Albert Gumm was born March 29, 1878 in Indianapolis, Indiana. His last name had been shortened from “Gumbinski” by his parents.
Albert was six years younger than oldest brother Harry. As a young man, Albert began working for Harry. Tilzer was Harry and Albert’s mother’s maiden name. When brother Harry began his song writing career he assumed the professional name, “von Tilzer,” adding the honorific “von” to his mother’s maiden name. When Albert began writing songs for Harry’s music publishing company, he followed suit, using the professional name “Albert Von Tilzer.” Harry and Albert’s younger brothers Will and Jules also followed suit, as all four brothers became active in the music industry.
Within a few years Albert split off from his brothers, forming his own firm “The York Publishing Company.”
Albert went on to become a top Tin Pan Alley tune writer, producing hundreds of popular music compositions. He collaborated with many lyricists, including Jack Norworth, Lew Brown, and Harry MacPherson. A number of Albert’s compositions were performed and recorded by jazz bands.
In 1908, Albert’s friend and lyricist Jack Norworth was riding a subway train and was inspired by a sign that said “Baseball Today – Polo Grounds.”
Jack wrote the words to a song that had a Katie (and later a Nelly) being asked out on a date. In the song, she accepted the date, but only if her date would take her out to the ballgame. Albert then put the words to music. At the time, neither of them had ever been to a baseball game.
The song was first sung by Jack Norworth’s then wife Nora Bayes, who was a vaudeville singer and star of the Broadway stage.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” became popular among many other vaudeville acts. The Haydn Quartet singing group, led by popular tenor Harry MacDonough, recorded a successful version of the song on Victor Records as it became one of the most popular hit songs of 1908.
Jack Norworth wrote an alternative version of the song in 1927.
Albert Von Tilzer then watched his first major league baseball game in 1928.
By the early 1930’s, sensing the public’s taste in popular music no longer fit his style, Albert Von Tilzer moved to Los Angeles and contributed songs and music to films.
His most famous song was not actually played at a ballpark until 1934, during a high-school baseball game in Los Angeles. Researchers think it made its debut at a major-league ballpark later that year.
Then in 1935 the Marx Brothers’ film “A Night at the Opera”, in one of the more unusual uses of the song, composer Herbert Stothart arranged for a full pit orchestra to segue seamlessly from the overture of Il trovatore into the chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.
The first verse of the 1927 version was sung by Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra at the start of the 1949 MGM musical film, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a movie that also features a song about the famous and fictitious double play combination, O’Brien to Ryan to Goldberg.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has become the unofficial anthem of baseball. The song (chorus only) is traditionally sung during the seventh-inning stretch of a baseball game. Fans are generally encouraged to sing along, and at most ballparks, the words “home team” are replaced with the team name.
Albert wrote one last song in 1950, “I’m Praying to Saint Christopher.”
Albert Von Tilzer died October 1, 1956 in Los Angeles, California after battling cancer.
In 1970, he and his brother Harry were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (or at least its chorus) has been recorded or cited countless times in the 100 years since Albert composed it.
Now WE know em