The organ was a part of early movie theater entertainment and then moved over to entertain baseball fans
Hot dogs, the seventh inning stretch, and the organ are all a part of the summertime ritual of baseball. Organs became a part of baseball game entertainment because, in the early 20th century, organs were played in theaters to provide music for silent films. Since they were associated with entertainment, baseball stadiums took the next step and incorporated the organ into their games. On April 26, 1941, Chicago’s Wrigley Field became the first baseball stadium to feature an organ (and they still feature a live organ, not a digital recording).
A feminist baseball anthem
Probably the most well known baseball song performed on the organ is Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Most teams feature the song (usually just the chorus) during the 7th inning stretch. The song was written in 1908 by Tin Pan Alley songwriters Jack Norworth & Albert Von Tilzer, neither of whom had ever been to a baseball game. The chorus speaks to the love of the game, but it’s the two verses that bookend the chorus that are groundbreaking.
The song is about a woman named Katie Casey whose young man asks if she wants to see a show, but as a sports fan she would rather go to a baseball game. She’s “baseball mad,” knows the players names, she argues with the umpire from the stands, she leads a chant to raise the home team’s spirits, etc – she does all of this as a woman in 1908. The character of Katie Casey was based on outspoken suffragist Trixie Friganza, a vaudeville star who also in a relationship with Norworth at the time. With Take Me Out to the Ball Game the early 20th century suffragist spirit of confidence & equality, typically associated with politics, was brought into the arena of sports (… which was also traditionally just for men). So while most people know the song’s chorus as an ode to baseball, the full song’s feminist message makes it more important than just a sports song.
An added bonus: in the Wrigley Field tradition of special guests leading the crowd in the 7th inning stretch, please enjoy Cookie Monster singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game.