The World Series takes a break tonight, which gives us time to reminisce about one of the nation’s best loved songs, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
On a New York City train in the summer of 1908, this American classic was born. Passenger Jack Norworth—an actor, singer, and songwriter who had never attended a major-league ball game—saw a sign about an upcoming baseball game at the nearby Polo Grounds. Inspired, he hurriedly took out a piece of paper and began dashing off lines about a fictional fan he called Katie Casey. Katie “was baseball mad,” he wrote, and when asked by her beau to a show, she was quick to reply: “Take me out to the ball game / Take me out with the crowd…”
Norworth took his lyrics to composer Albert Von Tilzer, who also had never been to a major-league game. Von Tilzer set the words to a waltz tempo, and the York Music Company published the song the same year. Although not an instant hit, the song eventually caught on with baseball fans and became a favorite of ballpark organists across the country. It remains one of the most popular baseball songs of all time and an indispensable musical tradition at ballparks all around the country, especially during the seventh-inning stretch.
In 1970, decades after the success of their celebrated collaboration, Norworth and Von Tilzer were posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Over the course of their long and successful careers, both men wrote and composed numerous well-known songs, but “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” remains their most enduring creation. Today, the original, handwritten lyrics reside at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a tangible testament to two songwriters who hit a musical home run.
This 2008 stamp issuance commemorated the 100th anniversary of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The basis for the stamp art was a circa-1880 “trade card” from the personal collection of art director Richard Sheaff. The original card shows a baseball scene and contains words promoting a product made by a Michigan company. The stamp art shows the same scene but replaces the product-related words with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” the stamp denomination, notes from the music, and the words “United States of America.”
You can still purchase the “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” stamp as part of this great framed wall art, which features six other vintage baseball-themed stamps. And kids will love the sing-along book, which also features a Digital Color Postmark from the release of the stamp.
Not only popular at the stadium, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has also featured in several popular movies, including Night at the Opera (1935) with the Marx Brothers and, of course, Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.
Ten years ago, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was ranked number 8 on the Songs of the Century list—a project sponsored, in part, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Tell us your memories of this and other great baseball song in the comments.