Open today: 12pm - 4pm

Take Me Out the Ballgame

By: Ellie Gettinger,
Education Director, Jewish Museum Milwaukee

Upon reading the title of this blog, you suddenly had the song of the same name stuck in your head. By all accounts this is third best known song in the United States, after the national anthem and “Happy Birthday to You”. The song was dashed off quickly in 1908 by Jack Norworth after seeing an ad for a baseball game at the Polo Grounds. He had never been to a baseball game. Nor had the song’s composer, Albert Von Tilzer. Born Albert Gumm, he took his mother’s maiden name Tilzer and added the von title to make himself sound less Jewish. Von Tilzer and Norworth collobarated as part of a Tin Pan Alley partnership. The song became famous as Norworth’s wife Nora Bayes, sang it throughout the country.

The thing that really struck me about this baseball anthem, is that the lyric that we know so well is actually just the chorus of a much longer song. The song is all about a young lady named Katie Casey who is an avid baseball fan, who when asked about going to see a show opts for a baseball game instead. She proceeds to demonstrate her grasp of the game and its players and uses the song itself to help rally her team. As a woman who loves baseball, I love this. I love that we have Katie as a model of sport’s fandom from the early days of the game. That she loves baseball independently from her beau and probably could explain a thing or two to him!

As a woman who loves baseball, the first question I often get is oh, did your husband get you involved? Did he teach you about baseball? Ladies, I think we, like Katie Casey (and in later versions Nora Kelly), can say “No, I’ll tell you what you can do!”  Here is an early example of baseball’s allure to fans of both gender, which continues to today. Baseball is the sport with the most gender parity among its fans, and yet, many of us feel the need to defend our position, to show our knowledge. Just like Katie Casey, who “Knew the players by their first names; Told the umpire he was wrong” This is one of the many stories at play in Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American exhibit (open through September 7, 2015), which was developed by the National Museum of Jewish American History in Philadelphia. It’s a story that is expanded through the lens of women players in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League and the contemporary story of Justine Seigel. I celebrate these stories and have relished the opportunities to share them. I also honor the many women who have joined us this summer to explore baseball.

So now, without further ado: here are the complete lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”

Katie Casey was base ball 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, you’re out,
At the old ball game.”

And because you deserve it, check out Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra singing a somewhat modified version of the song in their 1949 film entitled “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”