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The Story of Casey
At the time not much attention was paid to this ballad. A few eastern newspapers reprinted it but for the most part it received little attention upon its release.
In New York City a rising young comedian and base singer, William De Wolf Hopper, was appearing on Broadway and was given a copy of Casey by a close friend who felt it was just the sort of thing for Hopper to recite. Hopper did just that and this is how he recalled the scene in his memoirs, Once A Clown Always a Clown.
When I dropped my voice to B flat, below low C, at the the multitude was awed, the house, after a moment of startled silence, grasped the anticlimatic denouement, it shouted its glee. They had expected, as anyone does on hearing the ballad for the first time, that the almighty batsman would slam the ball out of the lot, and a lesser bard would have had him do so, and thereby written merely a good sporting-page filller. The anticipation of seeing Babe Ruth whale the ball over the centerfield fence. That is a spectacle to be enjoyed even at the expense of the home team, but there always is a chance that the Babe will strike out, a slight even more healing to sore eyes, for he can miss the third strike just as furiously as he can meet it, and the contrast between the terrible threat of his swing and the futility of the result is a banquet for the malicious, which includes us all. There is no more completely satisfactory drama in literature than the fall of Humpty Dumpty.
Astonished and delighted with the way his audience responded to Casey, Hopper made the recitation a permanent part of his repertoire and it became his most famous bit. Wherever he went, whatever the show, there were always calls for the ballad. By his own count he recited it more than 10,000 times, experimenting with hundreds of slight variations in emphasis and gesture to keep his mind from wandering. It took him exactly five minutes and forty seconds to deliver the poem.
When my name is called upon on the resurrection morning I shall, very probably, unless some friend is there to pull the sleeve of my ascension robes, arise, clear my throat and begin: The outlook wasnt brilliant for the Mudville nine that day., Hopper wrote in his memoirs, declaring that the poem is the only truly great comic poem written by an American.
It is as perfect an epitome of our national game today as it was when every player drank his coffee from a mustache cup. There are one or more Casey characters in every league, bush or big, and there is no day in the playing season that this same supreme tragedy does not befall on some field. It is unique in all verse in that it is not only funny and ironic, but excitingly dramatic, with the suspense built up to perfect climax. There is no lame line among the fifty-two.
Although Hopper was famous in his day as a comic opera star, today he is best remembered for three things:
The friend who passed Casey along to Hopper was, in later years to become a best selling author with thirty-nine novels to his credit, Archibald Clavering Gunter.
For most of his life Thayer did not especially like Casey and spent very little time addressing its popularity. However, in later in life he softened towards it considerably. Attending his 50th class reunion at Harvard in 1935, friends reported that he appeared visibly touched when he saw a classmate carrying a large banner that proclaimed: "An 85 Man Wrote Casey!". He died in 1940 at the age of seventy-seven.
CASEY AT THE BAT
The outlook wasnt brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
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