We have several serious baseball fans here in the Music Division. At least several members of our team root for the current hometown Washington Nationals (“N-A-T-S, Nats, Nats, Nats, woo!”), the neighboring Baltimore Orioles (“Let’s Go, O’s!”), and the handful of New England transplants are ardent Boston Red Sox fans. With all this baseball energy roaming the stacks, it is no surprise that baseball sheet music is something we enjoy sharing with visitors and researchers. Tonight, baseball fandom turns its attention to the 119th edition of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) World Series, featuring the exciting and even unexpected matchup of the underdog Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers (did you know that the Rangers are a descendant of a former Washington Senators franchise?).
While our baseball fans are eagerly anticipating the potential 7 games of World Series baseball (the pitch clock rule change has really spiced things up), we are even more excited about the launch of a new research guide: “Baseball Music and Songs at the Library of Congress,” written by Susan Clermont and edited by Paul Allen Sommerfeld. This new research guide provides a comprehensive introduction to the baseball music available in the Music Division’s collections, representing the evolution of the game since the 1850s. Enclosed in the research guide is a new annotated bibliography that inventories the 1,000+ baseball songs that are found in the Music Division, a chronological song index, and a history of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”
This collection is special not just for its charming artwork depicting different eras in American popular culture, but also for the stories represented in its titles, covers, lyrics and tunes. Here are just a couple:
- Jackie Robinson’s important role in desegregating MLB is recounted and honored in several songs, including Woodrow Buddy Johnson’s “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?” (1949), which was covered by County Basie’s Orchestra. The Library of Congress holds numerous treasures that document Jackie Robinson’s life and career.
- “Batterin’ Babe: Look at Him Now,” which features an action shot of Babe Ruth (in a Red Sox uniform, thank you) on the cover, was originally published as a fundraiser for St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore, which the “Great Bambino” attended as a child.
- The Music Division’s outstanding collection manager Thomas Barrick, who is an esteemed musician in addition to being a member of our team, wrote “The Nationals Swing!,” which won a contest run by the Washington Nationals to establish a new team song when baseball returned to Washington, DC in 2005.
Over the years, the Library as a whole and Music Division have presented several baseball-themed exhibits. Most recently in 2018-2019, the Library presented “Baseball Americana,” an exhibit that documented the history of the sport in American culture. The Music Division presented “Baseball’s Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game” in 2017. For a comprehensive guide to baseball in the Library’s collections, visit “Baseball Resources in the Library of Congress” by colleague Peter Armenti, Reference Specialist, Researcher and Reference Services.
We invite you to explore the research guide and to comment with your favorite team, favorite baseball song in the collection, or who you are rooting for in the 2023 World Series.