Library of Congress exhibit celebrates music of baseball

WASHINGTON — The forgotten origin story of baseball’s most popular song is part of an exhibit at the Library of Congress.

The 1908 sheet music for "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." (Courtesy Library of Congress)
The 1908 sheet music for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” (Courtesy Library of Congress) (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Part of the exhibit "Baseball's Greatest hits: The Music of Our National Game" at the Library of Congress. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Part of the exhibit “Baseball’s Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game” at the Library of Congress. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Part of the exhibit "Baseball's Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game" at the Library of Congress. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Part of the exhibit “Baseball’s Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game” at the Library of Congress. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Sheet music to a song about Babe Ruth. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
One display pays tribute to songs equating baseball with love. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
A display of songs about baseball in D.C. (Michelle Basch)
A display of songs about baseball in D.C. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
There were even songs about the Washington Senators. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Quotes about the connection between baseball and music. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Quotes about the connection between baseball and music. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Songs that pay tribute to baseball fandom. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Songs that pay tribute to baseball fandom. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
A display dedicated to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
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The 1908 sheet music for "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Part of the exhibit "Baseball's Greatest hits: The Music of Our National Game" at the Library of Congress. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Part of the exhibit "Baseball's Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game" at the Library of Congress. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
A display of songs about baseball in D.C. (Michelle Basch)
Quotes about the connection between baseball and music. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Songs that pay tribute to baseball fandom. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Hundreds of versions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” have been recorded, but the 1908 original included two verses about a fictional woman named Katie Casey.

The library’s Susan Clermont described the story the first verse tells:

“Katie Casey loved baseball, and when her boyfriend asked ‘What do you want to do today?  Do you want to go to Coney Island or go to a show?’  She said ‘No, no.  I want to go to the ballgame.'”

Clermont is co-curator of the exhibit “Baseball’s Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game,” which highlights baseball-related sheet music from the collections of the library’s music division.

Here are the lyrics to the second lost verse:

“Katie Casey saw all the games/Knew the players by their first names/Told the umpire he was wrong/All along, 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.”

So the chorus that today’s baseball fans know so well was written from the point of view of a lady.

That was surprising for the time.

“Apparently in 1908, women didn’t do that,” said Clermont. “They went to the ballgame, [but] this was not their role at the ballgame. It was very forward-looking — extremely-forward looking.”

The verses were changed after women earned the right to vote, and were eventually dropped, but the chorus lives on in ballparks nationwide.

“The chorus is great. It’s generic; it doesn’t single out any one team, or any one player. It’s for everybody. It’s sort of the feeling that you get at the ballpark. It kind of sums it all up. It’s got good hooks in it. I mean that last line, that ‘one, two, three’ … it grips you,” Clermont said.

The exhibit, which is free to see, is on display in the Performing Arts Reading Room Gallery, in the Library’s James Madison Building, until July 22.

Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

When you visit, you can listen to 20 versions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and watch a video display that includes many more baseball songs.

The original 1908 version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”:

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