In 2006, the month of May was officially designated as Jewish American Heritage Month. And what better way to celebrate Jews in America than with a little bit of baseball? Certainly Jewish Treats could present the biography of one of the sport’s greatest Jewish players, such as Hank Greenberg. Today’s Treat, however, focuses on a man who made baseball exciting even for those who don’t like baseball: Albert Von Tilzer, the composer of the popular baseball song,“Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”

Born Albert Gumm (original family name Gumbinsky) on March 29, 1878, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Von Tilzer came from a family of musicians. All five of the Gumm sons worked either in Tin Pan Alley or Vaudeville, and they all followed their eldest brother, Harry, in changing their surname to their mother’s maiden name (Tilzer) and adding the lofty sounding “Von.”  

In 1908, Von Tilzer was approached by Jack Norworth, who had just penned the verses that would become “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” His inspiration was an advertisement for a game at the New York Polo Grounds. Von Tilzer immediately put the lyrics together with a waltz he had been composing. On May 2, 1908, the song was copyrighted by Von Tilzer’s York Music Company.

While the chorus to “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” is one of the best known songs in America (along with “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Happy Birthday”), most people don’t realize that there are also narrative verses telling the tale of a young lady who would prefer a date to the ball game rather than attend a show. The popular song became a part of game-time tradition in the 1970s when sportscaster Harry Caray would sing it during the seventh inning stretch.

While “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” is Von Tilzer’s best known work, he composed hundreds of tunes throughout the first half of the 20th century. He passed away on October 1, 1956.

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