Orioles need new song for stretch

March 23, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd

WITH THE NEW baseball season almost upon us -- and let's hope it's a better one around here than that train wreck of 1999 -- the Orioles should now address the single most important issue facing this franchise.

That's right: It's time to get rid of that seventh-inning stretch song.

Once and for all, it's time to bury "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." And this time, we should drive a stake through its heart, too.

In the past two weeks, I've heard this topic discussed on at least three radio talk shows. But no one brought up the main problem I've always had with the John Denver standard: It makes us look like a bunch of rubes.

When people in New York and Los Angeles and Chicago hear we play "Country Boy" during the stretch, they must think we walk around in tattered overalls and bare feet, with pieces of straw dangling from our mouths.

Secondly, the song doesn't even make any sense for us.

Since when is Baltimore country?

Look, do me a favor, OK? Take a stroll to the corner of, oh, East Madison and St. Paul streets.

Does this look like the country to you?

See any farms out there, friend? See anybody resinin' up the bow and fiddlin'?

See anyone huntin' and whittlin'?

I don't think so.

And there's a simple reason why you don't see that.

Because it's a freaking city! With 700,000 people, for God's sake!

Oh, you might see someone get robbed on the corner of Madison and St. Paul. You might see someone break into a car and rip off the CD player.

But you won't see anyone picking up a fiddle and starting any hootenannies, I can tell you that.

So why are we leaping to our feet and cheering every time the seventh inning comes around and they play that hick song?

Well, no more. It's gotta go.

Actually, if you'll remember, the Orioles did get rid of the song at one point.

They first started playing it in 1975, soon after it topped the charts for John Denver, God rest his soul.

But in 1988, they decided to retire it as the stretch song. And it stayed retired until 1993, when a bunch of whiny, misguided fans clamored for its return.

Now it's time to put this baby in mothballs for good.

A few years ago, I actually approached one of the Orioles' PR guys as part of a humble, grass-roots campaign to get rid of "Country Boy."

And I'll tell you where it got me: It got me nowhere, Jack.

Part of the reason was I cornered this guy as he was eating dinner at Oriole Park before a game, and he was sort of concentrating on his meal.

"It's simple," he said, carefully squeezing a lemon into his iced tea and stirring it. "If we don't play `Country Boy,' the fans will rise up as one, attack the soundbooth, and burn down the ballpark."

Then he went back to lathering Roquefort dressing on his salad. To this day, I've never seen anyone pour so much Roquefort dressing on his salad. Boy, this guy was big on Roquefort dressing.

The thing is, I don't think the PR guy was right. After all these years, I think most fans are sick of this song. I think they're ready for a change.

So this spring, I'm prepared to go right to the top to get rid of "Country Boy."

That's right: straight to Peter Angelos.

As soon as possible, I'm going to request a sit-down with the Orioles owner. And we'll make sure it's not over dinner, so there are no distractions.

Believe me, I'll make sure there's not so much as a packet of Sweet n' Low around.

Look, does Peter Angelos look like a country boy to you?

Does he strike you as the kind of guy who walks around with a straw hat and a bandanna around his neck and a jug of moonshine under one arm?

Uh-uh. First of all, the man is a very high-powered attorney, and you can't dress like that in his line of work.

So I think he'll listen to reason.

I think if we lay our cards on the table and say: "Mr. A, we look like a bunch of damn hayseeds when we play that song," he'll see the wisdom of this.

He might even snap his fingers at one of his flunkies and say: "Fire the sound guy. And if the new guy plays `Country Boy,' fire him, too."

Because Peter Angelos is no-nonsense all the way. If we convince him of the rightness of our cause, he'll take action, guaranteed.

As for what the team should play in place of "Country Boy," well, I really have no idea.

In fact, I'd love to hear from you readers out there on what the replacement song should be. I like John Fogerty's "Centerfield" for the stretch song, but I'm not married to it. So write, fax or e-mail and tell me what you think. I'll put the results in a future column -- and get them to Mr. Angelos.

Oh, and one more thing. Once we get rid of "Country Boy," I'll tell you the next song we're going after: that stupid "YMCA" by the Village People.

If these kids dancing to the song knew what it was all about, it would make their hair curl.

Or maybe it wouldn't, I don't know. It's a different world out there.

Look at the way people go through Roquefort dressing.

What do you think?

Maybe you agree that it's time to say "No, thanks" to "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." Or maybe you think Kevin Cowherd is nuts. Either way, we'd like to know: Should the Orioles keep "Country Boy," or can you suggest a better song for the seventh-inning stretch?

Send your thoughts (along with your name and phone number) to Stretch Song, c/o Kevin Cowherd, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. You can also e-mail us at sun.features@baltsun.com, or send a fax to 410-783-2519.

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