It was 1908 and Jack Norworth was riding a subway train when he saw a sign that inspired a tune. Norworth was a songwriter as part of the Tin Pan Alley Music scene in the early 20th century. He teamed up with Albert Von Tilzer to set the lyrics to music.
The original lyrics tell the story of a young man asking a young woman for a date. He wanted to take her to a show. She said no, but she did agree to go to a baseball game.
Norworth’s wife was the first to sing the song as part of her vaudeville act. Other performers began to include it in their acts. Twenty-six years later the song was performed at a high school baseball game. Later that year, it was performed for the first time at a major league baseball game (the 4th game of the World Series).
Today, Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a standard feature of virtually every baseball game. It is generally sung in the bottom of the 7th inning as the home team comes to bat. It has been selected as one of the top songs of the 20th century. The original recording is in the Library of Congress. The National Recording Registry has declared it to be a song of cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.
Thirty-two years after Norworth conceived of the tune, he attended his first baseball game. It took 20 years for Von Tilzer to see his first game.
What is it about songs that unite us as a people? During World War II, Vera Lynn inspired the people of Britain with her song We’ll Meet Again (Vera Lynn – We’ll Meet Again – YouTube). America The Beautiful (Ray Charles – America The Beautiful (Official Audio) – YouTube) is an inspiration for all Americans. While Country Roads (John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Roads (Official Audio) – YouTube) is the anthem of the State of West Virginia, it is one of the most popularly requested songs wherever Americans gather around the world.
Songs have the ability to smooth over our differences and evoke our better selves. They provide hope when discord seems to be ever-present.
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Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
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,
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, 1908 version