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The Story Behind the Most Famous Song in Baseball

The New York Music Co., New York, 1908, monographic. Source: Library of Congress
Sheet music for "Take Me Out To The Ballgame"

Fans at baseball games across America have been singing the same song during the seventh-inning stretch for decades. If you're in the stands, nothing beats the fun of belting out that tune everyone knows, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!" The song was penned in 1908 by 29-year-old Jack Norworth, a Tin Pan Alley songwriter who, by his own account, had never been to a baseball game.  On a New York subway train, he spotted a sign announcing: "Baseball Today—Polo Grounds." He then sketched out two verses about a girl named Katie Casey who had "baseball fever," plus the chorus we sing today.

When her beau asked her to see a show, Katie answered, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!" Lyrics in hand, Norworth asked his friend Albert Von Tilzer to write a melody; Norworth's wife, Nora Bayers, sang it on vaudeville. That same year, singer Edward Meeker recorded it for Edison Records. [See original lyrics at the bottom of post.]

Early movie theaters featured it during intermissions, with lyrics on the screen encouraging the audience to sing the chorus about where Katie wants to go. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" became a pop hit!

Just when the song made it to a baseball game is not certain. But it remained hugely popular through the decades. It has inspired multiple versions and recordings and a 1949 feature film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.

In 1958, Major League Baseball awarded Jack Norworth a gold lifetime ballpark pass.  In 2001, the Recording Industry of America ranked "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as No. 8 in its Songs of the Century list.  

While Jack Norworth wrote over 2,500 songs (including "Shine on Harvest Moon"),  it was this little story about a girl and her love of the game—scribbled on a scrap of paper (now in the National Baseball Hall of Fame)—that turned into what's been called "baseball's national anthem."

Today, the song is sung almost as often as Happy Birthday, at least at the ballpark during the seventh-inning stretch. 

Watch Yannick Nézet-Séguin lead the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with the Phillie Phanatic in 2010!

12 Fun Facts about "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"?

  • Composed in 1908 by 29-year-old Tin Pan Alley songwriter Jack Norworth, born in 1879.?
  • Jack had never been to a professional baseball game.?
  • He gave it to his friend Albert von Tilzer, who had also never been to a baseball game.?
  • It was a story about Katie Casey, who had baseball fever; when her beau asked her to go to a show, she said, “Take me out to the ballgame!”
  • It was recorded in 1908 by Edward Meeker for the Edison Phonograph Company.?
  • Early movie theaters played it during intermission, with lyrics encouraging the audience to sing along with Katie, ‘Take me out to the Ballgame.’?
  • In 1927, Norworth wrote a second version, changing the name of the girl to Nelly Kelly; the chorus stayed the same.?
  • Cracker Jack was a new product in 1893, but sales soared after it was mentioned in the song.?
  • "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 2008.?
  • Jack Norworth composed over 2,500 songs, including "Shine on Harvest Moon."?
  • Norworth went to his first professional baseball game in 1940.
  • Norworth, who died in 1959, was given a gold lifetime park pass in 1958 by Major League Baseball.?

Original Lyrics:

Katie Casey was baseball 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.


Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.