The History of the Song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is a song that is sung at baseball games across America. It is part of the tradition of baseball to sing the chorus in the seventh inning. The inspiration for the tune is charming in its creation.
History: Inspiration From a Billboard
In 1908, Jack Norworth, a 29-year-old songwriter, was riding a subway to Manhattan, New York. The impulse to write all started when Norworth glanced out the window and saw a billboard that read “Baseball today—polo grounds.” With a spark of inspiration, he wrote out the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
It took him 15 minutes to write out the lyrics on a scrap of paper. His composer friend Albert Von Tilzer added the melody, which in turn was published by the New York music company. They were both part of the Tin Pan Alley musicians of New York at that time.
It Was an Instant Hit
The baseball melody was an instant hit in 1908. Edward Meeker recorded the song for Edison Phonograph Company; it became the hit record top song in the country for seven weeks, and it was the most popular song of that year.
The Story Told in the Song
The song, although written by a man, is told from the perspective of a young woman asking for admission to a baseball game that at the time was considered a male recreation. It has been historically thought of as a woman’s liberation song because of the speaker's wish to attend a ballgame.
The song is about a fictional young woman named Katie Casey who wants to go to the ballgame. The tune celebrates shots of the game with, “For it's one, two, three strikes, and you’re out.”
Katie Casey is invited out on a date by her young beau, to which she responds, “You know what you can do” . . . “Take me out to the ballgame.” Katie’s request makes the eight lines of the chorus that ballparks are familiar with. The song is usually sung beginning at “Take me out to the ballgame.” The opening verse is actually “Katie Casey was baseball mad, had the fever and had it bad.’’
The Original Lyrics
The original lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” included the story of Katie Casey.
Katie Casey was baseball 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.”
More of Katie Casey is mentioned in a forgotten verse:
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:
And the lyrics we have all become familiar with at baseball games:
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 ever 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 song has been considered the baseball anthem. It was first performed at a baseball game in 1934 and then again later that year at a Major League Baseball game. The tradition of singing this baseball anthem in the seventh inning first took place in 1946. The band struck up the song during a game while fans stood for the seventh inning stretch.
Chicago announcer Harry Caray occasionally sung the tune in the seventh inning. On opening day in 1976, Bill Veeck noticed fans singing along with Caray, so a secret microphone was placed in the broadcast booth the following day. Caray started singing the song over the microphone, and a tradition was born. Fans now sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on the seventh inning, at virtually every baseball game in America.
Jack Norworth attended his first Major League Baseball game on June 27, 1940, 32 years after writing the song. On the 15th anniversary of his song, Major League Baseball, Inc. presented Norworth with a gold lifetime ball park pass. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is now sung at every Major League Baseball game.
More Fun Facts
2001: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was named number 8 on the Songs of the Century list.
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is the 3rd most frequently sung tune in America.