Obit of the Day (Historical); Ernest L. Thayer (1940)

Ernest L. Thayer, author of “Casey At the Bat,” died on August 21, 1940 at the age of 77.

Mr. Thayer was working for the San Francisco Examiner in 1888 at the request of his former Harvard classmate, William Randolph Hearst. Thayer had written for the famed Lampoon when Hearst was the publication’s business manager. (One of Thayer’s editors was George Santayana.)

Using a pen name, “Phin,” that dated back to his college days, Thayer would write poems, mimicking the style of W.S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame). 

On June 3, 1888 the Examiner published Thayer’s paean to the Mighty Casey, Mudville’s last, best hope. Thayer’s last piece for the paper it received little notice even as it was syndicated in all Hearst newspapers.

It would take DeWolf Hopper, famed stage performer, to make the poem a national treasure. Hopper would become famous for performing “Casey” on nationwide tours beginning in August 1888. It is estimated that Hopper performed the poem 15,000 times during his career.

But it would take years for Thayer to receive credit. He tried to establish his authorship, including reciting the poem at Harvard in 1895, to no avail. It would take more than a decade for his actual name to be attached to the poem. 

When Thayer died in 1940, Hopper himself helped resolve any arguments by declaring that Thayer was, indeed, the author of the poem.

Note: 2013 marks the 125th anniversary of “Casey At the Bat”

Sources: Wikipedia and American National Biography Online

(Video of “Casey at the Bat,” 1946,  is copyright of Disney and courtesy of Reykjavik1992 on YouTube)

Editor’s note: My favorite current Casey is Tim Wiles, Director of Research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library (and my former internship supervisor), who has performed the poem 2000 times over the last ten years. His most recent performance was at Hall of Fame Weekend in July 2013. (You can watch him here.)

Just browsing through the boxes of books at our local library’s annual book sale.

Found a first edition of Casey At the Bat by Casey Stengel as told to Harry Paxton - signed by The Old Perfesser.

Bought it for $1.

Hoping to take your mind off the void you have in your heart - and on your TV - is proud to present Walt Disney’s “Casey at the Bat” from 1946. It uses the original text.

Copyright Walt Disney Studios and courtesy of victormalkovich on

From earlier in our post-All Star Game animation festival:

"How to Play Baseball"


"Batty Baseball"