Sunday, July 18, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ball Game: It's A Jewish Song!

Well, the composer of the music was Jewish.  The lyricist was Episcopalian.

The baseball classic, sung during the seventh inning in most stadiums around the country, was written in 1908 by lyricist Jack Norworth and composer Albert Von Tilzer.

Von Tilzer, who changed his name from Gumm (originally Gumbinski), was one of five brothers from Indiana who all had careers on Tin Pan Alley and in vaudeville.

Books for adults and for children have been written about this song, including Baseball's Greatest Hit: The Story of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", a 222 page history of the song  by Robert Thompson, published on its 100th anniversary in 2008.

In the book, more details are revealed about Von Tilzer, who was a shoe salesman in his father Jacob Gumm's store in Indianapolis before joining his brothers in songwriting.  Albert's brother Harry was the most successful of the five in the music world, and claimed to be the creator of the term "Tin Pan Alley" to describe the block of 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue,  where the tinny sound of pianos signaled the place where most music was written at the time.

As Edmon J. Rodman reported for JTA last week,
Prior to writing baseball's hit tune, the lore goes, neither had attended a ballgame.
Their famous collaboration, which is sung publicly somewhere in the U.S. every day from mid-spring to early fall, is believed to trail only “Happy Birthday” and "The Star-Spangled Banner” as America’s most performed songs.

Since the sportscaster Harry Caray first began belting it out at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in the mid-1970s, and later at Wrigley Field, the song has become a regular feature at major league and minor league ballparks across America. They even sing it in Japan.

Yet considering the song’s fame, Norworth and Van Tilzen go largely unrecognized by baseball officialdom, and Von Tilzer scores barely a nod in the Jewish community. Their story resembles the song’s famous punchline: “and it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out at the old ball game.”
Here is one of the first recordings of the song, with the original lyrics sung by Edward Meeker in 1908.  Enjoy!

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