The songs -- and sport -- of summer resonate
Rock-and-roll and baseball long have gone perfectly together
A visit to Fenway Park last month reminded me that Sherm Feller is gone. His deep, monotone and dispassionate delivery had been missing for years, silenced by his passing in 1994. Infrequent visits have been slow to alter my first images of Fenway. I cling to my first impression of it and to Feller's distinctive work on the public address system.
I heard him for the first time in September 1974; I don't recall him before that. Shortly thereafter, I learned Feller wrote music and sang. It turned out that I had become familiar with his work in a different arena 16 years earlier, long before I heard his classic introductions of Yaz, Bernie, El Tiante and the rest. It was the Summer of 1958 on WMGM in New York that someone, probably Peter Tripp -- "The curly-haired kid in the third row" -- played a 45 on the Hi-Lo label, "Summertime, Summertime," by the Jamies.
Feller co-wrote it and sang in the recording that reached No. 26 on the Billboard charts. "It's summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime. Summertime, summertime, sum, sum summertime." They don't write 'em that way no mo'.
No connection between baseball and the single of those one-hit wonders existed then. And the link isn't much stronger now. But Bob Costas and I, two men of a certain age, long ago recognized a link between the game and the golden age of rock and roll. We still revel in it.
If you could "Shoo, doop-en-dooby doo" or "Sh-bop, sh-bop," chances are you also could recite the full name of the late Indians pitcher Cal McLish, as well as the disclaimer spoken on every baseball telecast in those days: "... without the express consent of the Commissioner." Those who couldn't get enough of "Come Go With Me" (Del Vikings, 1957) knew from Gino Cimoli, Pumpsie Green and Tex Clevenger.
To us, the game and the genre went steady. And summer was a special time for both.
Those were the early stages of the information age and the earliest pursuits of trivial information. We knew the flip sides of hit 45's and that Charlie Maxwell was a Sunday Kind of Player. We knew Lew Krausse was a three-hit wonder. Some of us collected rock-and-roll cards as avidly as we did baseball cards. I'll give you two Al Smiths and an Al Cicotte for an Al Hibbler.
The connection of game and genre was reinforced from time to time. The Impalas "ran all the way home," following a stage basepath on Dick Clark's Saturday night show from the Little Theater in Times Square in April 1959. Very cool. And an early verse of "School Is Out" by Gary U.S. Bonds began with, "I can root for the Yankees from the bleachers." I could, too, and I did.
My two greatest passions were connected. In summer they were celebrated.
Once I learned of Feller's connection to rock and roll, I made it my business to play my 45 of "Summertime, Summertime" on the first day of summer each year, even though it was not any sort of anniversary. The record didn't chart until August 1958. Years later, I recorded an open reel tape of what I considered summer/baseball songs, beginning with the Jamies' and Impalas' hits and "School is Out." They were followed by recordings of "I Love Mickey," by Teresa Brewer, "Let's Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn" by Phil Foster, "Van Lingle Mungo" by Dave Frishberg and Sinatra's "There Used to be a Ballpark."
A self-burned compact disc including those and other recordings plays in my home each year on June 21. Harry Caray's "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" leads off on the disc. Terry Cashman's wonderful "Willie, Mickey and The Duke," 30 years old this year, bats cleanup, and "Gone, Gone, Gone" by the Everly Brothers bats fifth.
It's a pretty good lineup every day, but particularly good for the first day of summer.
A top 40 of real baseball songs follows:
1. Take Me Out To The Ballgame -- Harry Caray
2. Willie, Mickey and The Duke (Talkin' Baseball) -- Terry Cashman
3. (You Gotta Have) Heart -- Original Broadway Cast of "Damn Yankees"
4. Van Lingle Mungo -- Dave Frishberg
5. Joltin' Joe DiMaggio -- Les Brown and his Orchestra (featuring Betty Bonney)
6. Stan the Man (St. Louis Stan) -- by Dennis Massa
7. I Love Mickey -- Teresa Brewer
8. Centerfield -- John Fogerty
9. Right Field -- Peter, Paul & Mary
10. There Used To Be A Ballpark -- Frank Sinatra
11. Let's Keep The Dodgers In Brooklyn -- Phil Foster
12. A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request -- Steve Goodman
13. Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? -- Count Basie and his Orchestra (Featuring Taps Miller)
14. Meet The Mets -- The Glenn Osser Orchestra and Chorus
15. (I Used To Be A) Brooklyn Dodger -- Dion
16. It's A Beautiful Day For A Ballgame -- The Harry Simeone Songsters
17. And the Red Sox Are Winning -- Earth Opera
18. Play-by-Play (I Saw It On The Radio) -- Terry Cashman
19. Night Game -- Paul Simon
20. Lazy Mary -- Lou Monte (at Citi Field)
21. We'll Remember Rusty -- Terry Cashman
22. Shoeless Joe From Hannibal Mo. -- Original Broadway Cast of "Damn Yankees"
23. Dodger Blue -- Dave Frisberg
24. Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song) -- The Treniers
25. (Love Is Like A) Baseball Game -- The Intruders
26. The Curly Shuffle -- Jump 'N The Saddle (at Shea Stadium)
27. D-o-d-g-e-r-s Song (Oh, Really? No O'Malley) -- Danny Kaye
28. Sweet Caroline -- Neil Diamond (at Fenway Park)
29. Thank God I'm A Country Boy -- John Denver (at Oriole Park)
30. Theme From New York, New York -- Frank Sinatra (following Yankees home games)
31. Loco Baseball -- Eddie Lawrence
32. Opening Day -- Terry Cashman
33. Triple-A Blues -- Steve Vozzolo and The Rookies
34. The Lou Piniella Polka (Ya Ya Ya) -- Babbo Fossatti & The Physt River Troubadours
35. Marilyn & Joe -- Kinky Freidman
36. Curse of the Billy Goat -- Chuck Brodsky
37. Baseball -- Michael Franks
38 The Ballad of Herb Score -- Terry Cashman
39. Baseball Boogie -- Ruth Brown
40. Cotton-Eye Joe -- The Rednex (too loud at Yankee Stadium)
And now, some recordings that would connect with the game if they were covered by the men we suggest here.
Dylan's "My Back Pages" by George Steinbrenner
Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" by Barry Bonds
The Dovells' "You Can't Sit Down" by Cal Ripken
Tony Orlando's "Halfway to Paradise" (So near, yet so far away by Armando Galarraga
The Chantels' "Gone" by Jose Bautista
Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light" by Bill Loes
The Jive Five's "I'm a Happy Man" by Bert Blyleven
Jay and the Techniques' "Keep the Ball Rollin'" by Bill Buckner
Brook Benton's "Hit Record" by Ichiro
Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me" by Curt Flood
The Beatles' "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" by the Elias Sports Bureau
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.