Sunday, April 09, 2006:

The Roots Canal (guest blog): Baseball Buddy

Buddy Johnson -- Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?
Last night was a night that will go down in history. My own personal history, that is.

I've been going to the ball park my whole life. You could say I'm a fan, but not a fanatic. I like going to games in different cities when I'm traveling. Last night, I watched the Red Sox beat the Orioles at Camden Yards in a 2-1 thriller. I got great tickets from a scalper on the third-base side of home plate. One of my favorite moments was watching Boston's exciting new leadoff hitter, Coco Crisp (can you believe his name!) get on base. He stole second on the first pitch, and on the very next pitch he tried to steal third -- but forgot to wait for the pitcher to actually throw the ball home. He was an easy out at third.

In any event, one of the great joys -- and frustrations -- of a ball game is trying to catch a foul ball. In all the years I've been going to ball games, I've never snagged a foul. I've hardly ever come close. But last night my streak of frustration came to an end. It wasn't the kind of dramatic bare-handed catch I've always dreamed about. In fact, it wasn't a catch at all. It was a bitter cold night and by the seventh inning there were lots of empty seats. Curt Schilling threw a fastball to Jay Gibbons who fouled it into my section. The ball came down in an empty row, and I scrambled over my daughter in time to get my hand on it just before the guy in the row behind me. It wasn't pretty, but who cares. A foul ball is a foul ball.

By the way, did I mention that Camden Yards has Guinness on tap? Great ball park.

In honor of this historic achievement, I'm posting a song by the great Buddy Johnson. Buddy was a big-band leader who made the switch to small-combo jump blues after the economics of jazz were changed by World War II. Etta Jones, who started her career with Buddy's band, recently put out a Buddy Johnson tribute album called My Buddy which is pretty good. eMusic subscribers can download it here, along with the Buddy Johnson originals here.

My favorite Buddy Johnson song is Fine Brown Frame, particularly the Lou Rawls version with Dianne Reeves. But Buddy's original is great, too, along with Nellie Lutcher's 1948 hit. I'll post that song another time. Today is a day to think about baseball.

Oh, yeah. Some country singer I've never heard of sang the national anthem a cappella. When he reached the words "Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the entire ballpark joined in on the word "Oh." Must be some kind of Baltimore tradition. But the Red Sox fans struck back in the 7th (there were at least as many Red Sox as Orioles fans) during Take Me Out to the Ball Game, when they outsang the home fans by singing "Root, root, root for the RED SOX."

Update: It turns out that Natalie Cole covered this song for the soundtrack of Ken Burns's documentary, Baseball: An American Epic. I don't have the record (or the song), but you can hear a short clip on allmusic.

Update 2: It also turns out that Coco Crisp broke his knuckle on that ridiculous attempt to steal third, and he'll be out for at least 10 days.

[Buddy Johnson -- Walk 'em: Decca Sessions]
Believe it or not, I saw you on TV here in Florida watching the Game on my 50" TV. They showed you getting the ball!!! I am a Red Sox Fan and over the air it sounded like the game was in Fenway Park. However Camden Yards looks very nice indeed. I have the Baseball Package on my Cable TV, even though Devil Rays play 10 miles south of here. Sunday game is being broadcast as well Glad you had a great time with your daughter. My 10 yo son and I catch 5-6 games a year. Season hockey tix though!!!!

Really? Did they show me dancing around with the ball like a maniac, too?

I like this track a lot.


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