On June 3, 1888, Ernest Thayer’s beloved poem “Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888″ was first published in the San Francisco Examiner. Though not an instant hit, the poem was republished a few months later in the New York Sun with some changes and attributed to “Anon”. The poem has proved itself to be a true American classic, as it has enjoyed countless recitations, adaptations, cartoons, parodies and more for over a century now. Personally, I will always associate the poem with the 1946 Disney cartoon (and I thoroughly enjoyed looking at our score to the cartoon this morning!); however, in taking a little time to investigate the many other Library holdings that relate to Thayer’s poem, you might be surprised to learn how much material we really do have!
We have sheet music by numerous composers who were inspired enough by Thayer’s words to set them to music, the most famous of which is Sidney Homer’s “Casey at the Bat” from the composer’s Six Cheerful Songs To Poems of American Humor published in 1920 (Homer may be better known to some as Samuel Barber’s uncle). 33 years later, American composer William Schuman premiered his opera The Mighty Casey, his first opera and the result of a life-long love of baseball, a game he deemed “the epitome of American life and character.”
In addition to living on through musical settings, films and cultural references, the poem has also stood the test of time by the most traditional of means – recitations. It was the actor/singer/vaudeville performer DeWolf Hopper who first recited the poem on stage in August of 1888 after the poem’s republication in the New York Sun. Hopper’s performance popularized the poem and he went on to recite Thayer’s words at least 10,000 times over the course of his life. The Library’s National Digital Jukebox offers a 1909 recording of Hopper’s famous recitation, embedded below for your listening pleasure!