UKULELE MUSING 42, 26 OCTOBER 2019: “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME”
Here we are in the middle of this year’s Baseball World Series—alas, sans our Red Sox. But, anyway, it’s altogether fitting and proper to check out the one baseball song in our Yellow Book. It’s the iconic old musical chestnut from 1908, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Our book only gives us the chorus, but the two verses put a bit of a feminine twist to the whole thing. Here’s a version from Ken Burns’ “Baseball” PBS series.
Dr. John (Louisiana Style): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lw06CCanPFU
This tune is a Tin Pan Alley song by vaudeville star Jack Norworth (1879-1959)
and composer Albert Von Tilzer (1878-1956)
who wrote and published hundreds of songs from that era. It’s interesting to note that, while this song has become the unofficial anthem of American baseball, neither of its authors had attended a game prior to writing the song! Go figure.
There are a lot of baseball songs out there from that era but this is the grand-daddy—or more accurately—the grand-momma of them all.
The backstory goes that, while riding a subway train, Norworth (who also wrote “Shine On, Harvest Moon”) was inspired by a sign that said “Base Ball Today—Polo Grounds.” He quickly wrote the lyrics about a “girl named Katie” whose boyfriend asks her out to see a vaudeville show. She accepts the date but, being “baseball mad,” only if he will take her out to “the ball game.” The words were then sent to music by Tilzer (who, among many other songs, also wrote “I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time”) and the rest is baseball, and musical, history. While performed by many singers and bands of the era, it wasn’t played at a ballpark until 1934, at a California high school game. Later that year, however, it was played during the 1934 World Series.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America as number eight of the top “Songs of the Century” as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
If you are a Chicago Cubs fan, the best interpretation is by their late, great announcer Harry Caray who sang it at the seventh inning of every home game.
Harry Caray: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnHV5FaqvEs
Norworth’s original lyrics, written on an envelope and complete with annotations, are on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York—a rare “working document.”
Below are the lyrics of the 1908 version, 3/4 time,
Katie Casey was baseball mad, Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew, Ev’ry 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:”
Chorus: Take me out to the ball game, etc. . .
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:
Chorus: Take me out . . .
1908 Version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0ytGaO2uXU
The song shows up in the movies:
Sinatra and Kelly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r2luDoV9TI
Since the 111-year-old song has been in the public domain for decades now, hundreds of recordings have been made in a WIDE variety of interpretations. Needless to say, there are a couple of hundred on YouTube to pick from. Have fun with these!
Bob Dylan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq_BgS8cugk
Ink Spots: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsU6tzk6D4E
Goo Goo Dolls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqTEe6MFLz0
Ukulele Solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82_f9ywl6Ng
Whew! It’s a song (another earworm?) that will never go away. So, wait until next year and we’ll all sing it at Fenway again!
Fenway Park: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7gBUIc7E88