Saturday, April 08, 2006


Perhaps no sport has influenced the culture of America more than baseball. Like the sport or not, it is as much an integral part of our culture as anything you can imagine.

Just think about our everyday speech. When we do a good job, we "hit a home run." If somebody does something surprising, they're "throwing a curve ball." If someone has an aptitude for something, it is "in their wheelhouse." If a guy gets to make out with a girl, he's "getting to second base."

The sport has been entertaining Americans for nearly as long as there has been an America. And it's presence is evident even in our music.

If you don't believe me, wait until the next time you hear the National Anthem outside of a sporting arena. Inevitably, someone in the crowd, once the "home of the brave" line is sung, is going to either whisper or shout "play ball!"

With that in mind, I'd like to present some of the most memorable songs of baseball.

Obviously, there are the standards. What would the 7th inning stretch be without Jack Norworth's Take Me Out to the Ballgame? And there's also Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, Say Hey (the Willie Mays song), Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball, and If You Can't Make a Hit at the Ballgame then You Can't Make a Hit With Me. The baseball legacy doesn't end there, though. Contemporary artists still salute the game in every genre. Even hip-hop entered the subject with Ice Cube's In the Zone, a tribute to Ken Griffey Jr. These are a few contemporary songs that bring the great game back to life.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game, by the Goo Goo Dolls, is a reinvention of the classic. It was originally done for a Major League Baseball promo commercial, but thanks to the Internet, the song has taken on a life of its own, and more often than not, you'll hear the Dolls version being played at ball parks everywhere. It's not so much that there's something new or inventive about the song; it's more that it just shows how relevant the game still is. Not the game where players make millions of bucks, but the game that is played by young men in high schools, colleges, farm clubs, and in church leagues. And yes, we all still like to go to the stadiums to see the big boys play. But this version of the song shows that it's still part of our national consciousness, and that it has grown along with the rest of us.

Glory Days, by Bruce Springsteen, pops into my mind first. It's a song about a man who was a spectacular pitcher back in high school. Of course, the rest of the song is about other people, but it's the verse about the ballplayer that keeps this song cranking at the stadium. It talks about the "glory days" and how they are over with quickly.

Cheap Seats, by Alabama, is another great song. I'm a Minor League Baseball fan myself, and the sentiment of sitting out deep in left field, cheering for the boys even though you can't spell the pitcher's name, and just enjoying being at the ballgame. It reminds us of the simple pleasures of the game before it gets to be all about the million dollar paychecks.

Centerfield, by John Fogerty, is just about bound by law to be played at any venue where a baseball team might be playing. "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today." Who can hear the clapping in the song's first few bars and not get charged up for the game to start? And the song carries meaning even off the field. We can all get ourselves as pumped as the song asks, look life in the eye and say "put me in coach! I can be center field!"

Batter Up, by Nelly, is in a bit of a different league than these, but it's no less baseball-influenced, and it's definitely a good fit for the more urban games. The driving beat and the rap, despite being unconventional for the game, still capture a lot of the energy of the game.

Winning It All, by The Outfield, is another great stadium-rocking song. Some may look at the lyrics and say there's no mention of baseball at all. Well, no, but just take a look at the name of the band. I rest my case. The Atlanta Braves made a lot of use of this song during their 1991 World Series bid, and it never failed to get the crowd cranked up.

There are many more, and I invite you to share the songs that remind you of the Great American Pastime in the comments section. But for now, here are the full original lyrics to the greatest baseball song of all time:

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
--by Jack Norworth

Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev'ry sou
Katie blew.
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she'd like to go
To see a show
But Miss Kate said "No,
I'll tell you what you can do:"

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.

Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,
Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.


At 2:26 PM, Blogger Sailorcurt said...

I'm with you buddy.

It's a shame that the current crop of prima donna a-holes are ruining America's National Pastime.

I don't even bother to watch major league ball on TV anymore. It just makes me mad.

I do still go to the minor league games (Norfolk Tides) and my son's college (Old Dominion University) is looking good this year...I'll probably go to a few of those games as well (my son's not on the team...he loves the game but he's not a natural athelete and he never got good enough for high school varsity, let alone big loss, his natural ability is in music and that is what he's pursuing).

When my kids were younger I coached little league for over ten years. I really miss it. Sometimes when I pass a little league field with games going on I'll stop and watch a while even though I don't know any of the kids or teams. Maybe I'll get back into it when my grandkids get old enough?

Oh, and I'm one of those people that always say "play ball" after the national anthem.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Hannah said...

you just posted that cuz what i said about baseball in my blog.
admit it.


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