Political pundit George Will had it right: “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” As we herald the beginning of the 2023 season at the end of this month, and the march toward a World Series victory for the Los Angeles Dodgers, we offer this Soundie for all baseball and music fans.
In 1941, New York-based Minoco Productions released twenty-five Soundies, all highly commercial in nature, featuring a mixed vocal chorus on the soundtrack and a group of Minoco sideline regulars, including Ricardo Montalban, on screen. Most of the music was supplied by CBS maestro Ray Bloch and his band of top-notch studio musicians. The Soundies were credited in ways that indicated the type of music being performed: the Men and Maids of Melody (old-time favorites), the Nationaires and the Patrioteers (patriotic songs), the Collegians (collegiate tunes), the Dixiaires (melodies of the Old South), the Barnotes (drinking songs), and so forth.
Over the years there had been little indication of who recorded the vocal soundtracks. The production files finally pointed to the identity of these vocal artists. Throughout the early 1940s, CBS featured a mixed-vocal choir billed as the Ray Bloch Choir; the group is noted on radio logs as performing on a large number of programs. They are referenced in production memos and it makes perfect sense that Bloch would bring the choir with him to the recording studio, along with the orchestra.
“Take Me Out To the Ball Game” is a classic American pop song from 1908, with music by Albert Von Tilzer and words by Jack Norworth. The song is sung during the Seventh Inning Stretch at all Major League baseball games, and here it is presented with the seldom-heard verse, beginning with, “Nellie Kelly liked baseball games….”
The SOUNDIES producers were always budget conscious, and here they utilize a simple trolly and ballpark set, although the ending section- Nellie Kelly pitches to an invisible hitter – was filmed outside on the studio backlot. This is the only time I can think of exterior filming in a Minoco short. Also of interest are the bearded baseball players in the baseball stock footage. At the time, baseball was popular among religious groups such as the House of David, and here we apparently see a similar group, if not the actual House of David baseball team.
Granted, this Soundie is dated and quaint, but it works for me. Let yourself slip into a nostalgic mood and it will work for you, too.