May 25, 2013
You will not find the name of Ernest L. Thayer in any of baseball's record books. Nor is there an entry for De Wolf Hopper. Yet to a generation of fans enchanted by baseball in the late 1880s -- and to generations since who fall under the same spell -- they are two of the reasons for that enchantment.
Thayer was a member of a well-to-do New England family whose vocation was philosophy -- he studied under William James -- but whose true love was balladry. His college friend, William Randolph Hearst, offered him a job writing humor for the San Francisco Examiner and Thayer accepted. "Casey," which appeared in the Examiner on June 3, 1888, is easily his most enduring legacy, philosophic or otherwise.
Most of the reason is ascribable to the story line, but at least a bit of the credit for making that story universally familiar goes to Hopper. Perhaps the best known stage performer of his day, Hopper introduced his reading of Casey during a performance attended by players from the New York Giants and Chicago White Stockings. "When I dropped my voice to B flat, below low C, at 'the audience was awed,' I remember seeing Buck Ewing's gallant mustachios give a single nervous twitch," Hopper recalled later. "And as the house, after a moment of silence, grasped the anticlimactic denouement, it shouted its glee."
Hopper estimated that he subsequently performed "Casey" 10,000 times to audiences who never let him take a final bow without hearing it. Was there a real Casey? Some say the character seems closelymodeled after Mike "King" Kelly, the showy 1880s star of Chicago and Boston. Thayer never confirmed nor denied the speculation.
ELSEWHERE IN BASEBALL
Rules makers establish four balls as the number required for a base on balls.
John T. Brush's salary classification plan is enacted by the National League. It pays players according to their category of skill, between $1,500 and $2,500.
IN THE WORLD
The first Kodak camera is put on sale April 24.