When famous actor and comedian Bill Murray took the microphone in 2016 to sing the famous baseball anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” he only complicated matters.
It was Billy—not Bill—Murray and the Haydn Quartet who first recorded the song the year composer and lyricist team, Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote the song.
If you’re already confused, it gets worse. The man whom history records as the first one to sing it, Billy not Bill, didn’t actually sing on that first recorded track.
Who knew? The song that baseball fans put right next to the national anthem, the one whom many would agree makes a suitable replacement for that anthem, hit the charts in October 1908.
The story of its rise to prominence is all at once confusing and inspiring.
Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer
The pair behind the words and music for the famous song, Jack Norworth, and Albert Von Tilzer admit they’d never once attended a ball game, not before putting pen to paper.
Northworth hatched the idea for the song while riding a New York subway. There, he spotted a sign which read, “Baseball Today – Polo Grounds.” That was it.
The first person to sing the song was Norworth’s wife, Nora Bayes, on the stage of vaudeville. At the time, it was only a cutesy song, about a nascent sport, baseball.
It wasn’t yet a national pastime, but the song and the sport would grow together over the years. The same year they released it, a quartet group put the song on the charts.
Billy Murray and the Haydn Quartet
When the Haydn Quartet recorded the song, Billy Murray hadn’t yet joined the group.
The group had already established themselves as the country’s leading quartet in 1900. They recording best-selling albums in 1903 and 1904, back when people really dug four-part harmonies.
Lead tenor Murray joined the group in 1908, but that was after the other members had recorded the song, “Take Me Out the Ballgame.”
It is with historic irony that Bill Murray, the living comedian, has made a practice of singing the song at Wrigley field the last couple of years. Few baseball fans will understand the significance of his performances.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
While the chorus is the main feature of the song, there are verses to the hit as well. In fact, there was a 1908 version and 1927 version, with a slightly different first verse.
That later version is the one that first played in 1934 at a Los Angeles high school game. It was the same year that it played during the fourth game of the 1934 World Series.
Peanuts and Cracker Jacks sales went through the roof, and the song never looked back. Not really about the peanuts and cracker jacks, but the song was a hit.
Speaking of hits, in time, they later added the crack of the bat between the words “take” and “me” in the first round of the chorus. That was not in the original score.
Albert Von Tilzer made it to a baseball game in the 1920s. Not bad, considering Norworth didn’t see one until the ‘40s. By then, the song was part of every game, played around the seventh inning.
In 1956, 78-year-old Von Tilzer watched the World Series just before bed. It was the Dodgers versus the Yankees. The winners appeared later as guests on the Ed Sullivan Show, where the studio band played Von Tilzer’s song.
When the show ended, Von Tilzer went to sleep and never woke up. The last thing he heard was his famous song.