Cubs Fans: 'Take Me Out to the Blah-Blah'

ByABC News
September 12, 2003, 7:24 PM

Sept. 15 -- You might call it the seventh inning scream.

For the last six years, stars of varying wattage have trooped up to the press box at Chicago's Wrigley Field to serenade Cub fans during what, in other parks, is called the seventh-inning stretch.

And here's the thing: It is supposed to sound terrible.

"The expectations are non-existent," said Cubs marketing whiz John McDonough. "I can't tell you that we don't hope they're bad. We kind of do. We hope they're bad."

They are.

Mauling Tradition

McDonough had the idea to invite what he generously calls "celebrity guest conductors" to handle the seventh-inning songfest in 1998, after the death of legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray. Caray used to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the Cubs half of the seventh inning and the Cubs just wanted to continue the tradition, said McDonough.

So about 400 people have offered some of the worst renditions of the song you are likely to hear.

The Cubs management loves it. And apparently, the fans like seeing the famous fall flat, even professional singers like 'N Sync.

"None of them can sing," said McDonough. "That's the beauty of it. That's why we do this."

Mike Ditka, the former Chicago Bears coach, has the record for the fastest performance, about 15 seconds. It was sort of an up-tempo polka.

Ice skating star Nancy Kerrigan had one of the slowest and appeared to lose her train of thought during parts of it.

That was a lot better than former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who literally froze, mouth agape, in front of 40,000 fans, and needed help from one of his coat holders to finish.

Not Carnegie Hall

Gary Pressy is the Cubs organist, a man doomed to accompany the seldom good, the very bad and the plain ugly.

"It shouldn't be that difficult," he said with a laugh.

"Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was written by Jack Norworth and put to music by Albert von Tilzer back in 1908. Neither Norworth nor von Tilzer had ever been to a ballgame, but for some reason they were inspired.