Night Casey Was Born: The True Story Behind the Great American Ballad

Night Casey Was Born: The True Story Behind the Great American Ballad "Casey at the Bat"

by John Walsh
     
 

"Casey at the Bat" is a legendary poem about the crushing defeat of a small-town baseball hero."Casey at the Bat" is a legendary poem about the crushing defeat of a small-town baseball hero.
For the first time, John Evangelist Walsh gives the story behind the poem and its young journalist author, as well as its inaugural performance in 1888 in New York's Wallack

Overview

"Casey at the Bat" is a legendary poem about the crushing defeat of a small-town baseball hero."Casey at the Bat" is a legendary poem about the crushing defeat of a small-town baseball hero.
For the first time, John Evangelist Walsh gives the story behind the poem and its young journalist author, as well as its inaugural performance in 1888 in New York's Wallack's Theater. The Night Casey was Born is a portrait of America in the earl

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This history of the mighty Casey hits it out of the park." — Baltimore Sun

"A delightful book that explores the poem and its author, as well as the baseball and theater culture of the 1880s." — The Los Angeles Times

Publishers Weekly
It seems likely that the author of this slender volume dedicated to baseball's most famous doggerel would have felt very much at home producing the hagiographic journalism practiced a century ago. Penned in 1888 by young Harvard graduate Ernest L. Thayer, "Casey" was calculated to cash in on the incipient national pastime, then in the throes of its first spasm of widespread popularity. Perhaps the most popular piece of American verse ever written-its only rivals being Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (today known as " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas") and Poe's "The Raven"-"Casey" was not widely hailed upon publication. However, the poem was soon taken up by well-known stage actor DeWolf Hopper. It would be his signature performance piece for decades to come, making him just as much the "father" of "Casey" 's popularity as its actual author. Walsh (Darkling I Listen: The Last Days and Death of John Keats) succeeds at evoking the easy familiarity and rough bonhomie of an era whose baseball and theatrical stars are long since forgotten. He tries his best to heighten the drama of what may not be a book-length subject, connecting Thayer's composition with recent heartbreak, and dedicating a chapter to Hopper's previous success on the stage. Walsh's writing style and pop psychology are almost as quaint as his subject matter, but the origins of "Casey" are appealing in their own right. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The 1888 birth and subsequent celebrity of the rollicking baseball ballad by Ernest L. Thayer. This latest from prolific pop biographer/historian Walsh (Moonlight, 2000, etc.) explores the two contrasting worlds that combined to create the phenomenon of "Casey at the Bat": Broadway light opera and professional baseball, which was still in its childhood but rapidly gaining popularity in the late-19th century. Never known for understatement, the author early on makes the preposterous claim that "Casey" is the equal of Robert Frost's "Birches" or "Mending Wall." Fortunately, he does much better when he turns from literary criticism to social history. Illustrated with numerous period photographs and quotations from contemporary newspapers, the text brings the period to life. Thayer was a journalist in San Francisco who periodically contributed topical ballads; "Casey" appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888. Arch Gunter, a successful New York writer visiting his parents in California, clipped the poem and brought it home. When he learned that Wallack's Theater was hosting a "Baseball Night" to take advantage of local enthusiasm for the first-place New York Giants, Gunter presented the clipping to Wallack's manager, who promptly passed it on to his star, DeWolf Hopper. "Casey" was a smash from the first time this popular actor delivered it on August 14, 1888; Hopper performed the poem thousands of times during his career. He and Thayer eventually met, had lunch, made nice. Walsh ably describes this early intersection between entertainment and professional sport. He's less effective in imagining the conversation between Thayer and Hopper, and yet less effective when he composessome clumsy lyrics of the sort that might have been included in one of Hopper's shows. Readers may also wonder why the author neglects to consider any of Casey's many reinterpretations in our own day, as did Frank Deford in Casey on the Loose (1989). Walsh manages only a broken-bat blooper in this disappointing plate appearance.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585678938
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
02/01/2007
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
7.98(w) x 5.62(h) x 0.83(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

John Evangelist Walsh is the author of biographies on Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, and John Keats, among others. He lives in Monroe, Wisconsin.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >