Take Me Out With The Crowd

Jeff · April 3, 2006 at 9:26 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

“What’s your favorite part of Opening Day?” she asks me.

She’s fingering her Marantz audio recorder, my wife is, but I’m not the interview subject. We’re at Safeco Field, she working, me relaxing. In a few moments, she’ll return to recording players’ comments on this topic for an audio slideshow over at SeattleTimes.com.

Now, she’s asking me, and it’s one of those rare occasions where my cup of words isn’t running over.

Here’s why. The standard answers — baseball’s return after long absence, the stirrings of hope and renewal — are all true, but hackneyed. Can I really come with the old sauce, hot dogs and apple pie? Surely there’s a way to slash this Gordian knot, quick-like.

The song, I say. Take Me Out To The Ballgame.

She’s already got the quizzical look going. My escape plan’s foiled. “Why?” comes the dreaded follow-up question.

Because instinct rather than reason guided my answer, I should have known the journalist I married would require an explanation. Dogged reporting instincts are valuable in many fields, reflective of critical thinking skills, and necessary for democracy itself, but relationship-wise, they can be a real hassle.

Stalling for time, I first amend. It’s not the song itself, see. It’s the song in a situation where the home team is ahead, or at the very least still has a chance to win.

Every team starts undefeated. Part of a new season is the gossamer prospect that this will somehow, magically continue, through today at least. If you’ve been forcibly disabused of this notion by the seventh inning — say, you’re an A’s fan watching Barry Zito get ruined — the song will probably be less than inspiring.

If the hometown nine still have a chance, though, it’s different. This still might be the year when we surprise everybody! This is what is in the back of my mind, at least, when the M’s tie the game later on in the evening. And I think all fans, hopeful ones at least, think a bit like this.

But until the stretch, you’re in isolated pockets. Maybe you’re there with your significant other, or a pocket of friends. Which is great, and a key part of the whole experience.

Until you rise, though, with your team still in the game, you don’t get the chance to voice to what’s in the back of your mind in concert with everyone else. This is what I think.

This is what I tell her:

Every fan in the stands knows about the possibility, however farfetched, of a dream season starting with an Opening Day win. For a short while in the seventh inning, everyone is sharing that possibility. The song, with tens of thousands of strangers in full throat at once, is a collective expression of it, the fullest such expression we’ll get.

The look I receive is contemplative. She’s either musing about my thoughts or trying to be polite by not pointing out that this sounds like a rationalization from the fan of a losing baseball team. Either way, she gathers up the Marantz and heads off to record more sounds of the game.

Me, I’m getting ready to sing.


23 Responses to “Take Me Out With The Crowd”

  1. Jeff on April 3rd, 2006 9:27 pm

    Another great part about the song: DMZ’s alternate lyrics.

  2. pensive on April 3rd, 2006 9:38 pm

    Wow(.)-(.)- Jeff .

  3. Jim Thomsen on April 3rd, 2006 9:44 pm

    This would be a good place to talk about great baseball songs.

    My personal favorite is “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” by Steve Goodman. It’s got a great back story: Goodman (best known as the writer of the 1971 hit “City Of New Orleans” … you know, “Good morning, America, how are you? Said don’t you know me, I’m your native son ….”) wrote this humorous song in about 1982 about a dying Cub fan who wants to see “Keith Moreland drop one last routine pop fly” before having his body set ablaze atop a pyre of Louisville Sluggers at home plate at Wrigley Field.

    What Goodman didn’t know at the time was that he was about to be diagnosed himself with terminal leukemia.

    Two years later in late September, as the Cubs rode improbably to the National League pennant, a dying Goodman is visited at the University of Washington hospital by Moreland, who was amused by the song. Moreland, according to unconfirmed legend, promises Goodman he’ll deliver the World Series if Goodman — just 36 years old — can hang on long enough.

    But Goodman slipped away on Sept. 28, 1984, and Moreland, despite a .333 average in the divisional series against the Padres, couldn’t hold up his end of the deal, either.

    How very Cubs.

    Steve Goodman’s ashes are buried beneath home plate at Wrigley Field.

