America's National Game/Chapter 32

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America's National Game (1911)-Ernest L. Thayer



LIKE every other cause worthy the best efforts of writers of note, Base Ball has a literature peculiarly its own. Love has its sonnets galore; War its epics in heroic verse; Tragedy its sombre story in measured lines, and Base Ball has "Casey at the Bat."

To this day men of splendid mental equipment are burning midnight oil in labored efforts to solve the authorship of the immortal productions usually accredited to the "Bard of Avon." It is not, therefore, passing strange that more than one individual has taken to himself the honor of having written the popular Base Ball classic. At various times in the early history of this poem its authorship was assumed by Joseph Quinlan Murphy, Will Valentine and Ernest L. Thayer. That Mr. Thayer was its author has long been established beyond the peradventure of a doubt, the false claimants fading away as soon as the real author was brought to the front.

The poem, "Casey at the Bat," was first published in the San Francisco Examiner, June 3, 1888, and won instant favor among the Base Ball fraternity. But it needed the impetus given it by DeWolf Hopper to bring to it the widespread popularity that it has since attained, and which not only calls for its repetition whenever Hopper appears before the footlights, but which also demands its publication at frequent intervals in the daily press.

I shall not undertake to determine as to whether the poem made Hopper great, or Hopper made the poem great. As a friend of Hopper, and an admirer of the poem, I am inclined to the opinion that each owes a good deal of popularity to the other. The poem as usually published consists of eight stanzas, beginning with the words: "There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place." As originally printed, however, it embraced thirteen stanzas, and in its perfect form, as written, was as follows:


(A Ballad of the Republic. Sung in the Year 1888.)

The outlook wasn't brilliant for 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 sickly 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 lulu and the latter was a cake;
So, upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's 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-huggin' third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell,
It rumbled through the valley; it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon 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 on Casey's face,
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas 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 gleamed 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 from 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 signalled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid 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 multitude 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 is gone from Casey's lip; his teeth are clinched 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 somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has Struck Out.

Mr. Thayer, the author of "Casey at the Bat," has his home at Worcester, Mass. His father being a wealthy manufacturer, young Thayer, after finishing his course at Harvard University, from which he graduated in the class of 1885, started out to "do" the world. He had been the editor of the Lampoon while at college, and was looked upon by his classmates as a particularly bright and witty fellow. Upon arriving at San Francisco, the youth—to show his independence of parental patronage—sought and received employment on the Examiner, in whose columns the poem appeared during his term of service.

The following letter, being the second in a series establishing his authorship of the poem, explains itself:

"Rome, Grand Hotel du Quirinal,
"February 4, 1905.

"To the Sporting Editor of the News:

"Since writing to you the other day, other facts about 'Casey' have occurred to me which, perhaps, will be of interest to you. Except as originally published in the Examiner. 'Casey' has never been correctly printed—barring one or two cases in which I have furnished the copy. When the poem was first copied into an Eastern paper—I think by the New York Sun—the clipping editor cut off the opening stanzas and began where Casey advances to the bat. Later on, Mr. Hopper began to recite the complete poem as it was given to him by Mr. Archibald Clavering Gunter, who saw it in the Examiner. Some one who heard Hopper's recitation wrote out the first five stanzas from memory—and a very bad memory he must have had—and tacked them to the mutilated version as it was printed in the Sun and many of its exchanges, and then published a combination which has been printed up and down the land as 'Casey at the Bat.' I think that if the matter were of any importance the easiest way to establish the authorship would be to let the different claimants furnish a copy which might be compared with the poem as it was first printed in the Examiner.

"I may say, in conclusion, that though some of the mutilated reprints of 'Casey' have my name on the title page, I have never authorized them. I have left the poem to its fate—except that once I had a few copies printed for circulation among my friends, and only recently, when I am charged with falsely claiming the poem, has it seemed to me my duty to say something of my connection with it. Finally, while a certain Will Valentine may have written a Base Ball poem in a Sioux City paper before 1888, it could not have been 'Casey at the Bat,' and if anyone is anxious enough to search the files of that paper this fact will become patent. With apologies for troubling you. Very truly yours,

"Ernest L. Thayer."

Among the mountain of clippings in the collection of the late Henry Chadwick I find the following, without newspaper credit or date. I am therefore compelled to print it in this form, or not at all:

"Casey is dead!

"There are many Caseys, dead and alive, but this particular Hibernian won fame because he was 'Casey at the Bat.'

"Not only fame for himself, but a reputation for DeWolf Hopper, who was a sort of foster father to him, did he win, and with his demise is learned for the first time the identity of his author.

"Wherever Hopper is known, Casey of bat fame is an acquaintance also. For seventeen years Hopper has recited the poem relating to Casey's wild blows at the ball in nearly every city in this country, and in London as well. At benefit performances, at Lambs' gambols, at regular performances—in fact, at nearly every gathering which Hopper has attended since he became known upon the stage—he has been called upon to recite 'Casey at the Bat,' and he always has responded.

