Thursday, July 29, 2010

Take me out to the ballgame...

It's been a busy year so my apologies.

JTA has some fascinating history behind the song.
At the ballpark this summer, when you rise for the seventh-inning stretch to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” stretch a bit taller -- one of the song’s writers was Jewish.

The unofficial song of America’s pastime, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is the product of a Jewish-Episcopalian collaboration: Jewish songwriter Albert Von Tilzer wrote the melody, lyricist Jack Norworth penned the words.

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.”

According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame website, Norworth wrote the lyrics to the universal seventh-inning stretch anthem in 1908 “while riding a New York City subway train.” He had spotted a sign that said "Ballgame Today at the Polo Grounds" and “baseball-related lyrics started popping into his head.”

His partner Von Tilzer already had a successful career in songwriting and music publishing in the Jewishly influenced Tin Pan Alley in New York when he wrote the music for what was to be his most enduring creation.[...]

Von Tilzer died in 1956 and Norworth three years later, but word now comes from AOL columnist Chris Epting in a story titled “Stepping Up to Bat for Jack Norworth” that in Southern California where Norworth is buried -- just a mile or two from the site of next week's Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Anaheim -- the stone marking his grave site is worn and barely readable.[...]

In an era of sheet music, “Von Tilzer wrote the music for 20 million copy-selling songs,” said Tim Wiles, director of research at The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., one of the authors of “Baseball’s Greatest Hit: The Story of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game,' ” with whom I recently spoke by phone.

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.

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