Spring Premier Auction 2020

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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/2/2020

Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat” is perhaps the most popular poem in American 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:

 

“And now the pitcher holds the ball,

And now he lets it go,

And now the air is shattered

By the force of Casey’s blow.”

 

It was reprinted in countless periodicals and Hopper’s success grew as he continued to perform it for packed houses. It wasn’t long before the majority of Americans knew the poem's fateful ending by heart: "But there is no joy in Mudville; Mighty Casey has struck out." Its author, however, never wrote another notable piece. The Boston native was a baseball reporter for the S.F. Examiner in 1888 when he came up with it, allegedly basing the protagonist on Hall of Fame slugger Mike “King” Kelly of the Boston Beaneaters. When his poem was first published in 1901, he rightfully dedicated it to Hopper, the man who single-handedly immortalized the masterpiece as the somber anthem for our National Pastime.

 

One of Broadway’s most renowned performers of the late 19th century, DeWolf Hopper was a big man with a booming voice whose specialty was thespian comedy. Among his most indulging interests off stage was “base ball” and he was a rabid Giants fan. It is believed that Hopper recited "Casey” over 10,000 times over the course of his life – via radio, banquet speeches, curtain call, etc. – and it became his public identity in until his death in 1935.

 

Presented in this lot is a vintage DeWolf Hopper cut signature placed on a 2.5" x 4.5" index card with his tongue-in-cheek salutation, "Autographically yours" in lightly faded 7/10 black fountain ink. Complementing his rare autograph are two intricately enameled lapel pins. Identically designed as flag banners, they boast “Hopper’s White Sox" in green and “Hopper’s Cubs” in red. Made by Whitehead & Hoag Co. (hallmarked on reverse) and dating to the early 20th century, each is 5/8" across and fitted with a perfectly functioning brooch back. Both pins are immaculate and present in essentially MINT condition. Because the 1912 hardcover first edition of “Casey at the Bat” was published in the Windy City, it’s likely that these pins were gifts from each Chicago ballclub to Hopper for making the poem such an iconic piece of American literature. Hopper's cut sig is encapsulated by Beckett as 'Authentic."

 

This lot is part of The Ultimate “Casey at the Bat” Trio, along with Lots 73 and 74, from the same consignor.

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Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $150
Final prices include buyers premium.: $180
Number Bids: 1
Auction closed on Saturday, May 2, 2020.
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