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Baseball Americana: Root, Root, Root’s Debut

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Welcome to week six of our blog series for “Baseball Americana,” a major new Library of Congress exhibition opening June 29. This is the sixth of nine posts – we’re publishing one each Thursday leading up to the opening. Matthew Barton, a record-sound curator in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division contributed this post.

 As a bonus, we’re counting down the innings to the exhibit’s launch by asking baseball fans a question each week. Your question for this week is at the bottom of this post. Join the conversation!

Lyricist Jack Norworth and composer Albert Von Tilzer submitted two copies of their new song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” with a copyright registration in 1908.

More than a century after its debut, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” stands as one of America’s best-known and most-loved songs—today, the unofficial anthem of baseball and a joyful ode to the pleasures of the ballpark.

The Library of Congress holds an original 1908 Edison cylinder of the first recording of the song, a rendition by Edward Meeker that in 2010 was selected for inclusion on the Library’s National Recording Registry for its cultural, historical and aesthetic importance.

Composers Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer’s song was released early in the 1908 baseball season and quickly caught on with the public—reports recount it being sung in vaudeville and played by brass bands throughout the country, especially around Detroit, where the Tigers were embroiled in a four-way pennant race.

And if you were walking down the street in Manhattan in the late summer or early fall that year, you might have heard a young man sing this new song to promote the recently released Edison recording of it.

That would have been Meeker, who like other Edison recording artists in those days before radio, often sang on New York City street corners, in saloons and even on the steps of the main branches of the public library and post office to promote their recordings.

Today, everyone knows the chorus, but it is disconnected from the song’s story of a baseball-mad young woman named Katie Casey:

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 …”

Northworth and Von Tilzer’s song inspired a slew of other baseball songs in the next few years. Those faded away quickly, but “Take Me Out the Ball Game” is well into its second century of popularity.

What is your most memorable baseball moment?

Baseball Americana” features items from the Library of Congress collections and those of its lending partners to consider the game then and now – as it relates to players, teams and the communities it creates. The Library is partnering with ESPN, Major League Baseball and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in presenting the exhibition, made possible by the Library of Congress Third Century Fund, the James Madison Council and Democracy Fund.

Comments (6)

  1. I am from the Philadelphia area. I was around ten or eleven years old attending a Phillies/Dodgers game on a Saturday in late August of 1965. The game was in the bottom of the eight inning. The Dodgers were in a heated league battle with the Giants for first place. They had the lead in the game I was watching by one or two runs. The Phillies had the bases loaded. The Dodgers manager- Dressen ( I think that was his name) decided to put a halt to the Phillies rally and save the win by bringing in SANDY KOUFAX! The greatest pitcher during that era – he had be sidelined for a while. They were supposedly keeping him out for later in September. He retired the side handedly. Great Moment!

  2. Thanks for sharing, John!

  3. Sitting in the stands at Wrigley Field. I’ve been a Cubs fan my whole life and getting to be there, see a game, listen to Harry Carey sing “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” with “root, root, root for the Cubbies” was a fantastic experience.

  4. Three way tie.
    1. Attending game 1 of the 1948 World Series with my father. Braves won.
    2. Seeing on TV the final out of the 2004 Redsox World Series win.
    3. “Take me out to the Ballgame ” was the recessional at my wedding to my
    wife BJ.

  5. In 1966, one of my 8th grade teachers brought a radio to school. We listened to the World Series games between the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. That was when I learned to like baseball.

  6. We in Minneapolis watched indoor baseball for years. On a business trip to Chicago, I took my seven year old son with me. Along the way he and I stopped in Milwaukee to take in an outdoor ballgame when Robin Yount was closing in on 3000 hits. The game was good, close, Yount got within 3 hits of 3000 but THE moment I’ll cherish forever is my son, Adam, awestruck, literally dropping his jaw, at the combination of an immense field and stadium,the green expanse, no roof and sunshine – major league baseball in natural light.

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