Every year about this time, baseball fans anticipate Spring Training, which starts on February 21st. Many writers have been inspired by baseball, from Ernest Thayer who penned “Casey At the Bat” to W.P. Kinsella, author of the novel Shoeless Joe (which was made into the movie Field of Dreams). Did you know that two of baseball’s best-known writers made Laguna Beach their home base?
Jack Norworth was a Vaudeville actor/singer in 1908 when he wrote the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Norworth was inspired by a sign on the New York subway advertising a NY Giants game at the Polo Grounds. Norworth brought his lyrics to composer Albert Von Tilzer, and together, they’re responsible for the second most widely sung song in America (second only to the National Anthem).
Northworth lived in Laguna Beach for many years and founded the Little League here. He is also remembered for passing out Cracker Jacks from the Little League float in the annual Patriots Day parade. Norworth died on September 1, 1959 at the age of 80 and is buried at Melrose Abbey Memorial Park in Anaheim.
Laguna’s other famous baseball writer is Arnold Hano, author of A Day in the Bleachers, which vividly captures the experience of watching Willie Mays’ legendary centerfield catch in Game One of the 1954 World Series between the NY Giants and the Cleveland Indians. Hano went on to write biographies of Mays, Sandy Koufax, and Roberto Clemente, as well as many other non-fiction and fictional works. Now age 96, Hano has lived in Laguna Beach since 1955, where he and his wife, Bonnie, have been active in numerous social causes.