Why We Sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ and Other Traditions – Orange County Register

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With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, we look at the history of one of America’s most sung songs.

Baseball has inspired a lot of music. There have been pop songs and polkas, quicksteps and two-steps, mambos and marches and even operas have been written to celebrate America’s favorite pastime.

Here are some song titles over the years:

“Don’t Kill the Umpire Until the Last Man Is Out” (1963), “The Umpire’s Revenge” (1888), “I Can’t Go to First Base with You” (1935) and “Home Run Polka” (1867).

But “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, written in 1908, is the most heard song of all.

The song was written by Jack Norworth and the music was created by Albert Von Tilzer, two stars of Tin Pan Alley and vaudeville. Tin Pan Alley was a collection of music publishers and songwriters in New York who dominated popular music in the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Instant Success

Norworth’s “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was his most enduring hit. It was not until 1940 that he attended a major league game.

Von Tilzer was one of the best songwriters, producing many compositions of popular music from 1900 until the early 1950s. Some of his other songs are: “Oh how she could Yacki-Hacki, Wicki-Wacki , Woo” and “I Used to Love You But It’s All Over Now”.

According to the National Archives, it took Norworth about 15 minutes to write “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” which is told from the perspective of a young woman. The song, recorded by Edward Meeker, became an instant hit and was a No. 1 record for seven weeks. It was the most popular song of 1908.

Round Seven Stretch

It was first played in a baseball game in 1934 and then again later that year in a Major League Baseball game. The tradition of singing this baseball anthem in the seventh inning first occurred in 1946. The band sang the song during a game as fans stood on their feet for the seventh inning.

Announcer Harry Caray occasionally sang the tune during the seventh inning of White Sox games. On opening day in 1976, team owner Bill Veeck noticed fans singing along with Caray, so a secret microphone was placed in the broadcast booth the next day. Caray began singing the song on the mic and the tradition took off. Fans now chant “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in the seventh inning at virtually every game in America.

Southern California Connection

Von Tilzer resided in Beverly Hills. He died in Los Angeles on October 1, 1956, at the age of 78. Norworth died of a heart attack in Laguna Beach on September 1, 1959, aged 80.

The lyrics of the 1908 version:

Katie Casey was baseball mad, had a fever and was in pain. Just to cheer on the hometown team, Ev’ry souKatie blew. One Saturday, her young beau called to see if she would like to go see a show, but Miss Kate said “No, I’ll tell you what you can do:”

Chorus

Take me to the ball game, Take me with the crowd; Buy me peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I never come back. Let me root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win, too bad. Because it’s one, two, three shots, you’re out, At the old ball game.

Katie Casey saw every game, knew the players by their first names. Told the ref he was wrong, all the way, good and strong. When the score was only two to two, Katie Casey knew what to do, just to cheer up the boys she knew, she made the gang sing this song:

Attempted theft

With fanciful covers and an avalanche of advertisements, George M. Cohan, William Jerome and Jean Schwartz composed “Take Your Girl to the Ball Game”, a copycat song, days after Norworth was a flop.

Chorus Take your girl to the ball game, Any old afternoon This is the place to propose to Mame, The place for a shiny spoon in the sun Make your girl a stable fan, If you lose her, I’ll take it blame In the booth, it’s just grand, like she shakes your hand at the baseball game

The first pitch

The practice of having ceremonial first pitches dates back to at least 1890. Originally, the guest threw a ball from their seat in the grandstand to the pitcher or catcher of the home team.

In 1984, the ritual changed after President Ronald Reagan threw the first pitch downfield in an unscheduled appearance at a Baltimore Orioles game. Since Reagan’s pitch, most first pitches have been thrown from or in front of the pitcher’s mound.

The tradition of presidential first pitches began in 1910 when President William Howard Taft threw the ceremonial first pitch from the bleachers on Washington Senators’ Opening Day.

Every president since has thrown a first pitch on Opening Day except for Jimmy Carter, Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Figures

According to National Bobble Heads Hall of Fame, in 1960, the first generic and player-specific papier-mâché and ceramic bobbleheads were made. Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays were the first non-mascot bobbleheads created. The uniforms were different but all shared the same face.

In 1990, a new manufacturing process allowed figures to be made from plastic instead of ceramic, greatly reducing the expense and difficulty of creating quality figures.

In May 1999, bobbleheads seemed like a 20th century relic until a San Francisco Giants promotion brought the bobblehead back into the public eye. The Giants gave away a Willie Mays bobblehead to the first 20,000 visitors on May 9 to celebrate Candlestick Park’s 40th anniversary.

Bobblehead gifts are now common to all teams.

Biggest game?

The 1971 All Star game is considered to have had the most star power of any game. Eventually, 22 players and managers from that game would go to Cooperstown, 17 would earn an MVP and seven would earn a Cy Young.

No other All-Star Game has featured 20 Hall of Famers. Here is the list: Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Palmer, Johnny Bench, Willie McCovey, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Ron Santo, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal and Roberto Clemente. The managers, Earl Weaver of the Orioles and Sparky Anderson of the Reds, are also in the Hall of Fame.

Most All-Star Game appearances* Hall of fame

  • Henry Aaron* 21
  • Willie Mays*20
  • Stan Musial* 20
  • Cal Ripken Jr.* 19
  • Rod Carew*18
  • Carl Yastrzemsky* 18
  • Ted Williams*17
  • Pete Rose 17
  • Mickey Coat*16
  • Yogi Berra* 15
  • Al Kaline* 15
  • Brooks Robinson* 15
  • Tony Gwynn*15
  • Ozzie Smith*15
  • Warren Spahn* 14
  • Bench Johnny* 14
  • Barry Bonds 14
  • Reggie Jackson*14
  • Derek Jeter* 14
  • Alex Rodriguez 14
  • Ivan Rodriguez* 14

Sources: Library of Congress, National Archives, Baseball Reference, MLB, National Bobblehead Hall of Fame, The Associated Press, Register research

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