When fans arise for the seventh-inning stretch to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," few of them realize that the man responsible for baseball's unofficial theme song, Jack Norworth, is buried not five minutes away.
Norworth had never even attended a major league game before penning the song everyone now associates with going to a ballpark. The guy was riding a New York subway in 1908, when he was inspired by an ad for the Polo Grounds, where the San Francisco Giants once played, when the team was known as the New York Giants.
Tim Wiles, co-author of "Baseball's Greatest Hit: The Story of Take Me Out to the Ball Game," remembers Norworth, and he wishes others did, too.
"I don't think Jack Norworth is at all fully appreciated by society," said Wiles, who serves as director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"It's probably an accident of timing. He and his songwriting partner, Albert Von Tilzer, who wrote the music for 'Take Me Out,' had their big effect on pop culture just before the golden ages of radio, TV and movies.
"Like a lot of other big vaudeville stars, they are not remembered today, which is a shame. In baseball we talk about 'five-tool players.' In entertainment, that was Norworth. He could sing, write, play, act, dance -- he did it all."
So what if Norworth (whose other smash hit, "Shine On, Harvest Moon," came out the same year as his baseball ditty) didn't see his first baseball game until visiting Brooklyn's Ebbets Field on June 27, 1940, when the Dodgers honored him with "Jack Norworth Day"?
He's still forever tied to the game -- whether people know it or not.
The first time Norworth heard his tune sung at a game was in 1958 on the song 50th anniversary during the Dodgers first season at the Los Angeles Coliseum. And the actual seventh-inning tradition only stretches back to 1976 when famed announcer Harry Caray, then calling games for the Chicago White Sox, was encouraged by Bill Veeck to let the fans hear him belt the tune out, as had become his habit.
At Melrose Abbey Memorial Park, where Norworth is buried, I asked a person in charge if she knows about the famous baseball person buried there. "Oh yes," she told me. "We know him. Best known person here -- Lefty Williams, pitcher on the 1919 Chicago Black Sox."
As for Norworth, nobody had heard of him.
OK, so the public seems oblivious to Jack Norworth. How about officials at Major League Baseball?
"In 2008, we did a promotion commemorating the 100th anniversary of the creation of 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,' " said Matt Bourne, an MLB spokesman. "We held a singing competition where three finalists won a trip to NYC for the All-Star Game, and the winner sang the song during the seventh-inning stretch of the All-Star Game in the last year of Yankee Stadium."
OK, so that's good. The MLB went to bat for Norworth. But there's still this void from the public at large. Except for one place.
In Laguna Beach, Calif., where Norworth lived from 1940 until his death in 1959, he is remembered. And it's for good reason. In 1951, he spearheaded the creation of the Laguna Beach Little League.
In 1958, Cracker Jack, which greatly benefited from the product placement in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," created the Jack Norworth Trophy to be given to the League Champs each season in Laguna. And that tradition still goes on today, as does another: giving each Little Leaguer a box of Cracker Jack each opening day.
Much of the world may never remember the name Jack Norworth when they sing during the stretch. But take me out to the coastal town of Laguna Beach and all of a sudden he's not just some anonymous lyricist. There, Norworth is right up there with Willie, Mickey and the Duke.