29¢ ZaSu Pitts
Silent Screen Stars
Issue Date: April 27, 1994
City: San Francisco, CA
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed and engraved
Color: Red, black and bright violet
Unbeknownst to her, ZaSu Pitts was discovered one rainy day in 1915 on a crowded Hollywood trolley. Pitts had moved to Hollywood that year in search of a career as an actress. Her big break didn’t come however, until two years later when she co-starred in several movies with America’s sweetheart - Mary Pickford. By 1919 she had made 28 movies.
The following year she was hired by director King Vidor. Exclaiming “I discovered you,” he went on to explain how he had seen her on the trolley on that rainy day in 1915. “Had I not been just a struggling screenwriter at the time,” he told her, “ I would have hired you on the spot!” Pitts went on to make four movies with Vidor.
In 1924 she starred in her most important role - the leading lady of Erich von Stroheim’s psychodrama Greed. He also cast her in his 1928 film The Wedding March. Called “the screen’s greatest tragedienne,” Pitts went on to star in numerous comedies. Her brilliant career ended in 1963 when she fell ill from cancer.
“Casey At The Bat”
On June 3, 1888, the now-famous poem “Casey at the Bat” was first published in the San Francisco Daily Examiner.
Ernest Lawrence Thayer wrote “Casey at the Bat.” Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1863, Thayer earned a degree in philosophy from Harvard University before accepting a job offer from his friend, William Randolph Hearst, to work as the humor columnist for the Daily Examiner in 1886.
Over the next two years Thayer wrote for a variety of the paper’s sections, including advertisements and editorials. But it would be his last piece for the paper that would make him famous. He published “Casey at the Bat” on June 3, 1888, under the pseudonym “Phin” as he had all his other works for the paper.
The poem went relatively unnoticed for a couple months until actor De Wolf Hopper staged the first public performance that August. It soon became the most famous baseball poem ever and Hopper would go on to recite the poem 10,000 (some sources say up to 40,000) times during his lifetime.
Over the years, there’s been lots of speculation over who and where may have served as inspiration for the poem. Two towns have claimed to be the models for Mudville – Stockton, California, and Holliston, Massachusetts.
And while Thayer insisted Casey wasn’t based on a single player, many believe he was at least in part inspired by Mike “King” Kelly. Thayer had worked as a baseball reporter for Kelly’s team’s exhibition games between the 1887 to 1888 off-season. Some of his language referring to Kelly’s at-bats was even similar to how he wrote about Casey.
“Casey at the Bat” was eventually made into a silent film in 1927 and a Disney animated short in 1946.
Click here to read the full text of the poem.
Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.
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