Play Ball 2013!

Posted April 5th, 2013 at 5:20 pm (UTC+0)


This is a very happy week for baseball fans the world over—the 2013 major league season officially started on Sunday March 31st, when the Houston Astros beat their in-state rival Texas Rangers 8-2.

OK, calm down. This isn’t turning into a sports blog. But there’s a longtime love affair between music and baseball that bears revisiting.  I shared a few of my favorite baseball songs in honor of the 2012 World Series last fall, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Music and baseball have been intertwined almost since the game began. Historians set the date as 1854, when J.R. Blodgett wrote the first known song, “The Baseball Polka.” But it’s safe to say that even the biggest fans in American have never heard that song– most of us are only familiar with “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Even if you’ve heard that classic a million times, check out this version from the 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  Sam Bush put together his own all-star team and they knocked it out of the park! (end of the baseball cliches, I promise!)

Baseball came up when I interviewed Sam last year. He told me one thing he loves about the game is that, unlike football or basketball, there’s no real clock ticking down the seconds until the game is over. “In some ways, it’s a very leisurely game. But can be really intense. And anyone can be the hero. I’m still surprised by baseball every time I see a game.”

I wish I’d thought to ask Sam if he’s ever had a chance to talk with former New York Yankee Bernie Williams about the book he wrote on the connection between music and sports.

Williams knows of what he speaks.  Now 44 and retired since 2006, he hit .297 over 16 seasons with the Yankees, won four World Series titles, played in five All-Star Games and won four Gold Glove Awards. On the music side, Bernie Williams has also released two albums, receiving a Latin Grammy nomination in the instrumental category for 2009’s “Moving Forward. “La Salsa En Mi” gives you a pretty good idea of what his original music is all about.

There’s no denying Bernie Williams is taking his second career very seriously. Album number 3 is in the works, and Williams was spotted here in Washington recently. He came to town with other musicians to ask lawmakers to set aside more money for music education in public schools.

Roots and Branches  for the week of April 9th is devoted to baseball and features songs by Bob Dylan, Chuck Brodsky, Sam Baker and San Francisco Giants 3rd base coach Tim Flannery, just to name four.

Here’s a weird one I just couldn’t squeeze in – David Frishberg‘s “Van Lingle Mungo.”  You need a bit of backstory to fully appreciate this masterpiece:  Frishberg was writing a song and found himself at a loss for words. He started leafing through the Baseball Encyclopedia, which lists everyone who ever played in the major leagues, the unusually named pitcher Van Lingle Mungo among them.  Jackpot! The finished lyrics to what became David Frishberg’s most popular song are the names of baseball players, plus the worlds “and” and “big.”

Host of VOA's Roots and Branches, and world traveler extraordinaire! When I'm not listening to music, I'm probably talking about it or thinking about the next band I'm going to see. Or my next interview! Join me every week for the best in folk, bluegrass and all other forms of American roots music!

6 responses to “Play Ball 2013!”

  1. YankeeFan says:

    Loved this! I think you meet to write a baseball/music blog every month during the MLB season. 🙂

  2. Mo McMorrow says:

    Don’t know how I managed to stumble upon this but enjoyed it. Sam Bush Band reminded me of an Irish band and how the whole audience over there will sing along…guitar extraordinaire …and then all those names. Cool.

  3. rev kevin loughran says:

    Katherine I know its late in the game and you’ve moved on to other things but I hd to thank you for this blog. My 12 year old daughter and I have enjoyed it time and time again. Well done, thanks!



VOA’s music bloggers bring you info about all kinds of music. Katherine Cole will keep you up-to-date on the world of Bluegrass and Americana music while Ray McDonald rocks the Pop charts and artists. Diaa Bekheet  jams with you on Jazz.  Visit us often. Your comments are welcome.



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