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Play Ball (and Tunes): Sheet Music from the Game’s Early Days

From celebrating championships to begging teams to stay, baseball music has a lot more than Take Me Out to the Ball Game

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Not that they’re bragging or anything, but the cover of the Red Stockings’ 1869 team song did say “To the Ladies of Cincinnati.” All images courtesy of the Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music1790-1980s, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

If you thought that today’s professional baseball league began in New York, you wouldn’t be alone, but you’d be wrong. The first fully professional team, the Red Stockings, actually hailed from Cincinnati, Ohio. Though the game had been played around the country for years, the Cincinnati team was the first to put all its players under contract in 1869. Under the leadership of captain Harry Wright, “the Red Stockings went 57-0 to record the only undefeated season in baseball history and drew an estimated 200,000 spectators,” according to the site, 1869 Cincinnati Reds.

The team lives on today as one of several vintage clubs using rules that date back to the Civil War, old-timey uniforms and knicknames like Ice Wagon, Slide Rule and One Sock. The tradition stretches across the country. Ohio alone fields a full 24 teams.

Whether you’re catching a modern day game, complete with gloves and high-stakes trades, or in the mood for something a little more nostalgic, these sheet music covers will help you celebrate the sport.

And listen to Arthur Collins performing “That Baseball Rag” in 1913, over at the Library of Congress’ Jukebox.

For the New York Base Ball Club, 1889.

The University of Illinois, Champaign created this 1907 song for its team.

The famous–and sensational–anthem, from 1908.

Oh! You, Babe Ruth. Says it all. 1920.

Make Philadelphia’s dreams come true and you too could get a song. 1928.

For the Athletics, from 1928.

Before March of the Penguins, it was all about the Cardinals. 1937.

A plea in song form in 1957, also the last year the Dodgers played in Brooklyn.

“Brooklyn fits the Dodgers like a glove,” goes the 1957 song:

Hank Aaron certainly earned his own tune. 1973.

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About Leah Binkovitz
Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is a Stone & Holt Weeks Fellow at Washington Post and NPR. Previously, she was a contributing writer and editorial intern for the At the Smithsonian section of Smithsonian magazine.

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