Perfect Pitch

From BR Bullpen

Cover from the original edition

Perfect Pitch: The National Anthem for the National Pastime is a book by Joseph L. Price originally published in 2018. It details a project undertaken by the author during the 2011 baseball season to sing the National Anthem in as many minor league ballparks as possible.

The author is a professor of religious studies at Whittier College in Whittier, CA, and also a classically-trained singer, an ordained minister and the author of a previous book on baseball and religion, Rounding the Bases: Baseball and Religion in America (2006). The intersection between sports and religion in American culture is in fact one of his areas of study, and the project was undertaken as a sort of field study focusing on the performance of The Star-Spangled Banner before baseball games as a civic religious ritual.

The book details the complicated planning for the venture, including contacting all teams in the minor leagues at the time (not including the two complex-based Rookie-class leagues) in order to gauge interest and secure dates; working out a feasible schedule that would maximize the number of appearances he could make while minimizing mileage to the extent possible; and securing appropriate transport for the trek, in this case a large recreational vehicle nicknamed "Arbie" with a tow-along compact Saturn car nicknamed "Toad", that he would unhitch at appropriate times to make maneuvers in cities easier. Both vehicles are properly anthropomorphized and are characters in their own right in the book, as is his wife Bonnie, who is not a baseball fan but tags along, keeping him company during the long drives. He does take short breaks from time to time to allow her to do some activities that are more aligned with her interests, such as visiting art museums and meeting up with friends across the country. It helps that the author is an accomplished singer who had performed the anthem in many ballparks before undertaking the project, making it easier to convince teams to give him a slot.

In the end, Price manages to sing the anthem in 104 ballparks, having aimed at doing at least 100 performances - he had scheduled a few additional games, knowing there would be rainouts and various glitches and mix-ups along the way. Indeed, that spring and summer was particularly wet, and he had to sit through a number of long delays, once almost exhausting Bonnie's patience, but only lost two of his expected dates. He does detail each of the performances, sometimes in too much detail, but obviously the book's interest lies elsewhere, in his exploration of the country and the culture of minor league baseball, of the architecture of ballparks, of the spectacle put on besides the game, and the interaction with fans, players and ballpark workers made possible by his quest. He is sometimes shocked by how perfunctorily certain teams perform the Anthem, just giving out his name and not even asking fans to pay attention, but the times when the anthem is properly introduced and his tour is mentioned, it inevitably leads to interesting encounters in the stands with persons who are curious about what he is doing. The question he is always asked is: "What was your favorite ballpark?", which could be answered any number of ways, and his book is an attempt to provide the elements to answer the question, by trying to capture what was unique about each destination along the way.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Joseph L. Price: Perfect Pitch: The National Anthem for the National Pastime, Mercer University Press, Macon, GA, 2018. ISBN 9780881466560