    A sampling of the lyrics:

    “He said, “Give me a double header funeral in Wrigley Field
    On some sunny weekend day (no lights)
    Have the organ play the “National Anthem”
    and then a little ‘na, na, na, na, hey hey, hey, Goodbye’
    Make six bullpen pitchers, carry my coffin
    and six ground keepers clear my path
    Have the umpires bark me out at every base
    In all their holy wrath
    Its a beautiful day for a funeral, Hey Ernie lets play two!
    Somebody go get Jack Brickhouse to come back,
    and conduct just one more interview
    Have the Cubbies run right out into the middle of the field,
    Have Keith Moreland drop a routine fly
    Give everybody two bags of peanuts and a frosty malt
    And I’ll be ready to die

    Build a big fire on home plate out of your Louisville Sluggers baseball bats,
    And toss my coffin in
    Let my ashes blow in a beautiful snow
    From the prevailing 30 mile an hour southwest wind
    When my last remains go flying over the left-field wall
    Will bid the bleacher bums adíeu
    And I will come to my final resting place, out on Waveland Avenue.”

  4. DMZ on April 3rd, 2006 9:55 pm

    My favorite part of Opening Day is the return of the buzz — the feeling of walking to the stadium down Occidental and the streets are packed with other fans, everyone talking about the game to come, many wearing the same colors as you, eyes bright with anticipation of what great things might happen that night.

    I get used to it during the season, and then I don’t miss it when it goes away, but every year, when I hit that first game and I’m back in the throng, I feel like I’ve come home after spending too long away, and I crack a huge grin.

  5. Jim Thomsen on April 3rd, 2006 9:59 pm

    It simply feels like “the real year” has begun. Like crawling out of bed at 1 p.m. after a brutal but barely remembered bout of imbibing, and enjoying the rest of the day pleasantly puttering about to no particular purpose.

  6. Mock on April 3rd, 2006 10:02 pm

    I know how you feel…I have come home after spending too long away. Three years in Australia for university were fantastic and an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world, but man, I missed it. I was outside in the NW rain, pruining grapes and listening to the game. From time to time, a fist pump and the shears would threaten to fly right outta my hands. I know I was still a couple hundred miles away, but having been a few thousand away the last three seasons, it felt like I was sitting at Safeco. I was still walkin’ around with a big old goofy grin on my face for most of the day, despite the fact I had a Cape Cod League team renege on the broadcasting position they offered me. All it took was about two words outta Rick Rizz’s mouth and I was back in a good mood.

    It’s good to be back, it’s been much too long.

  7. JMB on April 3rd, 2006 11:20 pm

    I love the boxscores. I read every boxscore, every night (or the next morning).

  8. Typical Idiot Fan on April 4th, 2006 12:56 am

    For me, it’s the suspension of disbelief. In a movie the job of the scriptwriter, director, actors/actresses, special effects guys, and whathaveyou, is to make you believe that what you’re seeing is possibility. To help you connect with what you’re seeing and “get into” the film. The first game of the season is a lot like that. We watched the offseason hits and misses, saw the spring training bright spots and the glaring weaknesses, and as people who follow statistics and roster management and construction, not to mention the projected results through mathematical analysis like PECOTA and Diamond. In our minds, we know that this team has as much likelihood to fail as the previous teams who did. We also know that there is a hope and chance that we could very well succeed, or at least improve.

    But when that first game comes, and the first pitch is thrown, your knowledge and experience and education with sabermetrics and whatnot are just gone. You don’t care about anything except what is happening now. Sure, we’ll get into the game and start second guessing Hargrove’s moves and such, but for a moment there we just let go and it’s just about the game.

    Our minds know that we probably won’t get anywhere. But you can’t tell that to our hearts.

  9. Barking Pumpkin on April 4th, 2006 1:21 am

    Great great piece,Jeff
    My favourite moment of Opening Day doesn’t involve the Ms but rather my local team,Fiorentina Baseball.A minor league team here in Italy I’ve been following them ever since i moved to Firenze in 2004. On opening day i always go to the ballpark filled with expectations,only to return home a few hours later appalled by what i have just seen. A fine example:last year on opening day our pitcher hit 5 (five!) consecutive batters. I simply turned my back and left the park.

