The Song Doesn’t Always Remain The Same
Baseball history, as far as Iâ€™m concerned, was made during Tuesday nightâ€™s 10-3 victory for the Texas Rangers over the New York Yankees in Game Four of the American League Championship Series.Â In the bottom of the 7th inning actor Patrick Wilson came out to perform â€œGod Bless America,â€ the singing of which has become the norm at Yankee Stadium since September 11, 2001.Â But what was different is that when Mr. Wilson was announced he began singing a song Iâ€™d never heard before:
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
My father and I turned to each other and both wondered aloud what was going on.Â But then, our ears were hit with the ring of the familiar:
God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home
God bless America, My home sweet home.
Now thatâ€™s more like it.Â I felt a little stupid that I never knew there was a whole other part to one of the most moving, patriotic and sporting songs ever sung.
A little bit of research unearthed the fact Irving Berlin originally wrote â€œGod Bless Americaâ€ during World War I when he was serving in the U.S. Army but nothing really became of it.Â Twenty years later, with World War II lurking, Berlin revived it and added the first part which Wilson sang at Yankee Stadium.Â Thereâ€™s even a great clip on YouTube of Kate Smith singing the long version, calling it a â€œnew song,â€ and then we see, who else?Â Ronald Reagan, as among those appreciating it.Â That clip is from the 1943 movie â€œThis is the Armyâ€ which apparently has the songs revival as its core.
Kate Smith is the one whoâ€™s always been most associated with the song and went on to sing it at sporting events including the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals and the 1976 Rose Bowl.Â Wikipedia says Smith always sang the long version but the only clip I can find of that longer version is from the Reagan movie.Â Before the hockey game she sang the traditional shorter version and likely did before the Rose Bowl, too.Â If the singing of the longer version of â€œGod Bless America,â€ with the introductory lyrics, is common at ballparks or anywhere else itâ€™s news to me.Â Iâ€™m a bit partial to the shorter, more common version but maybe thatâ€™s just because itâ€™s what Iâ€™m used to.
Music at ballparks has been a part of the game for a long time.Â Â According to various sources, the first baseball song appeared back in 1858, Â â€œThe Base Ball Polka!â€Â Rockinâ€™, no doubt.Â Fifty years later Jack Norworth was riding a train to a ballgame in New York and jotted down the lyrics to a little song that became â€œTake Me Out to the Ball Gameâ€ which has caught on a little bit.Â There are some doubters as to the veracity of Norworthâ€™s account of writing the song and, in any event, historians say the song was actually more popular at movie theatres in the early 20th Century than it was at ballgames.Â After all, the song is â€œTake Me Out To The Ballgameâ€ which is sort of a silly thing to demand when youâ€™re already at a game.Â Moviegoers used to sing it while reels were being changed.Â They had to do something.
Maybe itâ€™s a strange bit of foreshadowing, or musical justice, that â€œTake Me Out To The Ballgameâ€ appeared in 1908.Â Baseball fans across the globe, and especially on Chicagoâ€™s North Side, know that 1908 was the last time the Cubs won the World Series.Â â€œTake Me Out To The Ballgameâ€ is associated with the Cubs and Wrigley Field more so than any other team or ballpark.Â The song was sang at ballgames, before ballgames and at various other times for decades at many parks but didnâ€™t become truly popular as a sing-a-long until Harry Caray grabbed a microphone and started singing it, and, at the behest of baseball bon vivant Bill Veeck, who owned the White Sox, urged the Comiskey Park crowds on Chicagoâ€™s South Side to sing along with him.Â That was in the 1970â€™s.Â Then, in 1981, Caray went to the North Side to announce for the Cubs and with an improving team, a gentrifying neighborhood around Wrigley Field and the explosion of cable TV coverage, Carayâ€™s seventh inning stretch became a national attraction.Â But it all started on the South Side, with Chicagoâ€™s other team and so maybe that song, which many people believe is the Cubsâ€™ signature, is actually their curse.
When Caray started belting out â€œTake Me Out To The Ballgameâ€ in the 1970â€™s at old Comiskey Park he did so to the accompaniment of Nancy Faust on the organ.Â Ms. Faust began playing the organ for the White Sox in 1970 and continued pounding the keys all the way through this season but is now hanging up the pedal board and it appears there will be pre-recorded music on the South Side from now on.Â Faustâ€™s retirement comes just a few months after another great silence, the death of former Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard.Â Sheppard was the man behind the player introductions in the Bronx from 1951 to 2007, an unimaginable reign of mellifluous grace, elocution and elegance.Â Sheppard would have turned 100 today, October 20th.Â Â He was called the â€œVoice of God.â€Â He probably liked â€œGod Bless Americaâ€ in any version.Â He probably liked any song that emanates from a ballpark on a crisp October night and carries out into the darkness.