Obscure question: What special connection does the name Katie Casey have to baseball aficionados today? Well, it was 100 years ago today (May 2, 1908) that America’s universal musical standard Take Me Out to the Ball Game was published. Jack Norworth penned the words; Albert von Tilzer the unforgettable melody.
To clear up the connection, Norworth’s and Van Tilzer’s Tin Pan Alley creation was written to be sung by a young female character:
Only a handful of fans realize that the two verses of the song are about Katie Casey (later changed to Nelly Kelly), a girl who was mad with baseball fever as she asked her young beau to take her to a ballgame rather than a show. This faint whiff of romance added to the song’s success on vaudeville, where singers (including Norworth’s wife and star, Nora Bayes), actors, even acrobats, incorporated the hit into their acts. Also adding to its immense popularity, the song was featured during intermissions at the early twentieth-century nickelodeons where it was accompanied by “lantern slides,” photos touched up with paint that provided the audience with a visual component to the song as the lyrics scrolled across the bottom of the screen. This way, when Katie Casey made the pitch to her date, everyone in the audience could respond in song: “Take me out to the ball game…”
Next time you’re enjoying America’s pastime at one of her beautiful ballparks, and you rise for that 7th inning stretch, think of Katie Casey and an enduring classic that has lived for a full century.
Of course, the question remains: Would Norworth’s and Von Tilzer’s character recognize the sport, and would she want to be taken out to the ball game today?