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Baseball Should Sing a New Tune
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" may be baseball's best-known song, but 92 years after Jack Norworth wrote the lyrics, the time has come to put it on waivers, and draft a new song.

We need a new song that is relevant to today's real fans: people who watch doubleheaders, check out highlights on ESPN's SportsCenter, read about the games in the next day's paper, and call in to sports radio to complain about the game, the newspaper columnist, and the host's opinions. Maybe that seems obsessive. But with the zeal of CBS executives gloating at the overnight ratings for "Survivor," we analyze the game's statistics, the team's standings (compared to that undeserving team in first place), and, increasingly, whether yesterday's manager - that bum! - has been fired yet.

A real fan is someone who might not be good at history or math but can instantly recall obscure trivia and statistics for retired players not good enough to get their own beer commercials. If there's one thing real fans love, it's baseball trivia. Why else would anyone remember the Dodger pitcher when Bobby Thompson hit a home run that gave the New York Giants the pennant in 1951? (It was Ralph Branca.) Or the shortest player ever to bat? (At 3'7", Eddie Gaedel wore the number 1/8 in his one appearance for the St. Louis Browns).

We need a new song if only because a close reading of the lyrics reveal that Norworth could not have been a real baseball fan.

Check out the evidence.

  • "Take me out to the ball game": Considering the exorbitant ticket prices (increasing faster than college tuition), excessive parking fees (plus long exit delays) and rip-off food prices, few families-of-four can still afford to go to the stadium. Even Sports Illustrated said so, in a recent cover story. Instead, we catch games on cable, listen to them on sports radio stations, or increasingly, over the Internet.
  • "Take me out with the crowd": Every team owner lobbying for a new tax-payer-supported stadium wants the same thing: more luxury boxes, the point of which, it seems, is to remove wealthy fans from the crowds.
  • "Buy me some peanuts or Cracker Jack": What about hot dogs? Or some of the fancy stuff, like sushi, now available in some stadiums? And you need something to wash that stuff down, like beer.
  • "I don't care if I never get back": That's not the feeling you get waiting to leave the parking lot after a loss.
  • "Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don't win it's a shame": Real fans, who take winning and losing personally, could never be so cavalier. This holds true even for meaningless games in September when teams like the Houston Astros, Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants have no chance of making the playoffs. (This is particularly true for teams like the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, who last won the World Series when Norworth was still writing - and, whose odds make Pat Buchanan's, in comparison, look pretty good in November.)
  • "For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out of the old ball game": Well, he got one right - don't make a big deal of it; I'm sure I could do as well writing a song for synchronized swimming.

Actually, that leads to an interesting point: why does baseball have a song anyway? No other sport has an official song. If hockey and football don't need one, why does Major League Baseball? (Then again, only in baseball is a "walk" good; in other sports, leading the league in walks would get you benched.)

It's not like people attend games just to sing during the seventh-inning stretch. Maybe I would feel different if they kept statistics for the song: fewest times sung off-key or most times sung while drunk.


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