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Monday, November 12, 2007


Take me out to the ball game, if it's not too much trouble, please

Now, admittedly I don't know much about baseball, but a friend of mine recently sang me the lyrics of the anthem 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game', which is apparently sung durings matches. (Do you call it a match in baseball? Anyway.) I've linked to them, but the bit everyone seems to know goes like this:

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.

Is it just my English background, or is this oddly genteel? Having been raised in a country where the national sport songs everyone knows are 'You're shit, and you know you are', and 'You're gonna get your fuck-ing heads-kicked-in' (I've blogged about these before), and our footie fans embarrass us in front of the rest of the world on a reasonably regular basis, the idea of ten thousand people singing 'If they don't win it's a shame' seems impossibly innocent.

Right now the only possible sign of aggresssion I can find in the whole thing is the threat of Cracker Jack, an experience akin to having your tongue pummelled with a sugar-coated hammer - but as the singers seem to be volunteering to eat the stuff themselves, I'm at a loss. Are there more, you know, normal baseball songs and chants as well, where you swear at the opposition? Or is it really all this rosy-cheeked and dewy-eyed?

Old guys like baseball. Y'know, those of the "greatest generation," and yes, they might be a bit more genteel.

In Chicago, the entire crowd used to sing this song during the "seventh inning stretch" led by legendary broadcaster Harry Carey (not sure if I spelled that right.)

My Grandfather loved this game, always watched the cubs on telivision, and sometimes even sang along.

Sweet, indeed.
I wouldn't say that song is actually representative of going to an actual baseball game today. Maybe once upon a time, but not anymore. But it's traditional, so it stays. Your post reminds me a lot, actually, of the song What A Game from the musical Ragtime. Listen to it if you can, but here are the lyrics (complete with notes about what is going on visually) http://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/r/ragtimelyrics/whatagamelyrics.html
The song shows the conflict between old-time "genteel" baseball fans and newer, more rowdy fans. The over-riding theme of the whole show is change and the breaking up of the class system, or at least it's attitudes. Great show. :)
(I apologize if this posts twice. Blogger is being a little confusing...)
Baseball just isn't an aggressive game. It's incredibly slow, and a lot of the baseball experience is geared towards time-wasting activities to keep the spectators entertained. So you'll not only get singalongs like "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," you'll get people in funny costumes, people in funny costumes racing each other, dance contests, "the wave," trivia contests, t-shirt shoots, the works.

You won't get scantily clad women running around, though, because baseball is also a family game. Which means that while you can swear, there's a good chance you're going to be doing so in front of a bunch of kids. It's best to make sure they're your impressionable own before busting out the cusses. (Baseball stadiums also serve weak, horrific-tasting, expensive beer and won't even sell that after a certain point. And they have bag checks to make sure you're not bringing in your own. You have to be pretty determined if you want to be a drunken jackass.)

All this was to say that, yes, baseball can be that genteel. Sorry for the long post, I have fond memories of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"! (Post 9/11, the song's actually become less common. It's been replaced in some stadiums by canned versions of "God Bless America," during which the spectators aren't allowed to leave their seats. Pee during "God Bless America" during a sports game and it's like you pee on America itself!)
Baseball is a 19th Century lawn game, like croquet or badminton or cricket. I can't see fans singing "You're gonna get your fucking heads kicked in" at any of these sports.

Football, on the other hand, is of medieval origin, dating from a period when whole countries behaved like hooligans. So the songs that you sing at a medieval head-bashing are probably different from those at a lawn party.

Baseball players do rather disgustingly chew tobacco and spit it all over the place, if that's any consolation.
Baseball is, by nature, a genteel sport. Note that you don't even really have much in the way of physical contact between opposing players, outside of tagging somebody out. For that sort of meatheaded bloodshed, we have our own version of what we call football.

My brother-in-law has a fun story about baseball chants that he witnessed at a game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. Suffice to say that both teams have a common enemy in the form of the New York Yankees. Thus the chant went like this:

Mets fans: Let's-Go-Mets!
Red Sox fans: Let's-Go-Red-Sox!
Everybody at once: YAN-KEES SUCK!

It apparently got into a nice little rhythm.
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