“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has a feminist twist.

Credit: Pictorial Press Ltd/ Alamy Stock Photo

Baseball is known as “America’s pastime,” a tradition so embedded in U.S. culture that the songwriters who penned “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in 1908 did so even though they had never actually seen a game themselves. The song’s familiar chorus about snacking on Cracker Jack and rooting for the home team is often sung during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games, but the tune’s lesser-known verses have a surprisingly feminist twist.

The song tells the tale of a baseball-loving woman named Katie Casey, described in the lyrics as “mad” for the sport. Katie saw every game, knew all the players, and was confident enough in her knowledge of the rules to “[tell] the umpire he was wrong.” The portrayal of a passionate female sports fan was progressive for its time, but it was not exactly factual. Instead, the lyrics are believed to have been inspired by actress and activist Trixie Friganza, who songwriter Jack Norworth was believed to be having an affair with at the time. Friganza was involved in New York’s suffrage movement, and was reportedly a fan of the New York Giants. Her image also appeared on two early editions of sheet music for the song. In 1927, long after his alleged affair with Friganza had ended and seven years after women won the right to vote, Norworth slightly reimagined some of the lyrics to the famous song. He did keep his female protagonist, but inexplicably changed Katie Casey’s name to Nelly Kelly.

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