Take us back to “Take Me Out”

Harry Caray's statue will always ask you to burst out in song (via Ron Cogswell).

Harry Caray’s statue will always ask you to burst out in song (via Ron Cogswell).

It’s time. Actually, it’s been well past time for years now.

Time for what? Time to end the performances of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretches of playoff—and most other—ballgames. It’s time to reinstate “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as the go-to song during this intermission.

Why? Because, to be blunt, more than enough time has passed since the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that led to the singing of “God Bless America” at ballgames in the first place.

Now, I realize there are many people—particularly in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania—for whom not enough time ever will pass. The memories of one of the worst days in United States history will remain with them forever, and for them I have nothing but sympathy.

Similar memories remain with all of us to varying degrees. Like everyone alive in the 1960s knows where they were when they heard John F. Kennedy was shot, everyone knows where they were when they heard about the World Trade Center attacks.

And as with FDR’s “Green Light” letter to Commissioner Landis early in 1942, the return of baseball in the late fall of 2001 provided a bit of normalcy during a difficult time, a statement that Americans’ lives would not long be put on hold because of the deplorable act of a group of terrorists, and “God Bless America” played a notable role in the demonstration of our nation’s resolve.

However, continuing to focus on the tragedy of that day during every postseason ballgame (as well as Opening Day and the All-Star Game) has gone from a respectful memorial occasion to a morbid, pandering one. By emphasizing Major League Baseball’s strong sense of patriotism principally when the most eyes are on the game, the league is forcing a solemn respectfulness that actually comes across as borderline disingenuous.

We all know what baseball means to this country; we don’t need it shone into our eyes during every game throughout October.

It would be more significant if we further proved America’s resilience by going back to the way things were, if we showed everyone the world over that we put our games in the proper perspective by celebrating the distractions they are. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” does that quite well.

The song’s lyrics describe a trip to the park with thousands of like-minded acquaintances, enjoying a snack, wanting to stay there as long as possible, and reveling in the bliss of a home-team victory. What more could any baseball fan hope for on a lovely summer day? A ballgame is supposed to be a light-hearted, joyful, fun experience, not a solemn appeal for divine guidance.

It does seem reasonable to use “God Bless America” (or “America The Beautiful”) on holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, etc.—and, of course, on Sept. 11. And if the stadiums in New York and D.C. play it with greater regularity, that’s understandable, too. The song’s connotations in those areas are different, more intense. (But if the Yankees, Mets and Nationals reduced its usage to the same degree as other teams, it would not be inappropriate.)

Overall as a nation, we need to move forward, never forgetting, but not dwelling with overmuch melancholy on the tragedy of that awful autumn day.

In a few short weeks, pitchers and catchers will be reporting for spring training. Baseballs will be popping into mitts, the crack of the bat will once again be heard, and the roar of the crowds soon will follow. It will be time to head back out to the ball game, root for our favorite team, and sing a little ditty about how much fun we’re having doing so.

If you bring the peanuts, I’ll bring the Cracker Jack.

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Comments

  1. Sparky 11 said...

    Good call….appropriate respect is paid with the national anthem….also, while we are at it, lets ban Sweet Caroline from all ballparks.

  2. Big in Japan said...

    It’s definitely time to get back to normalcy. I love this country, but I don’t like having two America-celebrating-anthems-per-game. Let’s get back to the Star-Spangled-Banner/Take-Me-Out-To-The-Ballgame combo that served us so well for generations.

  3. bucdaddy said...

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, the thing has now morphed from a 9/11 tribute into an all-purpose tribute to the troops, I think. And what kind of douchebag would be the first to drop a tribute to the troops?

    I don’t mind so much that they play it. If they played it, say, a half hour before the first pitch, so I could wait in the bar until it’s over and then cross the street to the ballpark, that would be OK.

    My other main complaint, though, is its jarring juxtapositioning in the seventh inning. For one, during any given half inning, many of the fans are in a restroom with their peckers in their hands. That’s a time to sing “God Bless America”? The ones who aren’t are a) in a food line, b) in a last-chance beer line, c) stuffing their faces with food, d) slurping a beer, or e) c and d (God bless, America, indeed).

