Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949): Busby Berkeley’s Sunny Musical, Starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Esther Williams

Produced by Arthur Freed and directed by Busby Berkeley, Take Me Out to the Ball Game is one of MGM’s most joyous  (and patriotic) Technicolor musicals, starring Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Esther Williams.

The film’s title and theme are taken from the anthem of American baseball, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

In this period piece, circa 1908, a fictional baseball team, the Wolves, begin the season against various American League teams. Two of its players, Eddie O’Brien (Kelly) and Dennis Ryan (Sinatra), are also part-time performers (They often sing and dance wear similar outfits).

When the team winds up under new ownership, it turns out that the boss is a woman, K.C. (Katherine Catherine) Higgins (Esther Williams).

Both Dennis and Eddie fall for her, but Dennis is also courted by ardent fan, Shirley Delwyn (Betty Garrett).  They all must contend with some gangsters led by Joe Lorgan (Edward Arnold) looking to win a big bet by impairing Eddie’s play and getting him kicked off the team.

Based on a story by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, the musical was penned by Harry Turgend.

The female lead of club-owner K.C. Higgins was slated for Ginger Rogers, but she dropped out and was replaced by Williams.

Judy Garland was also originally slated to star, but was replaced, and Sinatra’s role of Dennis Ryan was intended for professional baseball manager (and former player) Leo Durocher

Williams, a star in swimming-themed musicals, later claimed that Kelly was uncomfortable with her because of her height–she was 5’10” and Kelly only 5’7.”

Director Berkeley planned a swimming number for Williams, but Kelly rejected the idea, and instead, she has a brief swimming sequence where she sings the title song.


  •  Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” (music and lyrics by Jack Norworth and Albert von Tilzer) – Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, reprise by Esther Williams
  • “Yes, Indeedy” (music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Comden and Green) – Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra
  • “O’Brien to Ryan to Goldberg” (music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green) – Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin
  • “The Right Girl for Me” (music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green) – Frank Sinatra
  • “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate” (music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green) – Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett
  • “Strictly U.S.A.” (music and lyrics by Roger Edens) – Betty Garrett, Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams and Gene Kelly
  • “The Hat My Dear Old Father Wore upon St. Patrick’s Day” (music and lyrics by Jean Schwartz and William Jerome) – Gene Kelly 

Take Me Out to the Ball Game was both a critical and box office success, solidifying the status of its three main actors for another decade or so.