For the fourth time I am watching Baseball by Ken Burns. There are ten DVD’s in the set and total twenty-three hours of pure baseball history. (I believe that will be 92 hours. That’s what happens when you cut off your cable television.) Each DVD begins with the usual scratchy pictures over a even scratchier rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. This sets an earworm going that usually lasts a good three or four hours. Yet I can never quite understand the prelude to this song, and I decided today to look it up.
Written by Jack Norworth in a matter of a few minutes while commuting on a train in 1908, I imagine he had no idea how well this little song would stick. Everyone knows the words to the chorus, including most American five-year-olds. But did you know that the song is about a GIRL!? Yes. A second version was written by Norworth in 1927, but even after changing the girl’s name from Katie Casey to Nelly Kelly, it’s still about a girl who doesn’t want to go to Coney Island or any show. She wants to be taken “out to the ballgame.” She knows the player’s names. She’s their best cheerleader. She’s a consummate baseball junkie… like me.
Here’s a LINK to both sets of lyrics, courtesy of Baseball Almanac. And for you Yankee lovers here is a LINK to an Ed Sullivan show in 1958 in which Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Micky Mantle, and Bill Skowron sing the chorus to this anthem while Jack Norworth shows some of his Vaudeville moxie by singing along. This is classic footage all true baseball fans should not miss, and I am grateful to Youtube and their users, otherwise I might never have seen this.