Take Me Out to the Ballgame

We did it! Although our efforts weren’t broadcast, we sang the national anthem and “God Bless America” at the Red Sox game yesterday. The adrenaline rush was beyond description, and I am still basking in the memory of 35,000+ cheering fans.

The fact that they weren’t necessarily cheering for us is pretty much beside the point. Red Sox fans love to cheer, and they gave us everything they had. When we sang to them, we did our best to return the favor.

When I finally crashed last night, it was as if someone had dropped a brick on my head. I slept like a stone, but I’ve still been tired today. The truth is that I’ve spent most of the day in a state somewhere between coma and outright death.

The Grateful Dads on the JumboTron at Fenway ParkRed Sox home games are rich with tradition and ritual, a lot of it musical. Since shortly after 9/11, for example, live performers have sung a verse of “God Bless America” at every game during the seventh inning stretch. Since 2002, fans have sung along with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” before the bottom of the eighth inning. “Sweet Caroline,” in fact, has evolved into a sort of performance art piece where audience participation is necessary to complete the song. In some ways it reminded me of the audience participation material that has developed and evolved in midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Baseball being what it is, of course, the antics at Fenway are a whole lot more wholesome.

But not necessarily more sanitary. The way vendors sell hot dogs in the stands, for example, was enough to turn my stomach. Here’s the deal: If you’re sitting in a middle of a row in the grandstands and you want a hot dog, the vendor takes the hot dog and bun and wraps a single cheap paper napkin around it. Both ends of the bun are completely uncovered. The vendor gives the hot dog and bun to the person at the end of the row who then passes it to the person beside him. And so it goes. Hand to hand to hand, until it reaches the customer. The customer then sends money back to the vendor, hand to hand to hand. Change, if any, then goes back to the customer, hand to hand to hand.

A young couple with two little boys sat at the end of our row. As we passed hot dogs and money back and forth, I said to her, “Isn’t it fortunate that all the people in in this row just washed and sanitized their hands.” The little boys looked puzzled. The young mother blanched.

The boys did not get vendor hot dogs, and neither did I. Make no mistake. If the Red Sox ask, we’ll go back to sing at Fenway Park again in a heartbeat, but if I want a hot dog I’ll go to the concession stand.

5 Replies to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”

  1. Many years ago I was in a box seat near third base at Fenway Park when Tony Conigliaro was hit with a baseball. He dropped like a felled Ox and we later learned the extent of the damage.

    I didn’t enjoy the rest of the game and I am sure I was not alone. I would much rather have heard your quartet.

  2. I’d forgotten the Tony Conigliaro story. It happened in 1967 when I was in college. Tony was a New England hero as a Boston-area Massachusetts boy who made it to the Red Sox.

    As for me, I have never had the desire to face a major league pitcher’s fastball. A 90+ mph pitch is a deadly weapon.

  3. It’s a long time since I went to a ball game. But I wish I had heard you guys sing. Usually the rendition of the National Anthem makes me cringe.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Corey. I’ve added you to my blogroll!

    Anne, I think we probably sounded pretty much the same as we did on the radio except for the extra dose of adrenaline we got from the crowd.

    In singing the National Anthem, we remember that the tune was a drinking song. Attempts to make it into something else or to wring soulful blue notes out of it are always doomed to failure.

    Fortunately for singers of all persuasions, only the first verse is ever required. The other verses have the right number of syllables, but the stress pattern just doesn’t work with the music. You always end up, as they say, with the ac-CENT on THE wrong syl-LA-ble.

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