“Take Me out to the Ball Game” (1908)
Writer: Jack Norworth
(Coney Island 1890-1920)
Link to song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0ytGaO2uXU
Morgan Lee, Samantha Mallek, Megan Bupp
“Take me out to the ballgame” is a song that was written by Jack Norworth in 1908. He wrote the song while on a train to New York City. He saw a billboard that was promoting a New York Giants baseball game. Being that Norworth was a songwriter, he was always looking for inspiration for a new song, so he wrote about the popularly growing game of baseball. He scribbled down the lyrics to this famous song in about 15 minutes on a scrap piece of paper that he had. After Norworth composed the lyrics, he sent them to composer Albert Von Tilzer, who set his words to music. Edward Meeker did the first recording of the song later on in 1908. The first time song was performed it was done so by the wife of Norworth, a woman named Nora Bayes. The first time it was played in a ballpark was in 1934 at a high-school baseball game in Los Angeles. It is believed it made its debut at a major-league park later that year. When Norworth originally wrote the song, he wasn’t sure where is would end up or how people would respond to it. Over 100 years later and it is known as the third most well-known song in the country.
Baseball games were a trend for Americans in the early twentieth century. There was a pennant race going on in 1908 between the Giants, Cubs, and Pirates, which inspired Norworth’s song. The verses of the song point to innovative topics such as the woman’s role in society as well as immigration. These two topics were found to be controversial at the time. The lyrics of the first verse feature a fictional character named Katie Casey, who loves baseball and wants to go to the games. However, women were not commonly spotted at baseball games. Their societal role did not think it correct for them to partake in such an athletic activity. The name ‘Katie’ at the time was a generic name for employers to refer to their Irish immigrant workers. In the song, Katie Casey is an Irish immigrant who is assimilating to American ways of life by delving into the baseball culture. The words urge women and immigrants alike to take part in the American activity of ball games. This song was sung for a variety of purposes; it was sang during the seventh inning at baseball games as well as by those who longed to be at a game. It was also performed in Vaudeville. The chorus lyrics and upbeat tune of the song show that entertainment, such as athletics, were very important and exciting in the beginning of the twentieth century. The verse lyrics give the listener an insight to the role of women and immigrants during this time period.
Jack Norworth wanted to write this song to show how important baseball was to the many of its fans. He was not even a big baseball fan himself, but he saw how much it meant to so many people. He quickly wrote the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” on his way to New York, which became a worldwide tradition to sing during every baseball game. There are many lost verses of this song because people only really sang the main chorus of the song. In 1927 Jack Norworth revised the song and changed the lyrics in some of the verses. He used the lyrics, “Her boy friend by the name of Joe Said, ‘To Coney Isle, dear, let's go.’” This was referencing the amusement park Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, which was another place of entertainment for many people. He continues and says, “Then Nelly started to fret and pout, and to him I heard her shout.” People thoroughly enjoyed singing this song and going to the games, and even an offer to go to a place as amusing as Coney Island was not more important than baseball games. Both “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” were very popular songs of their time and also many people still tend to know them today, including children because they are both easy tunes to remember.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has maintained its relevancy because it does not only target a specific audience. Children or adults can sing it, and it is also a very catchy tune. It allows the fans at games to have some fun and forget about the competitive nature of the game, and who is rooting for whom. Although it is not always sung at games today, people still tend to know the chorus of it and every once in awhile it is still sung.
Why do you think the verses of this song were changed in 1927? Did this have a positive or negative effect on its audience?
The class responded by saying that the changing of the lyrics had a positive effect because the original lyrics had some parts in certain verses that referenced racial or what could be considered offensive things. The new lyrics didn’t really have any offensive references to anything. Our group thought that the changes in the lyrics had a positive effect on the audience because nowadays only the chorus of this song is really known by people and so the original and even the revised lyrics aren’t really relevant anymore. People only really sing the chorus of this song because otherwise it would get too long.