"And until yesterday the original of the poem which has found such favor was not known.

"The Casey who just died was John Patrick Parnell Cahill, a former Base Ball player. On the Pacific Coast he was very popular as a player, and after his retirement from the diamond still held his head high, for he had been perpetuated in verse under the name of Casey. His demise occurred in Pleasanton, California, last Friday, of consumption.

"Exactly seventeen years ago, when Hopper appeared in 'Prince Methusaleh ' at Wallack's, he first used the poem. No less known a person than Archibald Clavering Gunter, novelist and dramatist, called his attention to it. By so doing, Hopper believes Gunter did as much to earn him a reputation as any role he ever played.

"Gunter approached him one evening and asked him if he would like to have a novel poem. Hopper replied in the affirmative, and Gunter handed him the 'Casey at the Bat' verses. Hopper was highly pleased with them and used them at Wallack's Theater. They made an instantaneous success.

"Gunter did not know the authorship of the verses, and Hopper spent three years in an effort to find out. He had about despaired of ever learning the name of the man who penned the lines, when by chance the information was borne to him. The comedian was billed to appear at Worcester, Mass. From an old friend of his family residing in that city he received a note asking him if he would like to meet the man who wrote 'Casey at the Bat.' Hopper accepted the invitation gladly and the next day was presented to Ernest L. Thayer, of Worcester. Thayer admitted the authorship and told the circumstances which led up to the penning of the verses."

Another poem, of equal literary merit, a parody on Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome," which appeared about the same time, and which is supposed to have first been printed in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, seems to have been lost to literature, unless this reference to it shall result in its reproduction. I have been unable to secure a copy, but a friend recalls the opening stanza, in these words:

"Ho, lictors, sound the war note;
Triumvirs, clear the way;
The great barbarian ball teams
Will play in Rome to-day."

The reference, of course, is to the World's Tour of the Chicago and All-America teams, in 1888-9.

It will be manifestly impossible to reproduce here a tithe of the meritorious verse that has been written on our national game. From a collection of many poems the following are selected as representing the wide range over which the Base Ball Pegasus has roamed:


From Harper's Round Table.

Now these are the laws of the athlete,
That stretch the length of the field.
They make the code of the runner fleet
Who has never yet learned to yield.
They tell you how to lay your plan.
And how to carry it through.
They help the man, who's done what he can,
To bear his Waterloo.

You shall give the foeman all his due,
And let him win if he can;
But keep all rights that belong to you,
For that is the law of man.
You shall hold the ground that is yours by right,
And yield not a foot you have trod.
But grant his right in a stand-up fight,
For that is the law of God.

If you row with the crew in the boat,
It's a wretched thing to spy.
There's plenty of work when you leave the float,
But little to do for the eye.
There's plenty to do to swing and slide,
And steady the fragile shell;
But to gain your strength from the other side
Is a method sent from hell.

No man shall yield on the foot ball field
Till the final whistle sounds.
No man shall show by a single blow
That he has no place on the grounds.
But when the foe is in racking pain
And cannot move or fight,
You shall help him up to his feet again,
And chafe his bruise and bind his strain,
To show the make of your own good grain,
For that is fair and right.

The strength of the team, or nine, or crew
Is not the strength of the "star."
'Tis what the body together can do
That carries the victory far.
So you shall give your mite to the rest
To bring the whole team through,
And then at the time of your single test
They shall give their strength to you.

And these are the laws of the athlete,
You can heed them or not, as you like,
But they make the code of the runner fleet,
And they check a man when he'd strike.
They tell you how to lay your plan,
And how to carry it through.
They help the man, who's done what he can,
To bear his Waterloo.

America's National Game 0487.jpg



By S. D. Richardson.

'Tis a glorious game, with a well-earned fame,
A diamond in royal setting;
And its beautiful rays light up our days
From the field with an emerald fretting.
So day after day I am watching the play,
Absorbed In the outings and innings;
Though I risk not a dime, I'm gainer each time.
And the joy that it gives is my winnings.

But sometimes on a day my mind is away
From the game with an idle perusing,
And I think of another so much like the other
That I blend them together in musing:
'Tis the old game of life, with its conquest and strife.
With its wonderful outings and innings;
Where the umpire of fate forever doth wait
Giving gladness and sorrow for winnings.

There's the man at the bat, he's a king on that plat,
And he watches the ball that is fleeting
'Till his blow meets the same, and it soars o'er the game
And receives from the people a greeting.
'Tis the man who doth wait while fortune that's great,
Changing hands like the shuttle in weaving.
Comes and touches his mace, and he runs every base,
While the people shout, "Luck is retrieving!"