  10. Typical Idiot Fan on April 4th, 2006 1:24 am

    I love the boxscores. I read every boxscore, every night (or the next morning).

    Brandon Webb has a 17:2 GO:AO ratio after his 7 innings today. Seventeen groundball outs. Good God.

  11. Jeff on April 4th, 2006 7:13 am

    I edited the post to add a link to the audio slideshow in question. Check it out if you get a minute.

  12. patl on April 4th, 2006 8:09 am

    I love the idea that something spectacular might happen, particularly with the new team members. Like a Kenji HR, or a Petagine HR.

  13. Evan on April 4th, 2006 8:24 am

    I get new data.

  14. Paul on April 4th, 2006 9:06 am

    #3 baseball songs: check out Tom Russell’s “Kid From Spavinaw”, sung in the first person from a dying Mickey Mantle reflecting on his regrets and glory.

    Opening Day: I ususally don’t go in person to avoid the teeming masses attending primarily for the scene and spectacle. The renewal of baseball captures all that is Spring; budding growth, new romance, sunshine on the skin, anticipating the warmth of summer, renewal. Diamond poetry.


  15. sojourner on April 4th, 2006 9:42 am

    The word for opening day is hopeful. And a reason to read the sports page again.

  16. msb on April 4th, 2006 9:55 am

    congrats to Mrs Shaw (and Mar & Nelson)

  17. Steve T on April 4th, 2006 10:11 am

    If I never hear “Take Me Out” (or “God Bless America”) again as long as I live, I’ll be happy. Even the national anthem is my least favorite part of any game. Actually the whole pomp and circumstance on the field before the game on opening day is pretty unbearable.
    Best part: baseball. It’s a baseball game that counts in the standings. What else do you need? The whole machinery of my summer gets started up again: games, stadium, watching on TV, listening on the radio, reading the box scores, futzing with statistics, worrying about my Hacking Mass team (dammit, I just don’t think Ryan Freel’s going to get the playing time), worrying about the Mariners. Summer days ahead!

  18. Trev on April 4th, 2006 11:25 am

    At least you didn’t tell her it was the ballgirls.

  19. kcw2 on April 4th, 2006 11:26 am

    What I like about “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is that its a girl replying to the question what she would like to do on a date.

    As something to play, it is fun, because it is written in 3/4 time but adapts easily to an up tempo 4/4 (or is that 2/4, I don’t know, I leave that to you folks with more knowledge about music).


  20. Gomez on April 4th, 2006 12:07 pm

    I’m with JMB on the boxscores: whether they’re on newsprint or the internet, I still read them all the time.

    I grew up thinking Take Me Out To The Ballgame was a staple of the Chicago Cubs, rather than a staple of MLB, only because those games where Harry caray would sing it out the window were always publicized on the news. I think it’s a cool tradition.

    I missed baseball.

    One thing: I wish they wouldn’t play “God Bless America” on Sunday home games, not because I’m a commie pinko America hater, but because the song assumes a belief only in a Judeo-Christian God, and to be a tree-hugging liberal bitch for a second, I’d rather they find a more philosophically neutral song to praise our great nation with, like “America the Beautiful,” so that everyone out there who isn’t Judeo-Christian won’t feel left out for 60 seconds every middle of every 7th inning of every Sunday game. I appreciate the sentiment, but let’s not overtone it with forcing the beliefs of some on everyone.

  21. Jake Brake on April 4th, 2006 12:52 pm

    “She’s fingering her Marantz”?!?

    I thought this was a family website.

  22. Steve T on April 4th, 2006 1:55 pm

    I don’t see why they have to lard up a perfectly good game with any songs at all. They always get added during times of patriotic panic — “God Bless America” after 9/11, “The Star Spangled Banner” in the McCarthy era (it used to be sung at World Series games only).

  23. Red Sox Girl on April 4th, 2006 11:18 pm

    Jeff, you might be a fan of a losing team who is simply rationalizing, but you are one great writer. I enjoy your pieces immensely.

    My favorite part used to be that my dad and I drove across the state for the game. We did this every year for almost a decade. We started this tradition when I was in 7th grade, but this year I couldn’t make it. *sniff* oh well I’m going to get to see the KKKing on Friday!

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