February 9–December 31, 2017
Baseball and music have a basic affinity, as any fan knows. It is the only game, other than horseshoes, which punctuates every play with its own percussion section. Indeed, every pitch ends either with the satisfying pop of the catcher’s mitt or the tension-creating crack of the bat. That basic element of the game is surrounded by musical accompaniments: The chatter of the infielders, encouraging the pitcher and rattling the batter—a long recitative line, with sharp accents. “Hey, batta, batta, BAT-TUH. Hey batta!” The sing-song of the vendors in the stands: “Cold beer. Get-cher cold beer!” And, of course, the rhythmic applause when the home team has a rally going—or needs one. It should surprise no one that a game with such inherently strong elements of musicality should have attracted scores of people who wanted to set it to music.
—David Broder, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and loyal Cubs fan, 1991
This exhibition features baseball sheet music from the collections of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Most of these works are original copyright deposits and represent only a small fraction of the more than 400 published songs about baseball in the Music Division’s custody. They illustrate the remarkable congruence between the evolution of the sport from before the Civil War to the present, and the musical counterparts that have chronicled in song baseball’s greatest moments. Audiovisual presentations in the gallery have been created using song selections from the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. To all the fans who are here to view the music and listen to the songs—feel free to join in and sing: “. . . One, two, three strikes, you’re out, at the old ballgame!”