A few minutes ago, I just walked in the door from work, poured myself a cold one, and tuned in to the Cubs vs. Phillies game on ESPN. A pretty wild and crazy Tuesday night in the Brooks household going on right now. While I am excited to see the MLB give this particular game the nod for game of the night, I couldn’t help but feel a little bummed out to be missing the seventh-inning stretch due to the way ESPN covers baseball games. I understand it. I just prefer the home broadcast always.
Growing up in Chicago, our sports have been blessed with a very rich history, and each team has unique traditions specific to each franchise that helps forge the team’s identity in the city. Some traditions are as old as time and others began recently. To name a few that come to mind: the Bulls intro and starting lineup, Bear Down Chicago Bears after every scoring play, Chelsea Dagger after every Hawks goal, fireworks at a White Sox game, and the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field.
Every single one of these listed is specific to Chicago, and they are all awesome in their own right, but the one that is my absolute favorite has to be the seventh-inning stretch at the Friendly Confines where the fans sing Take Me Out To The Ball Game. Sure, several teams in the MLB regularly include this as a part of their game presentation. The song itself dates as far back as 1908 when it was written by Jack Norworth, but nothing holds a candle to how it’s embraced at Wrigley. It’s likely the only circumstance where you’ll ever catch me sing anything in public.
A Brief History on the Seventh-Inning Stretch
Contrary to what I originally thought, after doing a little research I discovered that the Stretch in Chicago actually began on the South Side because of White Sox owner/promotional genius Bill Veeck (famous for creating Disco Demolition Night, also responsible for Wrigley Field’s famous ivy). On the record, I am tipping my cap to the White Sox right now. At the time, Harry Caray was announcing games for the Sox. Every game during the seventh-inning stretch, he would sing along by himself in the booth. Allegedly, only a few people at Comiskey Park could hear him: his broadcasting partner in the booth, the producer, and a few fans near the press box. Veeck noticed it, loved it, and wanted to incorporate it during Sox games for the fans.
A few games into the 1976 White Sox season, Veeck tried to convince a reluctant Harry Caray into singing alongside the organ to the White Sox faithful. What ended up happening is Veeck snuck a PA microphone in the booth and played Harry over the loudspeakers without him knowing. It worked like a charm and the fans loved it. Veeck’s reasoning for doing it was simple. Harry’s voice was so bad that every person in the ballpark could sing at least as good or better than him. If you put a talented singer in the booth, it would shy people away and the fans would be far less likely to engage. Like I said, Bill Veeck was a genius. From that moment forward, a Chicago baseball tradition was born.
When Harry Caray moved across town to announce games on the North Side in 1982, there really wasn’t much to write home about for the Cubs. They were terrible. The Lovable Losers, if you will. The team was so bad that they hadn’t sniffed the postseason since 1945 when they lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. But Harry was announcing games for a national network in WGN, and the Cubs needed ratings. If anybody could sell this lousy team to a national market it would be him.
Harry singing the seventh-inning stretch was the highlight of most games in Wrigley. I often wonder how many times he did it hammered in the booth. After his death in 1998, the Cubs decided to continue the singing tradition in Wrigley by inviting guest conductors in the booth to lead Cubs fans in singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game. Some were great. Most were terrible, yet hilarious. And because of that, I’ve compiled a list of videos consisting of exactly that. Enjoy.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Harry Caray: The GOAT. How could you not love this guy? No matter what mood I am in, if you play me a recording of this very video it will put a smile on my face guaranteed. When they play a recording of him on the video board at Wrigley, toward the end of Harry’s rendition it gives me a chill guaranteed. RIP to the greatest who ever did it.
Eddie Vedder: Game 5 of the 2016 World Series… the only game the Cubs won during that series at Wrigley. Coincidence? I think not. Eddie is known for being a gigantic Cubs fan, so it’s only fitting that they won that night after he was in the booth. Fantastic singing voice as well.
“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks and Tom Morello: You put one of the greatest players to ever don a Cubs uniform in there, great. Add a founding member and guitarist of Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave in the mix, and it becomes fantastic. These two rule.
Donald Trump: This was right around the year 2000. I love the internet.
Bill Murray: Uhhhhhh. Still trying to figure out what the hell that was. Bill Murray gonna Bill Murray, I guess.
Will Ferrell and Mike Ditka II: This is pretty bad indeed but really funny at the same time. Will Ferrell singing while simultaneously doing his famous Harry Caray impression, and Mike Ditka getting a shot at redemption after his horrific first attempt.
Mike Ditka: Da Coach! What an absolute beauty of a human being. In the great words of Charles Barkley, that rendition was “turrible.”
Scottie Pippin: That time Scottie was too hammered to remember the words and had the crowd bail him out.
Jeff Gordon: “Alright, Chicago, it’s great to be at Wrigley Stadium. You guys ready to do this?” What an idiot. To this day, I legitimately have no idea if he didn’t know it’s called Wrigley Field or if it was just brilliant trolling. Sarcastic me is really rooting for him doing that on purpose. He got booed. HARD. He deserved all of it, and it was fantastic.
Ozzy Osbourne: This was so bad I had to put him in a category of his own. Woof.
Eddie Vedder: That time Eddie went too hard at a day game and got WAAAAAAAAASSSSSTTTTEEEEED. The guy couldn’t even stand up straight, and he still sang better than half of the videos listed above.
Ozzy at the Dentist: This has absolutely nothing to do with baseball whatsoever, but I can’t watch him attempting to sing at Wrigley without resurrecting this video as well. Ozzy is a national treasure and must be protected. Remember kids, drugs are bad m’kay.
Follow me on Twitter at @Freddievedder19 for more Cubs takes.
Featured Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images