It must be a testimony to what a cyber hipster I’ve become that I’m willing – to say nothing of able – to send readers to a You Tube site to listen to my favorite baseball song of all time.
What prompts this meandering is the arrival of the Fourth of July Weekend, which typically conjures up images of major league ballparks – OK, Shea and old Yankee Stadium – for me, just as I suspect it does for other fans and their respective teams.
And so I gleefully suggest Googling “There Used to Be a Ballpark,” the classic Frank Sinatra song that was written by Joe Raposo and recorded on Sinatra’s 1973 album, “Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back.”
(For me, any excuse to picture Charles De Simone’s incredible artwork is a good one.)
Younger fans will likely link it to the 2007 HBO Documentary “Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush,” but my memory of the song – and typically attendant video of the Dodgers and Ebbets Field – goes way back to the 1980s, though I can’t remember exactly where.
Naturally, I saw the HBO documentary three years ago, but the fun really started I think a year after that when I was doing research for the book on Yankee Stadium that we published in 2009. That’s when I came across this version of the song, not actually sung by The Chairman of the Board, but nicely done nonetheless, and featuring cool video of the Yankees from across the generations and the Stadium as well.
Now, I don’t usually recommend reprints when the original is available, but in this case it’s probably warranted. You can also find versions of Sinatra singing it as well, but at least in the one I found the video portion wasn’t as well done. And wouldn’t you know it, on Frank’s version the clips are of my Beloved Metsies and that once resplendent – to me as a kid, anyway – but ultimately grimy Shea, in a You Tube piece with a bit more of a homemade quality.
I am sure my initial exposure to it was with Ebbets Field video, and the link to the loss of the Dodgers due to the malfeasance of Walter O’Malley is probably the one that sticks for most fans.
As the anonymous sages at Wikipedia note: The song can also be seen as a metaphor for any kind of loss, as suggested by the next-to-last line in the song, which is not necessarily connected with baseball: “And the sky has got so cloudy, when it used to be so clear …”
So my advice is, find the version of your choice on Google, play it a couple of times and then shut off the dang computer for the rest of the holiday weekend. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who ends up at a major league game over the weekend, I promise you that you won’t be able to shake the images of those long-since-demolished ballparks – or the mystical lyrics – out of your head.
Even if you’re sitting at something called U.S. Cellular Field.