    And THEN at the same time to ask people to shift gears from that solemn song to singing the jaunty and more or less nonsensical “Take Me Out” is, IMO, disrespectful at best to the point of “God Bless.”

    Someday, somebody will be brave enough to say “Enough!” but it will take courage. I have a feeling it’s now sort of like those stories about when some Soviet Communist Party boss would give a speech and everyone would stand and applaud and keep applauding and keep applauding because no one wanted to be the first to stop, and increase the chances of getting hauled out back and executed. Ironically, there are factions in our society that would likely accuse the first ballclub to say “Enough!” of being Communist.

  4. Eric Taylor said...

    I’ve probably felt this way longer than anyone (I was tired of it before the end of the 2001 World Series) so I obviously agree.

    The bigger issue is the ongoing crisis of people putting an “S” at the end of Cracker Jack whilst singing “Take Me Out”

  5. Jim said...

    What are you going to do with all the American Idol losers who won’t be invited to sing any longer?

    Another problem with the song is that it is a song that needs to be belted out (see Kate Smith) and most of the singers are wimping it, making it really sound terrible.  Besides it was our Congressional “leaders?” who made it the theme for 911.  Another great reason to drop it.

    Now if we could get rid of the rest of the useless noise (walk-up songs, dot races, etc) at the ball park.  Then we could hear the crowd and get into the game.  Sorry, I still go for the game, not to get my hearing destroyed by the noise.

  6. dennis Bedard said...

    I remember for a few years after 9/11, it seemed that every manager or player who was sitting for a post game interview wore an FDNY or NYPD cap.  That has pretty much come to an end.  The problem is that with each new terrorist attack, we will see incremental change.  I don’t like using national sporting events to express national sentiments.  Take Me Out is a song about baseball.  What next, the Pledge Of Allegiance when there is a call to the bullpen?

  7. Frank Jackson said...

    Glad to know I’m not the only one tired of it.  I’m also getting tired of seeing active duty troops in camouflage gear.  You’re not in combat, guys, so it’s perfectly acceptable to wear civvies when you go to the ballpark.

    Even worse is rolling out amputees and using them as poster boys for US foreign policy.

    And every time I see a flyover at an outdoor sports event, I wonder how much that is costing US taxpayers.

  8. Jim said...

    Frank, the fly overs are part of the recruiting budget (which could be cut as in 2013, I guess), but the Air Force says the business at the recruiting offices goes up exponentially when they have a fly over.  Good for them and since they are not done too often, gives us a good feeling of our world power and safety. 

    Beats the hell out of those lame Army ads on MLB Network.

  9. The Humber Games said...

    Oh man I couldn’t agree more.  Though I think it would be more fun if the whole crowd stood up and sang

    Show me the way to go home
    I’m tired and I want to go to bed
    I had a little drink about an hour ago
    And it’s gone right to my head
    Everywhere I roam
    Over land or sea or foam
    You can always hear me singing this song
    Show me the way to go home.

  10. Dave said...

    It took a lot of courage for you to write this article.  What has surprised me is that just about every person who has commented is in agreement.  I am also in that majority.

    I have made the comment about the fly-overs countless times.  Let’s separate baseball from patriotism.  It’s a game for ALL people to enjoy regardless of your nationalist feelings or political affiliations.  There are lots of other opportunities for people to show national pride or points of view (see also Fox News or MSNBC).  I know people will cringe, but this is baseball sanctioned propaganda.

    God Bless America – everyone else can fend for themselves.  God only cares about us’ens.

  11. dennis Bedard said...

    That sports and patriotism intersect should not surprise anyone.  They both involve an irrational emotion:  attachment to myths, symbols, and misplaced loyalties all combined with some belief that it all has relevance to one’s life.  Burn a Red Sox pennant outside of Fenway Park and then do the same thing with an American flag outside an Army base and you will get the same visceral reaction.

