It’s a big day for baseball fans as the St. Louis Cardinals face the Boston Red Sox tonight for game six of the World Series in historic Fenway Park. It’s been an exciting series, and we would be remiss not to take this opportunity to highlight our historic baseball sheet music – particularly that which celebrates these two teams! The collections’ charming baseball sheet music is comprised of songs celebrating the sport, music commemorating specific achievements, selections honoring legendary players, and even instrumental pieces with baseball-related titles but having nothing to do with the actual game. From the earliest known published baseball song (“The Baseball Polka” from 1858) to the famous “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” of 1908, our sheet music runs the gamut from trivial compositions, to beautiful covers, to American classics.
Tonight we’re focused on two teams – and of course we have material relating to both! In 1911, the St. Louis Cardinals were managed by “The Duke of Tralee” Roger Bresnahan, and Alfred Sizemore dedicated his ragtime piano piece “The Climbers Rag” to “Roger Bresnahan and his ‘Wrecking Crew’ the St. Louis Cardinals.” The music features a lovely cover with individual pictures of Cardinals players. In 1937 George M. Cohan published “March of the Cardinals: Official March of the St. Louis National Baseball Club,” a song that The Milwaukee Journal covered on June 17, 1937 in a story called “The Cardinals Mix Up a Little Harmony.” Apparently Cardinals players really took to Cohan’s then-new song and began singing together before the games (look up the article online and you’ll find a photograph of Pepper Martin playing the guitar, Frenchy Bordagary playing the fiddle, and Bob Weiland blowing in a jug while reading Cohan’s sheet music!).
And then there’s the Boston Red Sox, whose sheet music abounds. “The Red Sox Speed Boys” celebrates the 1912 World Series championship team, “Oh, You Red Sox” expresses the eager anticipation of going to Fenway to cheer on the Sox, and “Hoop, Hoop, Hooper Up for Red Sox” roots for the legendary Harry Hooper to lead the rest of the 1915 team to victory. “We’re Going to See a Base Ball Game!,” published in Boston in 1911, is dedicated to John Irving Taylor, who owned the Red Sox from 1904-1911. The cover features a photograph by Dan Quinn of the Boston Globe showing thousands of fans with white straw hats sitting in the bleachers at Huntington Avenue Grounds, the home field of the Red Sox before Fenway Park was opened the following year in 1912. The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog also features dozens of Red Sox photographs, from a 1914 photograph of Fenway Park, to historic Red Sox baseball card portraits, to photographs of Boston fans (or “rooters” as they were called!) eager to cheer on their home team.
And of course, a discussion of our baseball sheet music would be incomplete without reference to the Bambino, Babe Ruth. “Batterin’ Babe ‘Look at Him Now,’” originally published in 1919 just before Ruth’s sale to the Yankees, features a photograph of the Sultan of Swat on the cover in his Red Sox uniform. In 1927, however, a reprint was published by St. Mary’s Industrial School (a reform school for boys that Ruth himself attended) as a fundraiser to rebuild the school after a devastating fire (and even though Ruth was then playing for Boston’s biggest rival, the 1927 sheet music still features a photograph of Ruth in his Red Sox uniform). Ruth pitched at an exhibition ballgame to raise funds for the school and its music program, and subsequently convinced the Yankees to let the St. Mary’s boys’ band travel with the team to perform and raise more funds. One of the songs the boys routinely performed was indeed “Batterin’ Babe ‘Look at Him Now.’”
This is all to say that every piece of sheet music has its own story to tell, so take some time to explore our online collections and then make like those Cardinals in the 1930s and get fired up for the big game tonight through song – no matter which team you’re rooting for!