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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 7/10/2021

Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat” is, according to the late Donald Hall, “the most popular poem in our country’s history.” First appearing in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888, it rose from anonymity to pop-culture fame thanks to a comic actor from NYC named DeWolf Hopper. On August 15, upon hearing that the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox would be in the audience that evening, Hopper was scrambling to find something relevant to recite when he came across this obscure baseball poem recommended by his novelist friend Archibald Gunther, who had just returned from the Bay Area. The show was a huge hit and the piece’s popularity began to spread like wildfire, with the animated Hopper delivering such catchy verses as:
“Ten thousand eyes were on him
As he rubbed his hands with dirt,
Five thousand tongues applauded
When he wiped them on his shirt;
Then when the writhing pitcher
Ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye,
A sneer curled Casey’s lip.”
It was reprinted in countless periodicals and Hopper’s success grew as he continued to perform it for packed houses [an estimated 10,000 times in his career].
Ernest Thayer—not a poet by trade—never wrote another notable piece. The Boston native and Harvard grad, who was covering baseball as a reporter for the S.F. Examiner in 1888 when he came up with the rhyming story, allegedly based the protagonist, a slugger named Casey, on Hall of Famer Mike “King” Kelly of the Boston Beaneaters. When his poem was first published in soft-cover form in 1901, he dedicated it to Hopper and rightfully so.
The softcover first editions are incredibly rare. In fact, only a small handful are known to exist. Recent copies have sold for $9,600 in 2016 and most recently $46,147 in 2020. Published by the New Amsterdam Book Co. in 1901, the 7.75” x 5.25” softcover book features 13 sepia pen-and-ink illustrated pages and is "Dedicated, by special permission, to that jovial patron of the National Game - Mr. DeWolf Hopper.”
The original side-stitched stuff paper cover with the poem’s title and publisher address is printed in red and green. There is light-to-moderate edge and corner wear, and some faint soiling/toning to the front and back covers. All 32 pages are intact and quite clean with bold black printed text, strong brownish-red colors, and sharp drawing detail. Overall condition of the book remains incredibly well-preserved and presents in NM overall condition. The book survives as an extraordinary example of this scarce classic, one that would surely become a highlight in any significant rare book or memorabilia collection.

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