Sunday, October 23, 2011

World Series Sheet Music

When this year's World Series is over, the championship club will be celebrated with a seemingly endless array of products. You'll find official (and unofficial) caps, shirts, baseballs, DVDs, books, medallions, key rings, stuffed animals, photographs, felt pennants, etc. The list goes on and on (and on), but one thing you're not likely to come across is sheet music of a commemorative tune dedicated to the World Champs. But, this wasn't always the case.

Prior to the radio boom of the 1930s, the primary marketing tool of popular music was sheet music. Like the tune? Just buy the sheet music and you can play it at home.

The songwriters of the day covered a myriad of topics, including baseball, and songs that honored World Championship clubs were no exception. Just over a month after the Cubs topped the Tigers to capture the 1907 World Championship, Tomaz F. Deuther published "Cubs on Parade," a march two-step composed by one H.R. Hempel.

Following the Philadelphia Athletics' 1929 World Series victory over the Cubs, Pennant Music Company published "The Galloping A's" with music by Wallace LeGrande Henderson and words by Billy James.

And who could forget Al Moquin's "The Cardinals and Mister Hornsby" that commemorated the clubs' first World Championship?

The first sheet music to honor a modern World Series champion was the "Boston Americans March," published by the Cecilian Music Company of Hyde Park, Massachusetts, in 1903. While the club bested the National League's Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1903 Series, the first post-season matchup between the rival leagues, it was not until 1908 that Boston earned the "Red Sox" nickname.

The two-step was composed by 19-year-old John Ignatius Coveney, a freshman at New York's Fordham University who lettered in football, not baseball. A talented musician (he played the piano, cornet, violin, guitar and numerous other instruments), Coveney gained immortality a few years later by composing the "Fordham Ram," the official college song. (Listen to the "Fordham Ram.")

While the "Boston Americans March" is largely forgotten, the "Fordham Ram" has lived on for over a century. In 1931, some 20 years after Coveney's untimely death at the age of 26, the composer was honored by his classmates of 1906 at their 25th reunion. On June 13, a tablet in memory of Coveney was unveiled.

Photo courtesy of Scott Kwiatkowski, Fordham University

The bronze plaque, in many ways similar to those honoring baseball's greatest players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, can be seen today inside Fordham's Rose Hill Gym.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When Wall Street Occupied the Ball Park

With the "Occupy Wall Street" movement sweeping the country, it may surprise the reader that there was a time when the stock brokers of Wall Street (and those of State Street in Boston) occupied the ball park.

On May 26, 1904, the Boston Globe announced that "a baseball nine composed of members of the New York stock exchange has challenged a nine of the Boston stock exchange and the challenge has been accepted. The game is to be played on the American league grounds, Huntington av, Thursday, June 2, at 3:30."

The New Yorkers won the contest, 1-0, behind the stellar pitching of Gil Greenway, the former Yale pitcher who had purchased his seat on the New York Stock Exchange just months before. New York's lone run was tallied by none other than Bob Wrenn (seen below). Wrenn was the captain of Harvard's football team in the 1890s and was also the first left-hander to win the U.S. Open Singles Championships in tennis, capturing titles in 1893, '94, '96 and '97. He was President of the United States Tennis Association from 1912 to 1915 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1955.

The following year, the clubs met again, this time at Hilltop Park in New York City on May 13. A slugfest ensued, with New York emerging victorious, 14-8.

The Boston brokers finally won their first contest in 1906, when they topped New York, 11-4 at Boston's South End Grounds on May 19. According to the New York Times, "the attendance upon the floor of the Stock Exchange was greatly reduced by the pleasanter prospect of a baseball game with members of the Boston Stock Exchange, and those brokers who remained upon duty found ample time to wonder why."

No game was played in 1907, but on May 23, 1908 the brokers renewed their challenge at the Polo Grounds in New York City. The Boston brokers topped the NYSE 11-4 to knot the series at two games apiece. Stock broker and former major league pitcher Huyler Westervelt unpired the game.

Two photos from the event are found at the Library of Congress's web site. The first shows three members of the New York contingent that attended the game (left to right): Jay Carlisle, Clark Runyon (who had participated in some of the earlier contests) and Ira Richards Jr. (misidentified on the photograph as Ira Richardson). The date of the game was also erroneously noted on the photograph as "5/22/08."

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-00480

Just days after the game, Carlisle, Runyon, Richards and four others organized Carlisle, Mellick & Company, a new Stock Exchange house. Here's an advertisement from the New York Times published just a few weeks after the game:

The following action shot also comes from the New York vs. Boston Stock Exchange game of 1908:

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-00475

Catching is one W. Clark of the Boston Stock Exchange nine, and at bat is the New York Stock Exchange's Gil Greenway, Jr., a former pitcher at Yale.

These photos were taken just a few weeks after those taken as lantern slides for the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

The rival stock exchanges met just twice more before ultimately abandoning the series. On May 22, 1909, Boston defeated New York at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, 8-4. Three years later, on May 25, 1912, the final contest took place at the Westchester Country Club and resulted in a second-straight 8-4 victory for Boston. Boston thus took the six-game series, four games to two.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Woodrow Wilson's Opening Pitch

In October of 1917, less than half a year after the United States entered World War I, the White Sox faced the Giants in the World Series. Chicago topped New York in six games. The cover of the Giants' World Series program featured an image of President Woodrow Wilson, ball in hand, accompanied by the caption:


Here's an image of that World Series program:

Yes, that's President Wilson throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in Washington, D.C. … but not in 1917, as implied. Actually, as noted in The Washington Post of April 21, 1917, "Vice President Marshall took President Wilson's place in the Throw-out-League. With the President unable to be present on opening day, for the first time since he has been lead-off man for Uncle Sam, because of the pressure of state affairs, his understudy threw out the ball at 3 o'clock …." It is understandable that President Wilson was unavailable for the ceremonial pitch, as it was just two weeks since the country had declared war on Germany.

Accompanying the article was this image of the Vice President taking part in the honors on opening day at Griffith Stadium, April 20, 1917:

The photo upon which the 1917 program was based was actually taken exactly one year earlier. Here's an image of President Wilson at opening day of 1916 as reproduced in The Washington Post of April 21:

Note how the flag draped over the wall is identical to that seen in the World Series program cover, and the position (and hat) of his wife Edith (just to the left of Wilson) also match up well.. Additionally, here's the exact image used for the 1917 World Series program as found at the Library of Congress, with the caption "Opening game 1916":

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18475

The cover of the program is a classic … even if it was a year out of date.