Location: Performing Arts Reading Room Gallery, James Madison Building, 101 Independence Blvd. S.E., Washington, D.C.
Date: 9 February–22 July 2017
Timings: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Long before the speakers at Wrigley Field blasted Steve Goodman’s “Go, Cubs, Go” after each triumphant Cubs game and long before players approached the batter’s box with their signature walk-up songs, music and baseball have been indelibly intertwined. A new exhibition at the Library of Congress will look at this winning combination, from before the Civil War to the present day.
The 45-item exhibition will feature baseball sheet music, drawn from the collections of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. The division holds one of the largest collections of baseball sheet music in the nation. Most of the works are original copyright deposits, which came to the Library through its copyright registration program. The songs chronicle baseball’s greatest moments and celebrate the pleasures of a day at the park, great players or hometown teams.
A video station will feature the performances of many great baseball songs, including “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit that Ball” by Count Basie; “Baseball Blues” by Claire Hammill; “Right Field” by Peter, Paul and Mary; “There Used to Be a Ballpark” by Frank Sinatra; “All the Way” by Eddie Vedder; “You Gotta Have Heart” by the 1969 New York Mets; “Life is a Ballgame” by Sister Wynona Carr; and “Talkin’ Baseball” by Terry Cashman.
A special segment will be devoted to the most popular baseball song of all, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Visitors will hear a mashup of about 20 different covers of the song. On display will be the original copyright deposit for the 1908 sheet music, submitted by Tin Pan Alley’s legendary composer Albert von Tilzer and lyricist Jack Norworth. The Library’s exhibit curators, Robin Rausch and Susan Clermont, found that “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has been featured in more than 1,200 movies, television shows and commercials, and has been recorded by more than 400 artists whose arrangements include classical, jazz, barbershop quartets and blues. It is considered the third most popular song in the United States today—after “Happy Birthday” and the national anthem.
The oldest original baseball song, “The Baseball Polka” from 1858, will be featured in a segment on baseball “Before the Pros.” Other themes covered in the exhibit include baseball as “The National Game”; baseball in Washington, D.C.; baseball as “The Game of Love”; and songs commemorating teams, players and fans.
The exhibition was created by Rausch and Clermont, specialists in the Library’s Music Division, and exhibition director Betsy Nahum-Miller, a senior exhibit director in the Library’s Interpretive Programs Office. An online version of the exhibition will be available on the opening date.