Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Musical Baseball

As we enter the peak time when the nation's attention turns to baseball, I thought it might be fun to bring music and baseball together. Popular music and baseball grew up together;  almost every year when the winner was declared a new song about the team was soon to follow. The first piece of baseball music was "The Baseball Polka" written in 1858. The most popular was "Take me Out to the Ball Game," which has been a standard since the first decade of the Twentieth Century.

Musicians, too, have been infatuated with the game. When John Phillip Sousa's band performed long summer engagements, they formed their own baseball team. Games would be played against local teams. The Sousa team normally fared pretty well. Their were also games with rival bands including Arthur Pryor's Band. Sousa participated in most of these games while he was physically able. After a while, though, games with other teams were discontinued and the band broke up into separate groups. The woodwinds played the brasses.

In the picture of the 1904-05 Sousa Band Baseball team, Sousa is the bearded man seated in the middle of the front row. His son, who was not a member of this team, is in the back row with the Nassau uniform. On July 4, 1900 the Sousa band initiated the first game of baseball ever played in Paris.

Turn of the Twentieth century African American comic, Broadway star and recording artist Bert Williams played first base every Sunday on the company team. It was widely known among the opposition that Williams was protective of his feet. If the play was going to be a close one, the opposition ran straight at Williams's toes. His reaction was to leap clear of the runner whether he had a chance to make the play or not. His always dapper partner George Walker, on the other hand, never attended or participated in these games because he felt the uniforms were poorly tailored.

In the early thirties Louis Armstrong sponsored a local semi-pro baseball team in New Orleans called the Secret 9. The picture here is of the team showing off the new "Armstrong" uniforms, caps, bats, gloves and gear that Louis purchased for them.

Among other musicians who were baseball players is Thirties bandleader Andy Kirk, avid ballplayer on a semi-pro team called the Maple Leafs. So as you sit down to watch the play-offs and then the World Series remember the marriage baseball and popular music have had since its inception.

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