By P.A. Geddie
Whether conjuring up childhood memories of “peanuts and Cracker Jack” or hearing a booming crowd sing it during the seventh inning of a pro game, “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” is firmly embedded in our national consciousness. It is the chorus only that most know and love, but the song’s little-known verses tell a much more meaningful story.
America’s favorite pastime song is a beautifully mastered rally cry for women’s equality.
The song was written by singer, songwriter, and vaudeville performer Jack Norworth in 1908 and put to music by Albert Von Tilzer. At that time women were still relegated to kitchens and quilting clubs. If they were seen in public it certainly was not cheering boldly in a crowd of male sports enthusiasts — a lady was expected to remain quiet and demure — seen, not heard. Professional baseball games were considered an exclusively male domain and women were not welcome.
In 1908, Norworth was in a relationship with fellow vaudevillian Trixie Friganza (born Delia O’Callahan). Friganza was not your typical woman during these turn-of-the-century years. She was independent and outspoken. She was a fighter for women, claiming equal value among men. She was a suffragist, drawing crowds to rallies where she was often a key speaker.
“I do not believe any man — at least no man I know — is better fitted to form a political opinion than I am,” Friganza declared at a suffrage rally in New York City in 1908.
Norworth’s fictional “Katie Casey” in “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” is just such a character, and an Irish lass to boot. Not settling to accept an invitation to go to a dark theater to “see a show,” she instead tells her beau to “take me out to the ball game” where she can “root for the home team” and tell “the umpire when he was wrong, all along, good and strong.”
Like Friganza, Katie Casey is empowered, engaged, and living in the world uninhibited and full of passion.
The song’s popularity promoted the idea of women attending baseball games as knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans. Over the years, more and more women took their place in the cheering crowds, as well as in other places where their voices needed to be heard.
Perhaps the song and the positive energy that followed helped women finally win the right to vote in American elections in 1920. Perhaps its message continues to stir compassion for human equality today.
With that in mind, humanity owes a debt of gratitude to Jack Norworth who had the courage and understanding to write this song with its inclusive message, to Albert Von Tilzer for his catchy tune that’s stood the test of time, and to their inspiration Trixie Friganza and all the bold women who would not be relegated to the sidelines.
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
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,
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.