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Take Broadway Out to the Ballgame

From "It's a Hit!" to "Steal With Style," musical theater boasts a number of songs fit to accompany a ball game. logo
I'm still smarting from what sports reporter Tyler Kepner recently wrote in the New York Times. He started his story about the previous night's game between the Yankees and the Texas Rangers with, "The bullpen door opened, the country music played, and 51,763 fans rose to cheer."

Country music?! That's what they play at Yankee Stadium when a relief pitcher comes in? Country music, in New York City?! What a slap in the face to Broadway. I'd expect the Nashville Sounds, a minor-league baseball team, to play country music when there's a break in the action, but a team representing New York should be playing Broadway songs.

This must be rectified right away, especially if the Yankees reach the playoffs for the American League pennant or get to the World Series, which they just might do one mo' time. There are so many Broadway songs that could be put to work for the Yankees -- or against their opponents. This could start even before the game: When the visitors are introduced, let's hear "Public Enemy Number One" from Anything Goes. Then, when the Yankees are announced, "T-E-A-M" from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown or "Super Heroes" from The Rocky Horror Show.

When the opponents come up to bat in the first inning, how about "You Can't Win" from The Wiz? Of course, if this song were repeated many times during the game, players in the opponents' dugout would soon be psyched into thinking, "You know, we probably can't win." So when one of their runners is thrown out by a step, "A Beat Behind" from The Goodbye Girl or "Out There" from Barnum could be played -- or, if it's a night game, "Out Tonight" from Rent.

On the other hand, when the Yankees come up to bat in the bottom of the first, we could hear the B-section from Gypsy's "Everything's Coming Up Roses": "Now's your inning, stand the world on its ear. Set it spinning. That'll be just the beginning." Given that either the playoffs or the World Series might result in the Yankees playing as many as four home games, the team could offer the Merm's recording for the first game, Angela Lansbury's for the second contest, Tyne Daly's for the third, and Bernadette Peters's for the wrap-up. (I recommend this order not as a value judgment on which are the best recordings but, rather, because it's chronological.)

When the first Yankee gets a hit, "It's a Hit!" from Merrily We Roll Along -- by the original Broadway cast. The next hit can be commemorated by the British cast, and the third by the Off-Broadway revival cast. And if the Yankees have a big inning, the title song from each of the Merrily We Roll Along albums can be played early and often. (By the way, when Merrily closed after just two weeks in 1981, did anyone assume we'd have three cast albums of the show within the next 13 years?)

The first time a Yankee batter draws a walk, "If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame. The second time, the title tune from Walking Happy. The third, "You'll Walk With Me" from The Full Monty. (Again, I'm going chronologically.) If two Yankees get walks in the same inning, "You'll Never Walk Alone." All these walks could happen if their pitcher was unnerved enough, and that could happen if each time, a second before he's about to unload, he's disturbed by Tony in The Most Happy Fella announcing "da pitch."

Here's what we'd hear each time a Yankee reached home: First, "Home" from Oh, Kay, then "Home" from 70, Girls, 70, then "Home" from The Wiz, then "Home" from The Human Comedy, then "Home" from Phantom, then "Home" from Beauty and the Beast, and then "Home" from Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know. (Chronology again.) If the Yankees score a second run in the same inning, we should hear "Home Again" from Fiorello!

And speaking of Fiorello! -- Every time the umpire makes a terrible call against the Yankees, that would be the time to hear "Unfair!" from that score. Of course another option would be the sequence in the opening number of Damn Yankees that goes "You're blind, ump! You're blind, ump! You must be out of your mind, ump!" When an opponent makes an error, "My Big Mistake" from The Will Rogers Follies would work; but when a Yankee makes an error, "Everybody Has the Right to Be Wrong (At Least Once)" from Skyscraper would be appropriate.

For close calls at the plate when the Yankees score, "Safe" from Hello Again. When the Yankees ace reliever comes in, "One (Singular Sensation)" from A Chorus Line. When the opponent's ace reliever arrives, "You're No Good" from What Makes Sammy Run? When a Yankee steals a base, "Steal with Style" from The Robber Bridegroom; but when an opponent does the same thing, I'd like to hear Applegate's cry "You robbed me!" from the last scene of Damn Yankees.

"The Baseball Game" from Falsettos
(Drawing by Al Hirschfeld)
One of the most treacherous moves in baseball is the brushback pitch, in which a pitcher purposely throws a ball designed to scare the batter into thinking he'll be hit. Sometimes, though, this doesn't work, and the batter gets a solid base-hit instead. For those occasions when a Yankee comes through, there's "You Can't Brush Me Off" from Louisiana Purchase. On the other hand, if things get tough for the Yankees and they risk losing the game, there are plenty of lines from "The Baseball Game" from Falsettos that can help. So can "I Can" from Bajour ("You've got the guts, and the heart, and the nerve, and the way, and the will, and the plan") or "Confidence" from the 1963 Off-Broadway musical The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Believe it or not, the latter song already has a history with sports, though not with baseball: During much of the '60s, CBS used the tune as an instrumental introduction to its national Sunday football broadcast.

Often, when a pitcher gets in trouble, a coach must go out and calm him down. When that happens to the opposition, let's mock them with "There's a Coach Comin' In" from Paint Your Wagon. When I caught a game in Houston between the Astros and the Pirates, I did hear a show song played for this precise situation: "Send in the Clowns." But the most bizarre choice of show song I ever heard occurred in an August 1968 between Boston and Baltimore in Fenway Park. Between the sixth and seventh innings, the organist played "I Fell In With Evil Companions" from Her First Roman, which was trying out in Boston at the time. The song was eventually dropped, not long after the Red Sox dropped the game to the Orioles.

As for the seventh-inning stretch -- in which fans stand and spread their arms and legs after sitting for six-and-a-half innings -- this has always been the spot where "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" has been heard. Suggesting that something else be played here is tantamount to heresy, and I guess I should be assuaged that Take Me Out to the Ball Game is the name of a movie musical. But here's where I suggest that the ultimate baseball song be played: Adler and Ross's "You Gotta Have Heart" from Damn Yankees. Another possibility: "What a Game!" from Ragtime.

Tunes could be tailored to specific Yankees, too. If Derek Jeter does something wonderful, one could play "Something Wonderful," of course. But I'd prefer "We'll Take a Glass Together" from Grand Hotel (originally written for At the Grand), not only because it's a celebratory romp but also because it was sung in Grand Hotel by Mr. Jeter's namesake, Michael. More specifically, when Jeff Nelson comes in to pitch, "Nelson" from A Day in Hollywood could be played. And when the youngest Yankee comes up (he's currently 24-year-old pitcher Jorge De Paula), "Yankee Boy" from Rags.

What to play after the game has ended? For years now, Frank Sinatra's rendition of "New York, New York" has concluded the show. Here's one thing I would not change. Yes, it's a movie song, but it was written by two men who have spent virtually all of their careers on Broadway: John Kander and Fred Ebb. And, the way things are going, don't be surprised if New York, New York does become a stage property one day.

By the way, many of these suggestions can also apply to the New York Mets -- though I don't suspect that they'll be in the playoffs or the World Series this year.


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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