Music and America’s National Pastime

With Interleague games beginning this weekend, we pulled the following piece from our Musicology Archives, sure to be a grand slam!

To declare that music and baseball have carved different paths into the American fabric would be correct. However, they have crossed paths many times and the results have joined ballplayers and teams with timely American music trends to create a varied assembly of entertaining songs. Some of the most memorable tunes have been about specific ballplayers by well-known artists such as Teresa Brewer with “I Love Mickey”, Count Basie doing “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?”, and Les Brown with “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio”.  There is an 1893 song about early baseball great, “King” Kelly which was made into a movie in 1927, “Slide, Kelly, Slide”.  Many compositions have been about particular teams and their successes (the New York Yankees), their failures (the Chicago Cubs) and moving away (the Brooklyn Dodgers).  The contemporary hit, “Centerfield”, by John Fogerty can be heard every day at ballparks coast to coast.  “God Bless America” is still a staple at Yankees games, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond is a favorite at Fenway Park in Boston and some ballparks will play regional music flavors like “The Cotton-Eyed Joe” which is heard during the seventh inning stretch at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Texas).

Of course the Babe Ruth of all baseball songs is “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”.  Composed in 1908 by Jack Norwith and Albert Von Tilzer (neither of whom had ever attended a baseball game at the time), the Tin Pan Alley tune has become a seventh inning fixture at baseball games everywhere.  One of the best-known rituals for this song started at the old Comiskey Park in Chicago in the early 1970s where the late Harry Caray would enthusiastically lead the crowd in singing the classic.  Carey took the tradition with him in 1982 to Wrigley Field with the Cubs where the tradition achieved legendary status partly due to nationwide broadcasting of Cubs games. After Caray’s death the Cubs have continued the tradition with celebrity guest conductors for each game.

At some ballparks, starting pitchers can request their favorite music to be played as they warm up each inning.  A number of hitters have requested different songs to be playing as they approach each of their turns at bat.  A bad call for the home team made by the umpires can sometimes result in “Three Blind Mice” being played.  There are countless other songs that get played in major and minor league parks across the globe each summer.  So the next time you are at a ballpark enjoying the great game, notice how many different songs you hear and why you think they were selected.

– by John Lentz, FirstCom Music Director & proud Texas Rangers fan (Claw!)

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