by Ernest Lawrence Thayer; Library of Congress; 4 pages and record, $5.95 plus $2.00 postage and handling from the Information Office, Box A, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C. 20540.
One day in the late 1880s a young comedian and singer named DeWoIf Hopper learned that the management of the show in which he was appearing had invited the New York Giants and the Chicago White Stockings to attend. A friend handed Hopper a bit of baseball doggerel he had scissored from a copy of the San Francisco Examiner . Why not recite this to the boys, he suggested, and that night Hopper gave the first public performance of “Casey at the Bat.” It was such a sensation that he had to keep on doing it for the rest of his life. “When my name is called upon the resurrection morn,” he wrote, “I shall, very probably … arise, clear my throat and begin: The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day.’ ” Hopper recited “Casey” ten thousand times by his own count, one of them for the Victor Talking Machine Company. The record came out in June 1909, and the Library of Congress has now reissued it along with Thayer’s text and illustrations done in 1904 by a commercial artist named Edgar Keller. Keller’s drawings are curiously unappealing, but Hopper’s performance is fascinating. As he snarls and shrieks, sings and growls his way through Casey’s gethsemane, we not only see how the ballad became perhaps the most famous American poem, but we also are given a rare chance to experience the soaring rant and fustian that was theater for much of the nineteenth century.