Baseball, Music, and Suffrage? Exploring the Music of the “National Pastime”

Did you know that “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” originally had extra stanzas beyond the ones we all know? When it was composed in 1908 by Albert Von Tilzer and lyricist Jack Norworth, it documented the story of Katie Casey, a baseball fan who wanted to go with her beau to the baseball game. Though there were certainly women who were knowledgeable about their favorite teams, it was expected that women would not want to go to the games and would prefer to be safe at home. According to the Library of Congress online exhibition, Baseball’s Greatest Hits, The Music of Our National Game, the character of Katie Casey may have been inspired by Norworth’s girlfriend, Trixie Friganza, a vaudeville star and active member of the suffrage movement. Over time, the first stanzas disappeared, and the song we now know eventually became the third most popular song in the United States, after the national anthem and “Happy Birthday”.1

I Want to Go to the Ball Game. Lyrics by Ned Nye and Charles Eichel. Music by Albert Von Tilzer

I Want to Go to the Ball Game. Lyrics by Ned Nye and Charles Eichel. Music by Albert Von Tilzer

I Want to Go to the Ball Game. Music by Al W. Brown. Lyrics by C.P. McDonald.

I Want to Go to the Ball Game. Music by Al W. Brown. Lyrics by C.P. McDonald.

Who Would Doubt That I'm A Man. Lyrics by M. S. Music by A. F. Groebl.

Who Would Doubt That I’m A Man. Lyrics by M. S. Music by A. F. Groebl.

Some songs recount how much women wanted to attend baseball games. The lyrics of “I Want to Go to the Ball Game” note that Mabel McCann would rather watch baseball games instead of eat. Compare the lyrics of this song to another also titled, “I Want to Go to the Ball Game. What can students learn from the songs about attitudes toward women going to baseball games?

Other songs explore women and their rights in different ways. A song adapted from the comic opera, The Mormons and dedicated to “the New Woman” asks the question “Who Would Doubt that I’m A Man?” Encourage students to use the primary source analysis tool to review this song while you provide support and guiding questions selected from the Sheet Music and Song Sheets Teachers Guide. Do your students think this song was written to encourage women to play baseball?  Why or why not?

To learn more about baseball and music, you or your students may explore the online exhibition of Baseball’s Greatest Hits or to explore the Library’s baseball sheet music collection. Students can learn how the music of baseball has helped broaden the discourse on a number of issues including race and patriotism during wartime. Ask them to consider why music about baseball was used as a way to explore social and political issues and to consider if the music used in other sports in the past or the current day generates discussion on social and political issues.

  1. If you are interested in doing more research about Katie Casey and Take Me Out to the Ball Game explore the Learn More About It for the Baseball’s Greatest Hits exhibition. George Boziwick’s article may be of special interest.

3 Comments

  1. Michael Berson
    March 21, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Danna, Thank you for an outstanding post that will make a wonderful lesson.

  2. Rebecca N
    March 22, 2017 at 6:10 am

    As a baseball lover and educator, I LOVE this post. I had no idea. Thanks so much for giving me some interesting research paths to follow while I wait for the season to start.

  3. Susan C
    March 22, 2017 at 10:29 am

    George Boziwick’s (NYPL) research on this great baseball song is unique and very well presented. It opens up a whole new aspect to the song that we never knew. You can access his article online or in print at:

    Boziwick, George. “‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game,’ The Story of Katie Casey and Our National Pastime.” Base Ball: A Journal of the Early Game Vol. 6, No. 2 (Fall 2012).

    Or, online at:

    https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/take-me-out-to-the-ball-game-the-story-of-katie-casey-and-our-national-pastime-c8f76a0fc6ba#.gu6ft0s4e

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