Music is an important part of any baseball game, from the playing of the national anthem before the first pitch to the array of songs that accompany the important moments at each game. Think about it - could you imagine a rally without the bugled “Charge” call, a pump-up-the-crowd moment without “YMCA” by The Village People or the individualized snippets that accompany each hitter to the batter’s box and each pitcher to the mound?
Sometimes, it seems, the melodies fade into the landscape creating white noise that’s there but unheard. But take away a familiar tune at the usual juncture of a game and something just seems wrong.
Here in Charm City, for instance, a seventh-inning stretch without John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” would seem a little less, well, fun. While I’m usually a traditionalist - read: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” - those fiddle chords from the bespectacled crossover artist, whose feel-good, up-tempo anthem went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts back in 1974, just bring back a pleasant ballpark memory.
So how did “Country Boy” become synonymous with the seventh inning in Baltimore? Back in 1975, then-general manger Frank Cashen wanted a catchy, contemporary tune to engage the crowd at Memorial Stadium. Shortstop Mark Belanger suggested “Country Boy,” and a tradition was born. Mind you, there have been some attempts to tinker with that success, but to this day, “Country Boy” is played - now in tandem with “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” after the top of the seventh. Denver even appeared at Memorial Stadium during the 1983 World Series to reprise the hit to an adoring black-and-orange-clad public
The notion of trying to keep up with the times means constant change for the folks responsible for keeping music blaring from ballpark speakers. If something’s hot, you expect to hear it, whether it’s 1994’s “Macarena” by Los Del Rio, “Mambo #5” by Lou Bega in 1999 or Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” this summer.
Back in 1984, as this photo from the Orioles archives can attest, battling paranormal spirits was all the rage. Even if you didn’t pack a movie theater to see “Ghostbusters” - and most of Baltimore did, including yours truly at the Westview Cinemas in Catonsville - you knew the film’s title track by Ray Parker Jr., and “Who you gonna call” instantly became part of popular culture.
Between innings on 33rd Street, ballgirls and The Oriole Bird did their best takeoff on Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and company between innings (even if a close inspection of the blurry background crowd doesn’t seem to show any of the faithful flock mimicking the dance moves). Yes, they’re performing in front of the third base dugout, which housed the home team in its previous perch.
“Something Magic Happens,” “Orioles Magic” - the club has benefoted from some memorable music in its storied history. What’s your favorite O’s tune or your best musical memory from Memorial Stadium or Camden Yards?
Photos used in the Flashback feature come from the Orioles’ photo archives. From time to time this season, we’ll take a look back at interesting people, places and events in Baltimore baseball history through the camera lenses that captured them and lend a historical perspective to what’s shown.