  12. DodgersKings323 said...

    Think the Dodgers got rid of it last year, i was the only one celebrating……..

    I always found it a bit ironic cause the song seems sort of Un-American to me

  13. Josh said...

    I appreciate this article and sentiment behind it. I have never seen the need for ‘God Bless America’ to be played. It’s not the national anthem and has no more hold on me than does ‘Home on the Range’  matter to anyone outside of Kansas. I respect the flag, not some shirt that happens to be red, white,  and blue.

  14. Grandpa Boog said...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki06oAW42z0

    Robert Merrill used to put a lump in my throat when he sang the National Anthem. Does anyone remember Robert Merrill? He was a Metropolitan Opera baritone (1917-2004).

    Although I date way back to Kate Smith’s era and highly respect her, I agree that MLB teams need to return to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” for the seventh inning stretch song. Also, some of the pop singers and country singers who sing the National Anthem do a dis-service to that grand old song. Granted, the National Anthem is not an easy song to sing, to begin with, but it gets butchered all too often.

    —Stay tuned.

  15. Isaac said...

    Please…make it stop. I tolerated it as the anthem of the Flyers Stanley Cup drive, but I really don’t like that song. As a near-mandatory observance, it’s even worse.

  16. Marc Schneider said...

    I agree with the sentiments expressed by most here.  Hearing the Star Spangled Banner can be an emotional experience under the right circumstances.  But hearing “God Bless America” during every seventh inning stretch becomes tiresome (although I think a lot of teams do not play it at every game). I have no problem with patriotic songs in the right context, but I don’t like having them forced on me, especially when it’s used to buttress support for policies with which many disagree. And it’s more than just the songs; it’s the entire panoply of faux patriotism that the leagues bring to bear to create some connection between their sports and being American that makes me uncomfortable.

    Aside from patriotism, the entire experience of attending a baseball game has become an assault on one’s senses.  It’s as if the teams assume that few people come to watch the game but need music and special cheers to make it a worthwhile experience.  You have to have a special song for each player; why can’t they just get in the box and play the damn game?  At Nationals’ games, you have the Presidents’ Race (which I like generally but becomes rather schlocky), kiss cam (where they focus on couples and expect them to kiss-I’m waiting for the cameral to focus on a gay couple), contests to pick the most enthusiastic fan, and on and on.

  17. Todd said...

    To be honest, I had a hard time tolerating it all the way back in 2001. Say what you will about the Star-Spangled Banner *musically*, but *lyrically* it’s a superb song for capturing some key aspects of our nation’s history. It represents ideas on which the nation was formed and built, and which we still consider to be of great import today.

    God Bless America, by oontrast, is nothing but schlock. The only thing that might differentiate it from an identical song about pretty much any other country on the planet is the vague geographical reference to mountains, praries, and oceans. I guess that rules out SOME places, but still… how does God Bless America in any way speak to the values of the United States? Or the culture? Or anything else that brings people together inside it? Short answer, it doesn’t.

    Please, please, please, let’s get rid of this useless song already.

  18. Todd said...

    One other thing- the Star Spangled Banner is about Americans making America great by virtue of their own intentions, their own actions, their own resolve, and their own vision. God Bless America is about… asking God to look over us and make sure we don’t screw up, I guess? What a lame message. I’ll take the Star Spangled Banner any time, thanks. Heck, Take Me Out to the Ballgame is far more inspirational.

  19. Clyde S said...

    I agree 100%.  I’ve thought for a few years that it’s long past time to just bring back “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and save “God Bless America” for special national holidays and 9/11.  By making the latter song ubiquitous, they’ve cheapened the sentiment.

  20. Michael Caragliano said...

    After thirteen years of Yankees and Mets games with the song, a whole generation of fans fifteen and under have no idea what it’s like to stand up mid-seventh and sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game, followed by Cotton Eye Joe or the Curly Shuffle. It’s too much of a non-sequitor to do a light-hearted song after something patriotic, and too many people now just leave their caps on and talk over Kate Smith anyway.

