Published: The Examiner (06-03-1888)
It all started in 1885 when George Hearst decided to run for state senator in California. 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.
In the June 3, 1888 issue of The Examiner, Phin appeared as the author of the poem we all know as Casey at the Bat. 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 1888 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:
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;