The Stands are Alive with the Sound of Music

Odds are if you have spent any amount of time in a Major League Baseball Ballpark you have been exposed to “Stadium Rock” of one form or another.

From the live organ playing during the golden age of baseball, to the clap, clap stomp of “We will rock you” fans have been exposed to music that helps paint the atmosphere and heighten the fan experience for almost as long as there has been a fan experience.

While music is used throughout the game, perhaps no other time allows the music to shine quite like the middle of the seventh inning.

No matter the ballpark, or level of competition, fans know that once the middle of the seventh inning rolls around fans will be on their feet and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Also, if the game is being played on a Sunday most Ballparks will feature the playing of “God Bless America” in the eighth inning as well.

The Boston Red Sox invaded Minute Maid Park for a three-game series back in 2011 and the visiting fans were treated to a little Neil Diamond music to feel right at home. Photo R. Anderson

The Boston Red Sox invaded Minute Maid Park for a three-game series back in 2011 and the visiting fans were treated to a little Neil Diamond music to feel right at home.
Photo R. Anderson

While some seventh and eighth inning songs are universal, there are some local varieties that while known in the home ballparks may not be as well known to the wider audience.

One such local tradition recently gained a wider audience following the Boston Marathon attack when teams across the country played a certain bit of Boston Red Sox tradition in their own stadiums as a show of support and solidarity.  The New York Yankees, bitter division rival of the Red Sox, were the first team to offer a melodic show of solidarity for the people of Boston and many other teams soon followed.

This bit of Fenway flavor that went wicked viral was of course the Neil Diamond classic, “Sweet Caroline” which has been a ballpark staple for the Red Sox Nation for years.

While I will admit to occasionally rocking out to Neil Diamond in the privacy of the Triple B Gigaplex (I mean seriously, who hasn’t?), I can honestly say that the idea of rocking out to his songs in a ballpark never occurred to me until I attended a Houston Astros game a few years back when they were hosting the Red Sox.

I can’t remember at which point in the game the song rolled out but I remember thinking it was odd that the song was being played during a baseball game.

My confusion was soon answered when I overheard a Sox fan behind me explaining that it was a Fenway tradition. Based on the reaction from the people with the letter B on their heads they thought that it was cool that they were playing it in Texas.  Despite the explanation I still found it odd that the visiting team’s rally song was being played by the Astros.

Rangers fans at the Ballpark in Arlington welcome the seventh inning with the arrival of Cotton-Eyed Joe. Photo R. Anderson

Rangers fans at the Ballpark in Arlington welcome the seventh inning with the arrival of Cotton-Eyed Joe.
Photo R. Anderson

To be clear, I think that the current show of support by other teams playing the song is perfectly acceptable as long as it is done for a finite length of time.

What is not acceptable is if the song continues to be played for the foreseeable future every time the Red Sox are in town. Even the most heartfelt of tributes can overstay its welcome.

I mean, nothing against Neil Diamond, but “Sweet Caroline” does not belong in other ballparks regardless of how sing along worthy it is.  Like Bill Murray said in the cinematic classic “What About Bob?”, there are two types of people in this world, those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don’t.

Another reason why the spread of “Sweet Caroline” needs to be nipped in the bud is that many teams already have traditional songs of their own that are worth preserving.

In Houston the stars really are big and bright as the seventh inning stretch includes the state pride evoking staple “Deep in the Heart of Texas” following “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The song even travels with the team to Florida for Spring Training.

Although, standing and clapping along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas” while deep in the heart of Florida does tend to mess with one’s head.

For over 30 years the Oriole Bird has been thankful to be a country boy, err bird and has been dugout dancing during the seventh inning with one lucky fan. Photo R. Anderson

For over 30 years the Oriole Bird has been thankful to be a country boy, err bird and has been dugout dancing during the seventh inning with one lucky fan.
Photo R. Anderson

For over 30 years the Baltimore Orioles’ seventh inning stretch has included John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” complete with a top of the dugout dance between the Oriole mascot and one lucky fan. And this tradition also travels to the Spring Training Stadium in Sarasota.

And although Texas is a large state, apparently only one team can be deep in the heart of it as the Texas Rangers, who were the second team to come to Texas, have “Cotton-Eyed Joe” as their seventh inning stretch song.

The list goes on and on regarding teams and their signature songs in the ballpark. From the Cincinnati Reds encouraging fans to “Twist and Shout” along with the Beatles, to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim playing “Build Me up Buttercup,” each team has put their own unique stamp on the seventh inning.

Perhaps the oddest seventh inning stretch song I found in my research was the choice of the Washington Nationals. Starting in the 2012 season, the Nationals embraced the A-ha classic “Take on Me” as their seventh inning jam.

For those old enough to remember when MTV played music videos, “Take on Me” was the really trippy video that was half newspaper comic and half real life.

At the time it was released it represented the cutting edge of video technology but I am sure it shows a little bit of its age when viewed now. Of course, it is out on You Tube if one really wants to get their A-ha on.

So there you have it, a selection of songs to listen for as you travel the Major League Baseball stadium trail for both the Neil Diamond lover and the Neil Diamond hater.

Now if you’ll excuse I think it is time to fill the Triple B Gigaplex with some tunes. Where did I put that Neil Diamond CD?

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

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