To self-promote his brand of politics, Hearst purchased the San Francisco Examiner. At the completion of the election, Hearst gave the newspaper to his son, William Randolph Hearst. William, who had experience editing the Harvard Lampoon while at Harvard College, took to California three Lampoon staff members.
One of those three was Ernest L. Thayer who signed his humorous Lampoon articles with the pen name Phin. The poem received very little attention and a few weeks later it was partially republished in the New York Sun, though the author was now known as Anon. A New Yorker named Archibald Gunter clipped out the poem and saved it as a reference item for a future novel.
Weeks later Gunter found another interesting article describing an upcoming performance at the Wallack Theatre by comedian De Wolf Hopper - who was also his personal friend. The August show exact date is unknown had members from the New York and Chicago ball clubs in the audience and the clipping now had a clear and obvious use. Gunter shared Casey at the Bat with Hopper and the perfomance was nothing short of legendary. Baseball Almanac is pleased to present the single most famous baseball poem ever written. The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day: The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
Every baseball fan knows the type—hitters like Barry Bonds in his day or Miguel Cabrera today, those feared princes of the batters box. In mythology, such sluggers swagger and strut to the plate. They send outfielders to new positions on the warning track. They back up infielders so deep they turn into outfielders. If the slugger wears the uniform of your team, you understand the joy of the bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off home run. You also know the ashes in the mouth, if the slugger happens to suck all the air out of the ballpark with one terrific swing…only to miss strike three and end a game.
Every s schoolboy…and a fair share of schoolgirls too…chased baseballs through pastures after their chores and on Sundays after church. King Kelly, by the way, happily holds a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He received the honor in in just the second vote after the Old Timers Committee formed to recognize great former players.
Kelly may, in fact, have suspected Thayer pegged him as the model for Mighty Casey. At this performance, two baseball teams, the Chicago White Stockings and New York Giants, sat in the cheap theater seats…this time the ball players watched a performance, not vice versa. Talk about a hit! It has been reported that Thayer's best friend Samuel Winslow , who played baseball at Harvard , was the inspiration for Casey.
He had a personality that fans liked to cheer or jeer.
After the season, Kelly went on a playing tour to San Francisco. Thayer, in a letter he wrote in , mentions Kelly as showing "impudence" in claiming to have written the poem. The author of the definitive bio of Kelly—which included a close tracking of his vaudeville career—did not find Kelly claiming to have been the author.
In , the magazine Current Literature noted the two versions and said, "The locality, as originally given, is Mudville, not Boston; the latter was substituted to give the poem local color. Sportswriter Leonard Koppett claimed in a article that the published poem omits 18 lines penned by Thayer which change the entire theme of the poem. Koppett said the full version of the poem takes the pitch count on Casey to full as his uncle Arnold stirs up wagering action in the stands before a wink passes between them and Casey throws the game.
DeWolf Hopper gave the poem's first stage recitation on August 14, , at New York's Wallack Theatre as part of the comic opera Prinz Methusalem in the presence of the Chicago and New York baseball teams, the White Stockings and the Giants , respectively; August 14, was also Thayer's 25th birthday. Hopper became known as an orator of the poem, and recited it more than 10, times by his count—some tabulations are as much as four times higher before his death.
On stage in the early s, baseball star Kelly recited the original "Casey" a few dozen times and not the parody. For example, in a review in of a variety show he was in, the Indianapolis News said, "Many who attended the performance had heard of Kelly's singing and his reciting, and many had heard De Wolf Hopper recite 'Casey at the Bat' in his inimitable way.
Kelly recited this in a sing-song, school-boy fashion.
The set-up was that Penn Jillette would leap off his chair upon finishing the poem, releasing the rope which supported Teller, and send his partner to a gruesome death if he wasn't free by that time. The drama of the performance was taken up a notch after the third or fourth stanza, when Penn Jillette began to read out the rest of the poem much faster than the opening stanzas, greatly reducing the time that Teller had left to work free from his bonds.
On July 14, , the jam rock band Furthur performed the poem as part of a second-set medley in center field of Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York. The first recorded version of "Casey at the Bat" was made by Russell Hunting , speaking in a broad Irish accent, in ; an cylinder recording of the text made for the Columbia Graphophone label by Hunting can be accessed from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.
DeWolf Hopper 's more famous recorded recitation was released in October In , Walt Disney released a recording of the narration of the poem by Jerry Colonna , which accompanied the studio's animated cartoon adaptation of the poem see below. It has since been performed more than times by nearly every major and Metropolitan orchestra in the U.
In , Dave Jageler and Charlie Slowes , both radio announcers for the Washington Nationals , each made recordings of the poem for the Library of Congress to mark the th anniversary of its first publication. A rivalry of sorts has developed between two cities claiming to be the Mudville described in the poem.
Residents of Holliston, Massachusetts , where there is a neighborhood called Mudville, claim it as the Mudville described in the poem. Thayer grew up in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts , where he wrote the poem in ; his family owned a wool mill less than a mile from Mudville's baseball field. However, residents of Stockton, California —which was known for a time as Mudville prior to incorporation in —also lay claim to being the inspiration for the poem.
For the season, after the poem became popular, Stockton's team was renamed the Mudville Nine. The team reverted to the Mudville Nine moniker for the and seasons. Despite the towns' rival claims, Thayer himself told the Syracuse Post-Standard that "the poem has no basis in fact.
The poem has been adapted to diverse types of media:.
For a relatively short poem apparently dashed off quickly and denied by its author for years , "Casey at the Bat" had a profound effect on American popular culture. It has been recited , re-enacted, adapted , dissected, parodied and subjected to just about every other treatment one could imagine.
It was written in , and its first known publication was in the quarterly magazine The Speaker in June , under the pseudonym of James Wilson. Casey's team is down three runs by the last of the ninth, and once again Casey is down to two strikes—with the bases full this time. However, he connects, hits the ball so far that it is never found.
Of the many parodies made of the poem, some of the notable ones include:. Casey Stengel describes in his autobiography how his original nickname "K. It was influenced not just by the name of the poem, which was widely popular in the s, but also because he tended to strike out frequently in his early career so fans and writers started calling him "strikeout Casey".