Dear Straight Dope:
This question was bugging me all day today and it will probably bug me until it is answered. Who wrote "Take Me Out to the Ball Game?" Why is it still said in baseball games today? What's the story behind it?
SDStaff Songbird replies:
What bugs me is the Yankees winning yet another World Series.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was co-written in 1908 by lyricist Jack Norworth (who also wrote “Shine on Harvest Moon”) and composer Albert Von Tilzer. Inspired by a subway billboard, Norworth wrote the song without ever having actually been at a game. (He finally attended a major league baseball game 34 years later.)
“So what?” Norworth was quoted as saying in Three Men on Third by Carl Sifakis. “Harry William wrote ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree,’ and I am sure he never saw a blade of grass. If he ever got three blocks off 26th Street in Manhattan, it was a great occasion.”
What we know as “the song” is really only the chorus. Here are the entire lyrics:
Katie Casey was baseball mad / Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew / Every 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.
Makes me think of Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, but I digress.
Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly made the song popular in 1949 while starring in Busby Berkeley’s musical Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Carly Simon even covered it on the soundtrack of the mini-series Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns.
But no one sang it like the former voice of the Chicago Cubs, Harry Caray. During his 27 years in Chicago, Caray made the seventh-inning stretch almost as fun as the game (sometimes more fun) as he belted out “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in his vibrato-filled, off-kilter voice.
“‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ was the only song I knew the words to,” Caray once said. “[Chicago White Sox owner Bill] Veeck used to say, ‘The fans like singing with you because they know they can sing better than you.'”
Why is it still sung at baseball games?
Why do the managers wear uniforms? Why do they only use wooden bats? Why do they toss a ball to the first baseman as he leaves the field?
Because it’s tradition, Scot. And baseball does NOT mess with tradition.
That’s why the darned Yankees win so much.
SDStaff Songbird, Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
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