The musical impact of baseball

The musical impact of baseball

Last Thursday, the 2021 season of MLB, Major League Baseball, started, which is played in the USA and Canada. In France, it is often mistakenly considered that baseball matches are repetitive and too long. So I will try to demonstrate the opposite by using four songs.

American baseball player Joe DiMaggio in the middle of a game with the Tigers at Briggs Stadium in Detroit in 1946.
American baseball player Joe DiMaggio in the middle of a game with the Tigers at Briggs Stadium in Detroit in 1946 | © Getty / Bettmann

What’s your first argument for “selling” baseball?

This sport constitutes a ” a key element of American popular culture, whose development at the beginning of the 20th century was inseparable from the development of the entertainment industry and the mass media ”. I quote here Peter Marquis, of the University of Rouen, a specialist in US history. The popularity of baseball on the other side of the Atlantic is such that even the Ramones, a New York protopunk group, in contrast to the established order, showed their passion for this discipline. To the point that in Turn on Brat, a track from their first album, released in 1976, they slipped a bat in the lyrics.

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Are we moving towards a protopunk chronicle?

No, the next title will be more mainstream. It is Mrs. Robinson, 1968 hit by Simon and Garfunkel, whose latest verse evokes Joe DiMaggio, short-lived husband of Marilyn Monroe and absolute star of the New York Yankees, whose colors he defended in 1936 and 1951. Because the brilliant history of baseball is full of charismatic characters, if aura surpassed the scenes, like Babe Ruth, the idol of the roaring twenties, who was entitled to a movie in the cinema, or therefore Joe DiMaggio, immortalized in an immortal title.

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What other argument can encourage listeners to be passionate about baseball?

The fascinating political significance of some of its masters. Like Jackie Robinson, son of a sharecropper and grandson of a slave, who in 1947 became the first black player in Major League Baseball. Despite his reserved character, he fought against the segregation that prevailed in the United States, if not just by being able to gather black and white spectators in the same stadiums. Jazzman Count Basie paid tribute to him in 1949 with the title Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?.

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To sum up, baseball is a popular sport, carried by charismatic champions, some of which have a political dimension …

Yes, and I would add that this discipline permeates Americans’ everyday lives so much that they often associate a love, even an erotic dimension. Witness the astonishing dialogues reminiscent of baseball, which puncture the love scene, very chaste, of the film. Deadly weapon 2, by Richard Donner, in 1989. In the same direction, listen to this song from 1968, Love is like a baseball game, from the soul group The Intruders, which compares the attempt to seduce a pretty woman to a lost match.

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There was something for everyone: protopunk, folk, jazz and soul …

What inspired me to this conclusion: one can measure the sporting impact of a sport by the diversity of musical styles inspired by it.

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