"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is an early-20th century Tin Pan Alley song which became the unofficial anthem of baseball—though neither of its authors had ever been to a game. The song is traditionally sung during the seventh-inning stretch of a baseball game, in spite of being written from the perspective of someone not at a game. Fans are encouraged to sing along.
History of the songEdit
The words were written in 1908 by Jack Norworth, who while riding a subway train, was inspired by a sign that said "Baseball Today — Polo Grounds". The words were set to music by Albert Von Tilzer, although neither had ever seen a baseball game. (Norworth and Von Tilzer finally saw their first Major League Baseball games 32 and 20 years later, respectively.) The song was first sung by Norworth's wife Nora Bayes and popularized by various vaudeville acts. Norworth wrote an alternative version of the song in 1927. Norworth, with his wife, also wrote "Shine On, Harvest Moon."
With the sale of so many records, sheet music, and piano rolls, the song became one of the most popular hits of 1908. The Haydn Quartet singing group, led by very popular tenor Harry MacDonough, recorded the definitive popular hit rendition for Victor Records.
Two other recorded renditions were somewhat popular that year as well. Harvey Hindermyer, a member of the Shannon Four singing group and a popular radio performer later in life, recorded the song for Columbia Records. That version can be found on the Ken Burns Baseball documentary soundtrack. Another hit version was recorded by Edward Meeker, staff announcer and special effects man for Edison Records.
Below are the two versions side by side for comparison:
Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Nelly Kelly loved baseball games,
Katie Casey saw all the games,
Nelly Kelly was sure some fan,
1 The term "sou", now obscure, was at the time common slang for a low-denomination coin. Carly Simon's version, produced for Ken Burns' 1994 documentary on baseball, reads "Ev'ry cent / Katie spent".
Modern renditions of the songEdit
Nowadays the verses to the song are almost never heard, with only the chorus generally sung. It is commonly held to be the third most-often-played song in the United States, after "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Happy Birthday to You".
In the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy and Harpo Marx", Harpo plays "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on his harp.
In the Marx Brothers comedy, A Night at the Opera, Harpo and Chico, in sabotaging the opera Il Trovatore sneak a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" within the Overture. When the Overture comes to the song, they, in the orchestra pit, feign a game of baseball, while Groucho appears as a stadium vendor calling out, "PEANUTS, PEANUTS! GETCHER RED HOT PEANUTS!!"
Among those famously associated with the song was Hall of Fame sportscaster Harry Caray, who began singing at games in Comiskey Park for the Chicago White Sox from the early 1970s to 1981, then in Wrigley Field for the Chicago Cubs from 1982 through 1997. Caray's tradition of leading the crowd in singing the song began when White Sox owner Bill Veeck snuck a public address microphone into Caray's broadcast booth, so that the crowd could hear's Caray's boundless enthusiasm and marginal musical talents — something that previously only his broadcast colleagues were privy to. After that, Caray began leading the crowd, leaning out the front window of his booth and swinging his microphone in time with the music. When Caray left Sox broadcasts to join the WGN team broadcasting Cubs games, the singing tradition went with him. Late in his career, when Caray missed a number of games due to a stroke, "guest conductors" did the honors; after Caray's death, the guest-conductor tradition has become a part of the Cubs tradition, with different celebrities doing the activities each game, whether it is part of Chicago sports, actors, musicians, news anchors, or fans.
Coincidentally, the year the song was written (1908) is the last year the Cubs won the World Series — after beating out Norworth's Giants for the league championship.
When sung at baseball games, a variety of alternative lines are sung. Most of these center on the line "Let me root, root root for the home team;" in most Major League ballparks, the actual name of the home team is substituted for the words "home team."
For example, on the South Side of Chicago, it is sung "Let me root, root, root for the White Sox". If the team name contains one syllable, the word "team" can be appended to the team name, as in "Reds team," as sung in Cincinnati, though in recent years the Reds have taken to using "Redlegs" to fill this spot. Similarly, other two-syllable nicknames are also used, such as "Cubbies" at Chicago Cubs games, "Bravos" at Atlanta Braves games, or "Twinkies" at Minnesota Twins games. Some teams replace the words "Let me" with either "So it's", "For it's", "So we'll", "With a," or "'Cause it's."
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, many teams replaced the song with God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch, or played the song after God Bless America. This practice largely has ceased in recent years, though God Bless America is retained for patriotic holidays such as Independence Day and Memorial Day. In some instances it is reserved for a specific day of the week, such as a Sunday.
If a game goes to the 14th, 21st, 28th etc. innings at Wrigley Field, they will sing the song again.
In 2008, MLB will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the lyrics with various promotional activities.
Recordings of the songEdit
The song (or at least its chorus) has been recorded many times in the nearly 100 years since it was written. It has been used as an instrumental underscore or introduction to many films or skits having to do with baseball.
The first verse of the 1927 version is sung by Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra at the start of the MGM musical film, Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), a movie that also features a song about the famous and fictitious double play combination, O'Brien to Ryan to Goldberg.
In 1957, jazz pianists (and baseball fans) André Previn and Russ Freeman recorded Double Play! for Contemporary Records with drummer Shelly Manne. The original song titles invoke baseball imagery, such as "Called on Account of Rain," "In the Cellar Blues" and the title track. The first track on the album is a jazz version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
In the early 1980s, Kidsongs released a home video that contained a rendition of the song. In this rendition, the chorus as above was sung, followed by a new verse to the same music as the chorus, with the following lyrics: "All I need is just one chance / I could hit a home run / There isn't anyone else I need / Maybe I'll go down in history / And it's root root root for the home team / Here comes fortune and fame / Cuz I know that I'll be the star / At the old ball game"
One recording artist in the early 1990s released a version of the song that simply skipped the first two words, but kept the tune the same, thus highlighting the simplicity of the lyrics, and the fact that most of its words are of single syllables: "Out to the ball game take me / Out to the crowd buy me / Some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don't /" etc. This recording was included in a traveling exhibit of baseball art, called Diamonds Are Forever.
In the mid-1990s, a Major League Baseball ad campaign featured versions of the song performed by musicians of several different genres. An alternative rock version by the Goo Goo Dolls proved widely popular.
A complete parody of the song was featured in an episode of Freakazoid.
In 2003, the Japanese punk band Nicotine recorded a cover of the song (with the verses) entitled "Take Me Out to the Ball Game 2003" and released it as a single.
For the 2007 season, indie rock group The Hold Steady recorded a version of the song to be played at Minnesota Twins home games, substituting new lyrics to make it Twins focused. This came about after Hold Steady lead singer (and life-long Twins fan) Craig Finn did an interview with a Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune sports writer.
Stories about the songEdit
In 1988, on the 100th anniversary of the poem Casey at the Bat, Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford constructed a fanciful story (later expanded to book form) which posited Katie Casey as being the daughter of the famous slugger from the poem.
In 2006, Jim Burke authored and illustrated a children's book version of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame".
Online recordings and references Edit
- Original lyric, sung by Edward Meeker, recorded in 1908 on a phonograph cylinder
- Lyrics to 1927 version
- The Hold Steady record a new Twins version of the song, with link to video sample of the recording.