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Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Take me out
To the ball game
Take me out
With the crowd
Buy me some peanuts
And Crackerjack
I don't care if
I never never get back

Let me root, root root
For the home team
If they don't win
It's a shame
For it's one, two,
Three strikes you're out
At the old ball game!

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was written – probably in about a half an hour – in the spring of 1908, by two gentlemen who were professional Tin Pan Alley songwriters and who professed never to have seen a big league baseball game. That claim was probably true for Albert Von Tilzer, a songwriter and publisher from Indiana who moved to Gotham to seek his fortune – and found it. He wrote more than 20 songs which sold over a million copies each and was astute enough to also start a publishing company with his brother that administered those songs. Von Tilzer was also the first to publish compositions by a couple of fellows named Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.

His collaborator on the song, Jack Norworth, hailed from Philadelphia, Pa., and was a multi-talented entertainer; he could sing, write, and act on stage, radio, television and movies. 

The story goes that Norworth penned the lyrics one day while riding one of Manhattan’s new subway trains north toward the Polo Grounds. He remembered seeing a sign advertising that day’s game and pulling out a pencil and paper to scribble down a set of lyrics, which Von Tilzer would later pair with a tune he had composed. 

The song was not immediately popular at ballparks, surprisingly enough. In fact, the first known time it was performed in a ballpark was in 1934, almost 30 years after it was written. But it was a big hit in 1908, selling millions of copies of sheet music and “Edison Wax Cylinder” recordings. Its initial popularity was due to a set of “lantern slides” shot at the Polo Grounds to promote the song. The slides tell the story of Katie Casey, the fictional protagonist of the songs’ two rarely-heard verses, who implores her beau to take her out to the ball game.

Polo Grounds

The lantern slides were shown at movie theatres during intermissions when the projectionist changed the film reels, which usually took three or four minutes. The house pianist would play a song and the projector would flash the illustrated scenes, while encouraging the audience to sing along. If a song were popular at the movie houses, it would translate into sales of sheet music and recordings – and indeed, three different artists scored top 10 hits with the song from October to December of 1908.

1908 Version

Author: Jack Norworth
Composer: Albert Von Tilzer
Published on: 1908, 1927
Published by: York Music Company

Katie Casey was base ball mad.
Had the fever and had it bad;
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev'ry sou Katie blew.
On a Saturday, her young beau
Called to see if she'd like to go,
To see a show but Miss Kate said,
"No, I'll tell you what you can do."

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names;
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

Take Me Out to the Ball Game
1927 Version

Author: Jack Norworth ©
Composer: Albert Von Tilzer
Published on: 1908, 1927
Published by: York Music Company

Nelly Kelly love baseball games,
Knew the players, knew all their names,
You could see her there ev'ry day,
Shout "Hurray," when they'd play.
Her boy friend by the name of Joe
Said, "To Coney Isle, dear, let's go,"
Then Nelly started to fret and pout,
And to him I heard her shout.

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

Nelly Kelly was sure some fan,
She would root just like any man,
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along, good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Nelly Kelly knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song.

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

The backdrop for the song’s initial success was certainly the great pennant race of 1908, involving the New York Giants, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. The A.L. also had a great race that year, won by the Detroit Tigers on the season’s final day. But the real hoopla was in the N.L. between the Cubs and Giants. The teams had been bitter rivals since the 1880s, finished the season tied, and met in a dramatic tiebreaker, which the Cubs won in New York to advance to the World Series, where they would beat the Tigers.

The first known playing of the song in a big league ballpark came during the 1934 World Series, when the St. Louis Cardinals band, led by Pepper Martin, played it on the field before a game.

But it would take Hall of Famer Bill Veeck and 1989 Ford C. Frick Award winner Harry Caray to bring the song to the levels of popularity it enjoys today.

“I tried it in Milwaukee, Cleveland, St. Louis and Chicago the first time, but it never worked,” recalled Veeck. “Finally I got the right guy. It does a lot for the game and gets the fans involved even if the Sox are losing.”

Veeck was referring to his recruitment of colorful Chicago White Sox announcer Caray, who began singing the song into a mike during the seventh inning stretch in 1976 – after Veeck either tricked him or leaned on him to sing live. Caray, already a legendary broadcaster for his work with the Cardinals from 1946 to 1969 before television and the Cubs elevated his national status, wanted no part of Veeck’s plan. It eventually became Caray’s signature moment when he jumped on the Red Line and moved on up to the North Side Cubs in 1982 – the Cubs nationwide cable contract spread the song like wildfire throughout the major and minor leagues.

Since Caray’s death in 1998, the Cubs have continued the tradition of singing the song at Wrigley Field during the stretch .

credit:The Baseball Hall of Fame