Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack / I don’t care if I ever get back…
There’s plenty of downtime at every Major League Baseball game. In fact, the sport has breaks built into each half-inning, not to mention the breaks in between every pitch thrown and the seventh-inning stretch, when fans limber up and sing the classic “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Baseball was invented in the 19th century, when things moved slower and people didn’t mind the pauses.
To compensate for so many breaks, modern baseball stadiums go heavy on sound effects, mid-inning promotions, stunts, mascots, and a variety of other distractions. One of the most enduring traditions involves popular songs fans sing at certain moments of the game.
Some are rallying cries that have come to signify a team’s culture as a whole; others provide comic relief or a way to assert dominance at the close of a sweet victory. Here are five signature songs fans of MLB teams love to sing at their respective stadiums.
1. Dodger Stadium: “I Love L.A.“
Nothing says “the 1980s are alive” quite like Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.,” which first appeared in 1983 on the album Trouble in Paradise (surely available on 8-track at the time). When Dodgers fans hear the tune’s strains, it’s time to get fired up in the stands, to celebrate a win, or to simply check out some famous people in attendance on the Dodger Stadium Jumbotron. It’s pop bubble gum music at its best, which makes it the ideal soundtrack for a lazy summer’s day at Chavez Ravine.
With the recent success of the Dodgers franchise, a fan might hope for a more menacing battle cry to lead the Dodgers on a late-game charge, but “I Love L.A.” is the song of choice for now. Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, et al, will provide fireworks on their own.
2. Comerica Park: “Don’t Stop Believing”
Armed with arguably the game’s best pitcher (Justin Verlander) and best hitter (Miguel Cabrera), the Detroit Tigers give their fans plenty to cheer about at Comerica Park on a nightly basis. In a less-than-stellar American League Central, the Tigers have a shot at delivering another division title and trying their luck in the playoffs. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is a tune you will hear behind many of the Tigers rallies.
At the words “born and raised in South Detroit,” the Comerica Park faithful let the world know where they stand. It’s one of those happy instances where a classic song references both the city and its hopes of another World Series title — not to mention the belief in a comeback for Detroit as a whole.
3. Yankees Stadium “YMCA” (Honorary mention: “New York, New York”)
In the land of Broadway extravanganzas and celebrity sightings by the second, you can’t blame New York’s Yankee Stadium grounds crew for wanting to show off their dance moves mid-game. They get their chance when the Village People’s “YMCA” blares over the loudspeakers before the bottom of the sixth inning. Part tourist spectacle, part crowd-pleaser, and part fan dance-off, the members of the grounds crew drop their equipment and perform to the disco classic on a nightly basis.
According to legend, the tradition started in 1996, when the grounds crew gave “YMCA” a whirl during one rain delay. The crowd demanded they keep the show going, and the owners obliged. A second Yankee Stadium song tradition worth mentioning is the Frank Sinatra version of “New York, New York” played after every win. Does any song represent New York swagger more than this Ol’ Blue Eyes classic?
4. Chicago Cubs: “Take Me Out the Ballgame”
It’s true that you’ll hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at every MLB stadium during the seventh-inning stretch. However, no city or team honors the tradition of this classic like the Chicago Cubs do at Wrigley Field every game. The late, great Cubs announcer Harry Caray used to lead the crowd in a spirited rendition during the stretch, but his death in 1998 has passed the duties to random celebrities and other public figures.
A guest singer now leads the Wrigley Field crowd from the announcer’s box, no matter how bad his or her vocal abilities may be. It’s terrific fun at a place celebrating 100 years of professional baseball in 2014. Here’s to Wrigley at 100, in loving memory of Caray.
5. Fenway Park: “Sweet Caroline”
Perhaps no team has a song as embedded in its DNA like the Red Sox do with “Sweet Caroline.” Longtime fan Neil Diamond will occasionally show up to sing the song himself, but otherwise, fans belt out the tune karaoke-style before the start of the eighth inning of every game. It’s part celebration, part nostalgia, and part rallying cry for the team to make a last-minute surge, depending on the score and game situation.
Red Sox fans not only sing the lyrics of “Sweet Caroline” — in addition, they belt out the musical break (a horn section in the actual song) at the end of the chorus’s opening and third line. As with any stadium anthem sung after a long game, it’s about the fun and spirit of participation rather than pure musical quality. Indeed, Mr. Diamond, “Good times never seemed so good.”