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Celebrate 150 Years of Taps

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

A young lady by the name of Katie was a devoted baseball fanatic. In fact almost every penny she had was spent on tickets to see her favorite team. Her boyfriend wanted to take her to see a show on a weekend afternoon but Katie declined instead insisting on going to the ballpark. This was not uncommon for her as she attended every home game sitting where she could call the players (usually by the first name) and let the umpires have it when an unfavorable ruling was made. In the heat of a game when the score was tied Katie would get other fans to cheer on the team by singing.

110 years ago as spring approached in the United States, Theodore Roosevelt was in his last year as President and the Panama Canal was into its fourth year of construction under US control. Gustav Mahler made his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera, Mother’s Day was observed for the first time, at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia and Oklahoma became the 46th state. Later that year, at Ft. Myer, Virginia, Army Lt. Thomas Selfridge became the first person to die in an airplane crash. The pilot, Orville Wright, was severely injured in the crash, but made a recovery.

In April 1908, Henry Chadwick, often called the “Father of Baseball” for his early contributions to the development of the game, including creating box scores, died in Brooklyn. Chadwick had claimed Baseball evolved from the British game of rounders. Albert Spalding, the sporting goods magnate, believed baseball was a fundamentally American invention and years earlier published an article disputing Chadwick’s claim challenging they appoint a commission to settle the matter. Chadwick agreed, and in 1905 a commission headed by Abraham Gilbert Mills, the fourth president of the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, was formed. The committee’s final report, on December 30, 1907, stated, in part, that “the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.” It concluded by saying, “in the years to come, in the view of the hundreds of thousands of people who are devoted to baseball, and the millions who will be, Abner Doubleday’s fame will rest evenly, if not quite as much, upon the fact that he was its inventor … Today we know the story is not true as Doubleday was a Cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point and more than likely Doubleday never saw a professional game.

On September 23, 1908 the Chicago Cubs and New York Giants, involved in a tight pennant race, were tied in the bottom of the ninth inning at the Polo Grounds. The Giants had runners on first and third and two outs when Al Bridwell hit a single to center field, scoring Moose McCormick from third with the Giants’ apparent winning run, but the runner on first base, rookie Fred Merkle, thinking the game was over, went half way to second and then sprinted to the clubhouse after McCormick touched home plate. As fans swarmed the field, Cub infielder Johnny Evers retrieved the ball and touched second. A forceout was called at second base, nullifying the single, and since there were 2 outs when the play started, the run was also nullified and the inning ended. The game was declared a tie and would be made up at the end of the season if the Cubs and Giants were tied for first place. The incident became known as “Merkle’s Boner.” As it turned out there was a need for a one game play-off which the Cubs won taking them into the World Series.

The Cubs went on to win the 1908 World Series defeating the Detroit Tigers in five games. The Cubs would not win a World Series championship again until November 2, 2016, which stands as the longest championship drought in sports history. Up to 1908 music had always been part of the game. Bands usually played at games and music about the National Pastime had been written as far back as the 1850s. But there had never been one song that stood out as a defining song about the sport.

It was in the midst of the 1908 season when the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” made its appearance. Through the 1908 season a hotly contested National League pennant race  took place-a three-way fight between the New York Giants, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs. All this excitement must of inspired vaudevillian Jack Norworth to write his “sensational baseball song,” as it was billed by the publisher and appeared on the sheet music. Norworth recounted that in the spring of 1908 he was riding a New York City elevated subway train when he spotted a sign that called out “Ball Game Today -Polo Grounds.” Norworth claimed he had never been to an actual game but that he needed a song for his act at the Amphion Theater in Brooklyn. According to Norworth, he thought the time was right for a baseball song and an idea struck him that he “thought was pretty good.” Before the subway ride was finished, baseball’s biggest female fan and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” had come to life. The lyrics were set to music  by Tin Pan alley composer Albert Von Tilzer.

Here is the original copy of the song

Interesting enough there was another tune in 1908 that fought to gain attention as a popular baseball tune. George M. Cohan, the famous Broadway composer and producer introduced his own song “Take Your Girl to the Ball Game.” While both the Cohan and Norworth songs were advertised in the same May 2, 1908, issue of Variety, Cohan’s was registered for copyright on May 8, six days after “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Music trade publications advertised both songs as sensational hits, and in the case of Cohan’s song, the “novelty summer waltz song and a home run hit.” Not only were the titles nearly identical, there was an unmistakable similarity in the opening phrases of both choruses. There are other blatant similarities between the songs: the titles, the opening idea of choosing the ballpark over more lady-like activities, the meter, and lyrics of the choruses. Despite an avalanche of advertising, Cohan’s copycat song was a flop. Norworth gloated, “Who ever heard of a baseball song with ‘in the stands it’s so grand if you’re holding her hand at the old ball game.’

 

Sound file of “Take Your Girl to the Ball Game”

Coney Island’s all right,
It’s a fine place at night,
But the place that’s the money to me,
Is the park where they play,
Classy ball every day,
Talk of sport,
It’s the big Jubilee!

At the shout of “Play Ball”
I’m just daffy that’s all,
As I sit with my queen like a king,
With her score card in hand,
Mamie looks more than grand,
To the rooters around me I sing:

Chorus

Take your girl to the ball game,
Any old afternoon.
That’s the spot to propose to Mame,
The spot for a sunshiny spoon.
Make a fan of your steady girl,
If you lose her I’ll take all the blame.
In the stand, It’s just grand,
As she squeezes your hand,
At the base ball game

Although Cohan’s “Take Your Girl to the Ball Game” did not prove to be as popular, it, along with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, helped spur copycat songs including “I Want To Go To The Ball Game With You” and “I’ve Been Making a Grandstand Play for You.” No song written about baseball has been ever been able to surpass the popularity of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and over the past 100 years, more than 400 musicians from every conceivable genre have recorded the song.

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game”was recorded in 1980 by Edward Meeker and introduced in into the theater later that year

1908 Recording of “Take Me Out To the Ball Game”

The song first seemed to make a resurgence in 1927 when Norworth renewed the copyright on the song. Perhaps hoping gaining attention along with Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs. The song was helped along by the movie “Take Your Girl to the Ball Game”, a 1949 film starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, the song’s chorus was catching on with organists, who began playing it with some regularity as part of the pregame entertainment. It would eventually become part of the seventh-inning stretch and became a staple in Chicago when White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray started to lead the crowd in a rendition of it.

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has achieved a lasting and cherished position of popularity, alongside “Happy Birthday” and the “Star Spangled Banner. The song is even honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame by having the original lyrics sheet and published sheet music in its collection, in addition to also having large facsimiles on display for all to see.

 

 

 

https://www.loc.gov/collections/baseball-sheet-music

 

 

https://baseballhall.org/discover/pop-ups/take-me-out-to-the-ballgame

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