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100 years of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

September 15, 2008

by Matt Kane

In 1908, while riding a train to Manhattan, Jack Norworth penned a song baseball fans know so well, today — “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has become a stadium favorite for baseball at all levels. We all remember the late Harry Caray cuing the fans at Wrigley Field, “A one; a two; a three,” and then leading them in the singing of baseball’s national anthem.

Anybody and everybody who watched Harry sing on the Cubs’ national broadcasts on WGN will admit the singing wasn’t the stuff of Carnegie Hall, but not one person cared. Because Harry was willing to sing in front of 40,000 other people, each fan was willing to do the same.

Harry first sang the song over the public address system in 1976, when he was the Chicago White Sox announcer. The late Bill Veeck noticed Harry always hummed along as Comiskey Park organist Nancy Faust played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch, so Veeck asked Harry to sing it with the crowd.

Harry’s celebrity grew when he moved to the north side of Chicago with the Cubs, who were featured nationwide on WGN television, and the popularity of Take Me Out to the Ball Game grew right with him.

What fans may not know is that what they sing at the ball park is only a part of what Norworth wrote down on a piece of scratch paper in 1908. That’s why we sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” even though we are already there.

The part Harry made popular is actually the refrain. Here is the complete song, which tells of a girls’ wishes as to where a boyfriend should take her on a date.

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.”

“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”

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:

“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, your out,
At the old ball game.”

In 1927, Norworth, who had never been to a major league game until 1940, revised his hit song, but the refrain remained the same. It’s thought that Norworth’s divorce from his wife was the reason for the revision, which features Nelly Kelly, not Katie Casey.

The second version can be seen at baseball-almanac.com.

So, how much of an influence has “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” had on fans?

In 2004, the New York Yankees decided to sell Crunch ‘n Munch instead of Cracker Jack. Cracker Jack returned to Yankee Stadium the next season, after fans expressed their displeasure.