    In the Yankees case, I suspect patriotism was the initial sentiment but now is, at best, the third reason; whenever they go with the long version of God Bless America, I figure the YES network counts the money from an extra commercial and the coaching staff hopes the team gets an edge icing the visitor’s pitcher for the extra minute or two between innings.

    And here’s another tangent: why do so many feathers get ruffled on the rare occasions when another patriotic song is done before the game? I remember when Tony Bennett and Ray Charles did “America the Beautiful” before World Series games (Charles did it in 2001, and I think Bennett did it in ‘98). You would’ve thought they’d just set the flag on fire on the pitcher’s mound to hear some people. It’s still a patriotic song; the better song of the two, in my opinion- it’s easier to sing and it describes the beauty and potential of a wide-open continent versus an otherwise obscure battle in a forgotten war.

  21. Carl said...

    Greg,

    I am in the minority not wanting a change back.  What if in 1923, 12 years after Howard Taft stood up someone had decided they wanted the “traditional” non-7th inning stretch w/o songs?

    I actually like the singing of what many feel should be the national anthem, and like the reminder that no much how much I hate the cursed Red Sox and their entire hometown, we are all Americans.

    In addition, many stadiums, including Fenway, LA, Wrigley, Citifield, Fenway, and Tampa play both God Bless America and a second song either Take Me Out to the Ball Game, or another local song.

  22. Greg Simons said...

    Thanks for all the commentary, folks, agreeing and disagreeing.  I’m thankful for this forum in which we can share our ideas about baseball and related subjects.

    And I’m glad I didn’t say “Cracker Jacks,” or things could have gotten real ugly, real fast.

  23. Brian said...

    Thanks for your article.  I’ve been saying this for about 10 years now.  I just turn off the TV during the 7th inning stretch now when I’m watching a playoff game.

    Someone send this to Bud Selig

  24. anthonyjoseph said...

    Why not just cut out the music altogether?  Lets get back to the culture of baseball and the rituals of the past.  Stand up, stretch, and sit down when the game resumes.  Why all the noise?  Also, get rid of the blaring rock and pop music and bring back the organ the way it’s supposed to be.  When I go to a game, I want to hear the natural sounds of the park, especially at batting practice.  And while I’m at it, let’s bring back the marching band at half-time in the NFL… especially the super bowl.  Now that’s the culture of football!

  25. bucdaddy said...

    Maybe they just change the lyrics to “God bless North America …” since Canada too has mountains and prairies and oceans white with foam …

  26. Carl said...

    bucdaddy

    No in Toronto they don’t play that.  They play “OK Blue Jays” with stretching exercises done lead by the equivalent of cheerleaders, and then “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”

  27. Greg Simons said...

    Good question, bucdaddy.  We need to root for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs so we can find out what would happen then.

  28. Scot said...

    Star Spangled Banner = war poetry sung to a beer drinking tune.

    The reason one might advocate continuing to use it in baseball is the claim that the SSB was played before games during the years before it became the national anthem.

    God Bless America is actually a more appropriate song as the national anthem since it correctly identifies nationalism as a type of monotheistic religion.

    Personally I stand for neither. And when confronted, I explain that by not standing, my actions demonstrate independence and thus are more American than those who those who mimic the mindless droids of totalitarian nations like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. 

    Then I offer to buy the guy a beer.

  29. Paul said...

    I too agree that we remove GBA.  Whether I attend a movie, a concert, or a ballgame I am using that form of entertainment to escape the everyday realities of life.  Having played organized baseball as a youngster I feel a certain kinship, or a connection if you will, to those bygone days when I go to the ballpark.  There are other national holidays and events that already emboldened me and cause me to reflect on my patriotism.

  30. Eric Radford said...

    As much as I would love to hear TMOTTB again, this is a country known for its fads and its tendency to overreact to issues and then forget them as everyday life pushes them into the backgorund.

    Patriotism is alive and well when we sing GBA during the seventh inning stretch in October. It reminds all of us that stadiums were dark and shut down for a late summer week in 2001. Never forget

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