If you have ever been to a baseball game, you have probably heard the catchy tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch. But do you know the story behind this iconic song that has become the unofficial anthem of America’s national pastime?
The song was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer, who were both part of the Tin Pan Alley musicians of New York. Tin Pan Alley was a colorful and noisy area on New York’s Lower West Side where many turn-of-the-century music-publishing houses were located.
Norworth was a vaudevillian who wrote lyrics for popular songs. Von Tilzer was a composer and publisher who collaborated with Norworth on several hits, such as “Honey Boy” and “Smarty”. The pair never met in person until years after they wrote “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.
Norworth claimed he got the idea for the song from a subway billboard that advertised a baseball game at the Polo Grounds, the home field of the New York Giants at the time. He scribbled some words on a piece of paper and gave it to Von Tilzer, who set them to music.
The song tells the story of Katie Casey (later changed to Nelly Kelly), a young woman who loves baseball and wants to go to the game with her beau. She rejects his invitation to see a show and says:
“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 song also mentions Cracker Jack, a caramel popcorn confection that was first introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Cracker Jack became a popular snack at baseball games and is still sold at stadiums today.
The song was first sung by Norworth’s then-wife Nora Bayes and popularized by many other vaudeville acts. It was also recorded
– Who wrote “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”?, The Straight Dope, December 10, 1999
– Baseball’s Anthem for All Ages | History| Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine
– Take Me Out to the Ball Game – Wikipedia, Wikipedia
– What Inspired ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’?, Society for American Baseball Research, November 4, 2009