Sunday, July 15, 2012

Music in the Park

In addition to a baseball game, fans that flock to Fenway Park are also treated to a musical concert along the way. Back in the day, this was in the form of organ music. The new high-tech sound systems these days blare modern classics in all their glory. When done right, it certainly enhances the ballpark experience. I was able to attend a game this weekend at Fenway and noticed that, for the most part, they did it right.

The most obvious musical addition to the game is also one of my biggest pet peeves. The National Anthem. It always amazes me. I would think that if I were asked to sing in front of such a large crowd, I’d make an effort to get a copy of the words and music for the song. Most National Anthem singers seem to ignore the second part of it. They get a copy of the lyrics, but decide to make up the tune as they go along. Bugs me every time. It’s the National Anthem, not a song you’re covering. It’s not your chance to create your own version of “Yesterday.” It’s honoring the country, not your singing. When it’s done simply by instruments it’s usually over in a minute or two. Why do singers feel the need to drag it out and mix it up? Just sing the song like it is supposed to be sung.

Another spot that there’s always music is when a player is coming to the plate. His “walk-up” music. I have no idea when this custom started. I assume it’s one of those things that evolved over time. They must have needed music to play during that time, so the music guy picked some songs. As it went along, they realized it would be fun to assign clever songs to some players. Eventually, it became a standard where the players would select their songs. Some of them can be quite a hoot. We all got a kick out of Nick Punto being introduced to the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dog’s Out?” Is he implying that he lets the dogs out? Seriously? The back-up second baseman? Maybe if David Ortiz wanted to use that song it would be one thing. But, Nick Punto? Maybe he’s actually wondering, “Who let those dogs out? I know I sure didn’t.” The other walk-up song that stood out to me this weekend was Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s use of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus.” Is that a long-time favorite? Did he just want something that was instantly recognizable? What about new players? How do they pick their music? When the Sox called up Pedro Ciriaco, when did he submit his musical selection? Does he have to submit a number and song request when he gets on the bus from the minors? Does the team pick it for the first few games? Is it something he’s always known he wanted? When a high-schooler is dreaming of making the bigs, is he already playing his walk-up music in his head? Does he have the song in mind the second he steps into a big-league clubhouse? I wonder what my walk-up music would be.

They also play music during pitching changes. That’s another time that I don’t mind music. If the songs can be a little clever, all the more power to them. This weekend, Blondie’s “One Way or Another” was used during one of the exchanges. It was a nice tune, and didn’t seem forced. It even acts as a clever taunt. That’s always appreciated. The pitching change is a nice time, because there’s actually time to play the entire song. Sometimes they try to squeeze it in during a mound visit. That just sounds like filler, and I don’t like it. That’s closer to playing a “breaking glass” sound effect when a foul ball goes into the stands. It’s just noise. But, a full song is just fine. Although, I do wish they’d break out “Fool on the Hill” more often.

Another big music time during the game? Obviously the seventh inning and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Clearly, I have no problem with that classic. I love the fact that they play the organ as background instead of celebrity covers. Actually, I do have one small problem with the song. They only sing the chorus. There’s plenty of time during the stretch to play the verses as well. They already put the words on the scoreboard, so why not add the rest? Why not teach us all about Katie Casey, and her young beau? A classic ballpark like Fenway should play the entire classic song. Maybe then people would stop asking “Why do we sing ‘Take me out to the ballgame’ when we’re already here?”

Of course, in Fenway, there’s another traditional baseball song sung an inning later. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” had become a modern classic in the middle of the eighth inning. Some people have a problem with the song, but I don’t. I don’t mind, because it evolved naturally. It’s not like some publicist decided to make something out of it, started playing it and put the lyrics on the scoreboard. It’s not like it was forced down our throats like “Tessie” by the Dropkick Murphys was. They simply played the song, and people enjoyed it. That’s exactly how traditions are supposed to start. I don’t care that people sing along when the Sox are losing either. What are you supposed to do, sit in silence every second the Sox aren’t ahead? I don’t mind trying to have a little fun.

Really, there are few moments during the game that doesn’t have background music to it. It makes the down times float by a little faster.

Which is always appreciated.


  1. I'm with you on the National Anthem. Too many singers make it about them and not the song. Best version I've ever heard was sung before a Texans game by a young female Houston police officer. It was so good the crowd seemed stunned for a moment then we went nuts.

    And I like the other musical traditions that aren't 'forced'. Sweet Caroline is a good one, so was the John Denver's Thank God I'm a Country Boy.

    But to me 'walk up music' is lame.

  2. I wouldn't mind the walk-up music if it also evolved naturally. A song that related to their name, or an event in their career or something. But, to just pick a favorite off their ipod is just noise.

  3. I'm actually fine with the walkup music, even when it's songs I don't necessarily like. It's like a little window into the player's life without having to actually listen to them talk..

    If I could trade hearing country-music walkup songs for never hearing athlete's interviewed ever again, I'd do it in a heartbeat.


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