The True Story Behind “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”

Though it may not happen this year, summer is the time when we all love hearing the song Take Me Out to the Ballgame because it signals the beginning of baseball season. Have you ever wondered where the song came from? Jack Norworth (above left) and Albert von Tilzer (above right) are the virtually unknown duo who wrote the song that’s sung at every Major League Baseball game during the 7th-inning stretch. If you think it was written because the duo were hardcore baseball fans, you would be wrong. In fact, Jack Norworth, who wrote the lyrics, had never been to a single ballgame. For the 29-year-old, inspiration came from a billboard. The year was 1908 and he was riding a subway in New York. Being a songwriter, he was always looking for ideas for his next tune. Glancing out the window, he saw a billboard announcing an upcoming event. The ad wasn’t for Cracker Jack or peanuts, nor did it didn’t say, “Take someone out to a ballgame.” It simply said, “Baseball today — Polo Grounds.” The Polo Grounds was the baseball park where the National League’s New York Giants played. Inspired, Norwood took out a scrap of paper and wrote out the lyrics for Take Me Out to the Ballgame. He didn’t go to the Polo Grounds that day to catch the game. Excited and with fresh lyrics in hand, he now needed a melody to go with his words. For that, he reached out to a composer friend named Albert von Tilzer — who also had never attended a baseball game. When the music was completed, Jack had his wife, Nora Bayes, learn the lyrics and performed the song for vaudeville audiences. It was an instant hit and audiences loved it. In 1908, a man named Edward Meeker recorded the song for the Edison Phonograph Company and it became hit record, holding the top spot on the music charts for seven weeks. In fact, Take Me Out to the Ballgame turned out to be the most popular song of the year. However, it wasn’t until 1934 that Take Me Out to the Ballgame was actually played at a baseball game. In 2001, it was placed on the “Songs of the Century” list. It turns out, you don’t need to be a baseball fan to create its biggest hit.