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.

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