“Take Me Out to the Ball Game”

Tin Pan Alley’s legendary composer and music publisher Albert Von Tilzer and lyricist Jack Norworth penned their grand-slam hit song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in April 1908. Within weeks it was debuted (possibly by Norworth), registered for copyright, and published with more than thirty different cameo photos of vaudeville stars on the cover. It was promoted by those singers in movie houses and theaters while a set of hand-painted glass lantern slides flashed across the silver screen. Like a triple play, the subtitle for this hit went from “Sensational Baseball Song” to “The Famous Baseball Song” and finally in 1949 to “The Official Baseball Song.” It has been featured in more than 1,200 movies, television shows, and commercials and has been recorded by more than 400 artists whose arrangements include classical, jazz, barbershop quartets, and blues, among others. Baseball’s greatest hit is considered the third most popular song in the United States today—after “Happy Birthday” and the national anthem.

Albert Von Tilzer and Jack Norworth. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” New York: The York Music Co., 1908. Sheet music. Music Division, Library of Congress (037.00.00)

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Love Triangle on the Baseball Diamond

Trixie Friganza, (pseudonym for Delia O’Callahan) famous vaudeville star and suffragist, was the only singer to appear in two cameos on the cover of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Her plans to marry Jack Norworth the week after his divorce from his first wife were dashed when he married Nora Bayes (pseudonym, for Dora Goldberg). Bayes was a popular stage singer who starred in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1908 with Norworth. They married a week after their first performance and for a short time became America’s top celebrity couple. They divorced in 1913. A quote by Bayes about her ex-husband appears in her 1928 Washington Post obituary: “He certainly had the rah-rah look. Mr. Norworth and I were known as the happiest couple on stage. We were—on the stage.”

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“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and Suffrage

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” the one baseball song that nearly everyone knows, might really not be known at all, at least in its original meaning. Composed in 1908, baseball’s anthem tells a story about a woman’s desire to share equally in the baseball experience—a woman named Katie Casey who wanted to root, cheer, eat Cracker Jacks in the grandstands with the crowd and fully engage in the spectacle before her. However, the idea of a woman being a knowledgeable and enthusiastic fan, rather than staying safe at home, was more of a curveball than the norm and was ahead of its time. In 1927, after women had won the right to vote, Jack Norworth modified the original, socially provocative verses, assuring his royalties would go into extra innings. The song was gradually re-integrated into the baseball experience, in part due to the 1949 hit movie of the same title. By this time, however, the song’s first verses had been struck out and Casey’s feminist message of empowerment was long forgotten. Baseball historians suggest that vaudeville star and outspoken suffragist Trixie Friganza, who was romantically involved with Norworth in 1908, was likely the inspiration for Casey’s persona.

Trixie Friganza, 1908. Baines News Service. Digital file from original negative. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

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