Buy me some peanuts and cracker-jack
I don't care if I never get back!
Thus did irresponsibility and escape triumph over the noble and inspiring sentiments of the game's musical pioneers—and just as well, too. The colossal success of the song from the start inspired innumerable imitators. Those two great musicians, Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker—yes, the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance boys—published a song, Between You and Me. George M. Cohan wrote the words to Take Your Girl to the Ball Game, with music by Jean Schwartz (who wrote Chinatown, among many other masterpieces):
Get your seat in the shade,
Buy some cool lemonade...
Tell her each player's name
And all the points of the game,
And all her life she'll be thankful to you.
The blessings that would follow if one took one's girl to the ball game mounted in each new composition, until Arthur Longbrake and Edith Barbier reached the peak in the Baseball Game of Love, published during the first popularity of Take Me Out to the Ball Game:
I was on first
And you on second,
Cupid held the third base down.
This was a remarkable ball game, the composers having the erroneous idea that the base runners were racing against each other, the one on first trying to pass the one on second. Some ball game! Anyway, it provided a climax as exciting as the chariot race in Ben-Hur:
As we two reached third together,
Cupid gave us such a shove,
That we both slid for the home plate,
In our baseball game of love.
About the only tangible benefit that can be detected from these attempts to cash in on the popularity of Von Tilzer's classic is that they gave Ring Lardner confidence to write music of his own. He calculated that it would be impossible to do worse. In 1908, when Take Me Out to the Ball Game was sweeping the country (and when the imitations had passed beyond parody), Lardner was a sportswriter on the
Chicago Inter-Ocean. He was spending his first season traveling with the White Sox. Guy Harris White, known as Doc, was a tireless banjo player. He was also, of course, a phenomenal pitcher who had won 27 and lost 13 the year before. Lardner played the piano, made arrangements, composed songs for amateur theatricals and had a deep desire to write popular music, but he lacked the confidence necessary to do it, or perhaps he possessed too keen a sense of humor to put up with its artificialities. Doc White soon took care of any lingering self-consciousness on Lardner's part, however, improvising idiotic parodies and topical songs on the long train journeys of the White Sox. Their first published work was a sentimental song, Little Puff of Smoke, Good Night, brought out by a Chicago firm, with words by "R. W. Lardner" and with White's music revealing a melodic gift of casual and innocent charm. Next they wrote their tribute to baseball, Gee! It's a Wonderful Game. The thought in this opus is that if Columbus could come back now and see the country he might not like some things about it, but if he watched Christopher Mathewson pitch,
He'd have said, "Boys, I'm glad
I discovered this land.
Gee! it's a wonderful game!"