If we’re going to talk about jazz and baseball, as we always are at this time of year, we have to start by listening to jazz pianist and songwriter Dave Frishberg’s “Van Lingle Mungo.”
Mungo, a pitcher who played with the Dodgers and, later, the New York Giants, is probably more famous because of that Frishberg tune than because of his work on the field. (Frishberg, on the other hand, is probably more famous for “Peel me a Grape.”)
The Frishberg lyrics are made up entirely of ball players’ names. And that prompted the notion of creating a fantasy jazz baseball team, made up of jazz musicians (extant or otherwise) who created baseball songs. Let's call them The Swingers, and give them a taut roster of only nine players, presented here in their batting order.
1. Les Brown with “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio” is our leadoff batter.
2. Vince Guaraldi with the “Charlie Brown Baseball Theme,” because Guaraldi is nothing but consistent when it comes to being a “table setter.”
3. Miles Davis and John Coltrane with “Two Bass Hit,” and some very speedy base running potential.
4. Count Basie is our cleanup man, bound to clear the bases with “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball.”
5. Dave Frishberg with “Van Lingle Mungo,” also in the heart of the order.
5. Dr. John’s version of “Take me Out to the Ball Game,” just in case Frishberg is outpitched.
6. The Treniers with “Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)” can frequently be counted on to drive one in.
7. Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly’s version of “Take me Out to the Ball Game,” because, well, it’s Sinatra and Kelly. (Jazzy. Ish. But click through to watch the dancing!)
8. Mabel Scott with “Baseball Boogie,” because we think she “knows the game” well enough to be in this part of the Swingers’ lineup.
9. Teresa Brewer, admittedly a bit like some pitchers in the American League during interleague play when they have to bat, with this one about Mickey Mantle: “I Love Mickey.” (Possibly a swing and a miss. But it has a certain charm.)
Where have all the jazz and baseball nicknames gone?
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