If there is one poem that many adult males (and likely many adult females) will remember from elementary school, it is Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat.” Perhaps it was included in the elementary curricula because publishers, anthologists, or teachers realized it was exactly the kind of poem that could capture a boy’s attention and imagination. (Only one other 19th century poem is as well known as “Casey,” and that’s Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”)
The poem has an interesting history. Written by Thayer and published by William Randolph Hearts in May 1888, it made no great impression, until the comic actor DeWolf Hopper read it between acts at a performance in August of 1888. In the audience were several baseball players; it was “Baseball Night” at the theater. I\the reading was a huge success, and Hopper went on to recite the poem an estimated 15,000 times over almost 50 years. Other than his work as a student editor of the Harvard Crimson, Thayer is not known for any other writing.
What any of us (male or female) might remember most about the poem is the penultimate concluding line, the line that captures all of the emotion of dashed hope, bitter disappointment, and angst we might imagine: “But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.”
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.