer
The outlook wasn't brilliantfor 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 pall-like 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 but get 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 hoodoo, while the latter was a cake.
So upon that stricken multitude, grim melancholy sat;
for there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball.
And when the dust had lifted,
and men saw what had occurred,
there was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
it pounded through on 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 lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt t'was 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 flashed 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 it's likely they'd have 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 dun sphere 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 has fled from Casey's lip, the 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 little children shout,
but there is no joy in Mudville --
mighty Casey has struck out.
Now for the history:
When George Hearst decided to run for senator from California in 1885 he realizedthe need of an influential organ, and bought the "San Francisco Examiner"to promote his political ambitions. When the campaign was over, he presented it tohis son, William Randolph Hearst who had just graduated from Harvard College. Whilein college the younger Hearst had been
editor of the "Harvard Lampoon."
When he went to California to edit the "Examiner" he took along with himthree members of the "Lampoon" staff; Eugene Lent, F. H. Briggs, and ErnestL. Thayer. Each had nicknames -- Thayer's was "Phin." He wrote a humorouscolumn on a basis for the "Examiner" and signed his columns with his nickname.
In the spring of 1888, Thayer wrote "Casey" and submitted it for publication.It appeared in the "Examiner" in the June 3, 1888 edition and was signed"Phin" as usual.
When "Casey" made its first appearance, nobody hailed it with shouts ofjoy or suspected that it would become immortal. A few weeks later, (exact date unknown)the New York "Sun" published the last 8 stanzas of the poem -- but signedits author as "Anon." Other than the "Sun," it was just plainignored by the public.
To become immortal, everyone (or thing) needs a press agent. Archibald ClaveringGunter, an author of novels, was "Casey's" press agent. Always on the lookout for incidents to base some of his novels on, Gunter, living in New York, soughtand actively read newspapers from around the country on a regular basis. When heread "Casey" for the first time, he clipped it out to save. He wasn't surejust what he would do with it, but he clipped and saved it anyway.
Many weeks later, in August of 1888, Gunter read that both the New York and Chicagobaseball clubs would be attending the performance of the comedian De Wolf Hooperat the Wallack Theater in New York. Upon reading the announcement, instantly knewwhat he wanted to do with the clipping of "Casey" he had saved.
Gunter approached Hooper, a good friend, and offered the poem for him to recite ashe felt the baseball teams would enjoy a comic baseball recitation. Hooper agreedand recited it that night. The rest, as they say, is history. From that point forwardin time, "Casey" become immortal -- while a good poem to begin with, ittook a recital before a group of "famous" baseball
players by a professional comedian to bring it to life.
After reviews for Hooper's performance were published, three people came forwardto claim authorship and demanded pay a royalty to use "their" poem. Nonecould prove authorship, so Hooper kept it in his repertory.
Four or five years later, Thayer, living in Worcester, Massachusetts at the time,attended a performance of Hooper in Worcester. After the show, Thayer sent a notebackstage requesting to meet Hooper. Thayer gave him the rights to perform it withoutpaying any royalties.
Newspaper collectors should checktheir issues of New York papers for August, 1888 (exact day unknown) for reviewsof Mr. Hooper's performance of "Casey" -- You may have an issue almostas important as the first printing of the poem in the June 3, 1888 "San FranciscoExaminer."
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