Ernest Lawrence Thayer was born on August 14, 1863 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Because his family's wealth, Thayer was educated privately. In 1881 he enrolled in Harvard University, following in the footsteps of other generations of Thayer's. While there, he studied philosophy and was the editor of Harvard's humor magazine, Lampoon. In 1885 he graduated magna cum laude.
William Randolph Hearst, a friend from college, invited Thayer to join the editorial staff of the San Francisco Examiner. It was there that he became a humor columnist who wrote under the pen name "Phin."
Thayer is famous for the poem, "Casey at the Bat" about a player on a fictional baseball team who struck out, losing a very important game for his team. It was published on June 3, 1888, but it made no big impression on the public. Its popularity soared when DeWolf Hopper dramatically recited the poem on August 14, 1888, in front of an audience that included many baseball players from the New York Giants and the Chicago White Stockings. Over the next fifty years, he recited the poem 10,000-15,000 times (some say as many as 40,000 times), and Hopper even played Casey in a silent film in 1914.
From 1896-1897 Thayer worked for the New York Journal. After that point, he didn't do much writing until close to his death, when he wrote several articles about philosophy. In 1913 he married Rosalind Hammett, and they moved to Santa Barbara, California, where Thayer spent the rest of his life.
Ernest Lawrence Thayer died on August 21, 1940.
Some Interesting facts about Ernest Lawrence Thayer
- He toured Europe for a year after college.
- He was partially deaf.
- He did not fight in World War I because of poor health.
- He claimed that his famous poem, "Casey At The Bat," was not based on any real person, game or team despite rumors to the contrary.
- He was called a "one-poem poet" because his only poem to attract any attention was, "Casey At The Bat."
- He was frustrated in later life that his serious writings on Philosophy elicited little interest compared to a silly cute poem he wrote when he was 24 years old.
- He never asked for or received any payments for the numerous performances of his poem.