See the pitcher, whose aim is surely not tame,
While his curvings are often perplexing;
And the poise of his fist, with the twist of his wrist,
To those running the bases is vexing.
'Tis the man who in fame hits the mark all the same,
Though he throws a curved ball there to do it;
And the one who would steal a base on his field,
Will have cause to remember and rue it.

And the catcher with nerve that all good might deserve,
And a visor drawn low for the danger;
With a smile by that base that's as cruel to face
As the blow of a spiteful sky-ranger—
'Tis the man of strong nerve, whom no terror can swerve,
And who laughs where the peril is thickest;
And he guards the home base 'gainst the strong in the race,
And outs them with hand that is quickest.

There's the guard at each base who, alert in his place,
Knows his work and performs it with pleasure;
And the fielders that stand with the game well in hand
And consider high balls but a treasure.
'Tis the men of each age, who on history's page
Have written their names with their actions;
Catching fame on the fly, though it comes from the sky,
And ne'er bothered with foolish attractions.

So the old game of life, with its conquest and strife.
Ever moves, with no pause or delaying.
The wise and the great and the foolish with fate
On the field of the great world are playing.
And the games will ne'er close 'till the books shall disclose
All the wonderful outings and innings,
With the sun 'neath the West and the players at rest,
And the blest with their bountiful winnings.


Grantland Rice, in Atlanta Journal.

Listen, fanatics, and you shall hear
Of the midnight slide of Paul Revere—
How he scored from first on an outfield drive
By a dashing sprint and headlong dive—
'Twas the greatest play pulled off that year.

Now the home of poets and potted beans,
Of Emersonian ways and means.
In Base Ball epic has oft been sung
Since the days of Criger and old Cy Young—
But not even fleet, deer-footed Bay
Could have pulled off any such fancy play
As the slide of P. Revere, which won
The famous battle of Lexington.

The Yanks and the British were booked that trip
In a scrap for the New World Championship—
But the British landed a bit too late,
So the game didn't open till half-past eight,
And Paul Revere was dreaming away
When the umpire issued his call for play.

On, on they fought 'neath the Boston moon.
As the British figured—"Not yet, but soon"—
For the odds were against the Yanks that night,
With Paul Revere blocked away from the fight—
And the grandstand gathering groaned in woe,
While a sad wail bubbled from Rooters' Row.

But wait—Hist! Hearken! and likewise hark!
What means that galloping near the park?
What means that cry of a man dead sore?
"Am I too late? Say, what's the score?"
And echo answered both far and near,
As the rooters shouted, "There's Paul Revere!"

Oh, how sweetly that moon did shine,
When P. Revere took the coaching line!
He woke up the grandstand from its trance,
And made the bleachers get up and dance—
He joshed the British with robust shout
Until they booted the ball about—
He whooped and he clamored all over the lot
Till the score was tied in a Gordian knot.

Now, in this part of the "Dope Recooked"
Are the facts which history overlooked—
How Paul Revere came to bat that night
And suddenly ended the long-drawn fight—
How he singled to center and then straightaway
Dashed on to second like Harry Bay—
Kept traveling on with the speed of a bird,
Till he whizzed like a meteor rounding third—
"Hold back, you lobster "—but all in vain—
The coachers shouted in tones of pain—
For Paul kept on with a swinging stride,
And he hit the ground when they hollered "SLIDE!"

Spectacular plays may come and go
In the hurry of Time's swift ebb and flow—
But never again will there be one
Like the first American "hit and run."
And as long as the old game lasts you'll hear
Of the midnight slide of P. Revere.


Baltimore American.

When the team from Podunk Centre comes to play in Baltimore
We will see the game presented as it was in days of yore.
When the score was in the hundreds as the coming shades of night
Called it at the seventh inning, and the players had a fight;
When 'twas "out" if any fielder caught the ball on its first bound,
And they "crossed the runner out" before he'd travelled half way

Oh, they'll give us old time Base Ball, with the old time sort of
When the team from Podunk Centre comes to play in Baltimore.

The Orioles will hustle for the annual championship
Of the Turnpike League; they'll try to beat the team from Hutner's
And the nine from Perkin's Crossing must play ball its very best,
While the Punkintown star pitcher's curves will be knocked "galley
The club from Sleepy Hollow will agree that Jerry Nops
Has a way of giving pitchers' fancy inshoots knockout drops.
"Oh, kill him! Kill the umpire!" will the bleachers loudly roar
If the team from Podunk Centre tries to win from Baltimore.

Our "Mugs" McGraw will do his best to play Base Ball and win,
And he'll wear some zephyr coaxers on his broad, determined chin;
And "Robby," too, will say "B'gosh" and chew a wisp of hay
To conceal his strong emotion when a liner gets away.
The Turnpike League will have a pennant made of green goods
And each team will play to win it with all their strength and might,
So we'll see the game played this year as it was in years before
When the team from Podunk Centre comes to play in Baltimore.