The National Game September 08 2010, 0 Comments

The National Game John Phillip Sousa - 1925 Contributed by Jack Kopstein With its popular reputation and good wages, the Sousa Band was able to recruit some of the best musicians around. For 39 years, this large group toured the country by train. A Sousa Band tour would last for many months, often with several performances each day and only a few days off for travel between cities. The band traveled to every corner of the United States and did several European tours and one world tour. Together they traveled more than 1 million miles, and they still managed to find the time for other fun. The Sousa Band had its own baseball team, and Sousa was often the pitcher. They played against local baseball teams and those of rival bands. Sousa composed the piece featured here, "The National Game." Sousa and his Baseball Team Music and baseball have played an integral role in the life and culture of America for nearly two and a quarter centuries, but it was not until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when the two forms of popular entertainment became fully entwined as the country’s greatest past times. One of the earliest references to baseball in the United States can be found in a 1791, Pittsfield, Massachusetts ordinance banning the playing of the game within eighty yards of the town meeting house. The earliest music composition dedicated to the sport is J. R. Blogdett’s 1858 song, “The Base Ball Polka.” During the Civil War, it was not uncommon for soldiers from different parts of the country to come together to play games of baseball; this eventually lead to a more unified version of the game and its rules across the country. In 1869, the National Association of Base Ball Players permitted professional play. In 1876, the National Baseball League was formalized, and in 1901, the American Baseball League was created just two years before the two leagues played their first World Series. While baseball quickly evolved into a highly professional sport, the rivalries between followers of both professional and amateur leagues became legendary during those early years. Sousa and Judge Kenishaw Mountain Landis Landis was the man with the iron fist that saved baseball after the Black Sox debacle of 1919. Babe Ruth was instrumental in bringing the game back on the field with his mighty clouts. Sousa wrote the march “THE NATIONAL GAME” at the behest Kenishaw Mountain Landis, the Commissioner of Baseball. For music and sports scholars and aficionados the years 1900-1920 are considered the golden age of the John Philip Sousa Band and baseball in America. The 1908 World Series is considered the greatest and most controversial baseball series of the twentieth century and the Sousa Band’s World Tour of 1910-1911 is undoubtedly one of the most unique music public relations efforts by a single individual to introduce the early twentieth-century world to American music, culture and baseball. John Philip Sousa’s band also served as his baseball team whenever they had a chance to play a game of baseball against another team from a community in which they were performing a concert. This special exhibition in the Center’s museum combines historical documents, photographs, music manuscripts, sound recordings and artifacts from the John Philip Sousa Music and Personal Papers, Herbert L. Clarke Music and Papers, Paul Bierley Papers, Student Life Archives, University Archives, as well as other newly acquired collections of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music. In addition the exhibition includes historical documents and rare baseball cards from the Smithsonian Institution’s Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, and the Ronald S. Gabriel Baseball Memorabilia Collection. Join the staff of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music as we uncover interesting stories about the John Philip Sousa Band and early baseball. "The National Game" is available on the Altissimo! album entitled Sousa 3, the third in a series of albums dedicated to the compositions of John Philip Sousa. Click here to see it at the Altissimo website. With Files from the Smithsonian Institute and Sousa Archives Contributed by Jack Kopstein