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Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1863-1940), an otherwise obscure poet and philosopher, staked his claim to fame when he wrote the classic American ballad, "Casey at the Bat." A Harvard man, born and bred in Massachusetts, Thayer pursued a degree in philosophy and worked on the Harvard Lampoon, the school's newspaper. While in college he met a man named William Randolph Hearst, a wealthy fellow who would later inherit the San Francisco Examiner from his father. After graduation in 1886, Hearst hired Thayer as a comedy writer/cartoonist for the Examiner.

Thayer, a shy man by nature who didn't believe in the quality of his work, usually signed each piece with his nickname, "Phin." After laboring for the newspaper for just over a year, he decided to abandon his post and return home to run his family's mill. The last piece he ever wrote, published June 3, 1888, was Casey.

The poem remained almost entirely ignored until it was revamped on Broadway by well-known comedian De Wolf Hopper at the request of a close friend. Hopper performed the piece on the evening that two baseball clubs, New York and Chicago, were in attendance. But by the time Casey had acheived success, Thayer had already thrown in the towel and left journalism for his mill in Worcester. Others stepped up to claim ownership of the poem, none able to prove ownership. When the poet finally saw the act years later, he granted Hopper full rights to use the ballad in his act without seeking royalties or even a writer's credit.

When questioned about his refusal to continue writing, Thayer would often tell others that he had nothing to say. Some speculate that he feared he could never best Casey; others point to his soft-spoken nature and gentle demeanor and offer that Thayer was just a shy man who never really understood his talent. Whatever the reason, he later married and returned to California. On his death bed, Thayer attempted to write but ultimately failed. Recognizing the irony, he quipped, "Now I have something to say and I am too weak to say it." It seems Thayer waited too long for his pitch and, like Casey, struck out.

Some information obtained at http://www.historybuff.com/library/refcasey.html and www.baseball-almanac.com.

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