10/12/2003 4:00 PM ET
'03 anthem far different for Feliciano
Singer performs Star-Spangled Banner before Game 5
MIAMI -- For the first time since Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, singer Jose Feliciano sang the Star-Spangled Banner at a playoff game.
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
As a guest of the Marlins, the famed Puerto Rican-born singer sang a soulful rendition of the National Anthem.
The scene was quite different before Game 5 of the NLCS at Pro Player Stadium than what took place in 1968.
As a 23-year-old in 1968, the legendary blind performer created an uproar because his version was slow, long and jazzed up. Feliciano's new rendition radically differed from how the anthem was traditionally sung.
The Tigers were hosting the Cardinals that season, and the city of Detroit that year was in the news for civil rights issues.
"The reason I created a stir is I did it with feeling. I sang it with soul," Feliciano said to reporters Sunday. "To me, I thought, 'Jose, you have a great opportunity to express how you feel about America.' When I did it, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I was going to cause such a stir.
"It was soulful. It was a little bit Gospel. It was done in a way that has never been done before. Because of me, everybody now does the anthem in a way they want. Some not so good."
Afterwards, Feliciano said a television commentator noted the version was not well received.
"Do you know you created such a stir?" the singer was told after getting a huge hand for his version Sunday. "War veterans are throwing their shoes at their televisions. It was a real big deal for 1968. Don't forget, '68 was a very turbulent year. That was one of the things that happened. I'm glad I did it and I'm super glad that I'm doing it here again for the Marlins."
Feliciano was born in Puerto Rico, and his family settled in New York when he was five. Today, he makes his home in Connecticut.
An avid baseball fan, Feliciano is appreciative the Marlins called him to sing for Game 5.
"To me, it's a real honor to be invited by them to do the National Anthem," he said. "I always get nervous. It's like in baseball. I'm sure every player in the game today is nervous. It's like an artist or a musician, I'm very nervous about being here today. I hope I don't forget the words. I hope I do it right. And I hope I bring the Marlins luck."
Feliciano offered a message to Marlins rookie pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who struggled in a Game 4 loss to the Cubs.
"I want Dontrelle Willis not to let [Saturday's] game get him because he is only 21," the singer said.
Feliciano, whose "Feliz Navidad" has become a Christmas holiday tradition, prefers baseball over football.
"I'm sorry about football," he said. "I'm not really much into football, because in baseball ... people aren't really out to hurt you. In football, they are."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.