October 27, 2009
During the last ALCS game, I got this lyric stuck in my head: “So who would want these diamond gems? / They’re diamonds in the rough. / A baseball team needs nine good men. / One guy just ain’t enough.”
I remember hearing that on television about 50 years ago. It was sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle,” and it got stuck in my head. Every once in a while it comes to the surface.
When it came to the surface the other day, I decided to do what I always tell my students to do — look it up. In the Internet age, that’s a lot easier than it used to be, although this song seemed so obscure that I didn’t expect to track it down.
By searching on a phrase from that lyric I actually found one reference to it. It turns out that it’s part of a jingle that was used in one of a series of public service announcements sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. An application for a grant to help fund the series turned up on a site that houses the archives of the AJC. Among the documents was a page from an issue of TV Guide dated April 28, 1951. On the page was a short article about this animated short that was part of a larger, award-winning anti-bigotry campaign by the AJC. The short was designed to reinforce the idea that people of many backgrounds contributed to life in the United States.
The animated cartoons were by Fred Arnott and the song was written by Lynn Rhodes. I could find out nothing more about either of them. However, the song was sung by Tom Glazer, who had a decent reputation as a folk singer. A lot of people of a certain generation will remember his novelty song “On Top of Spaghetti,” a children’s song he recorded in 1963. He also wrote “Because All Men Are Brothers,” which was recorded by the Weavers and by Peter Paul, and Mary, and “Talkin’ Inflation Blues,” which was recorded by Bob Dylan. Glazer wrote idiotic and kind of racist lyrics to “Skokian,” a Zimbabwean song that was popular in multiple versions. Glazer’s version was recorded by the Four Lads.
Anyway, the song he sang for the AJC went like this:
Though every player is top flight / Our team just falls to pieces / With every game they have to play / The number of flubs increases.
To figure why they fall apart / You needn’t be too clever / With no teamwork the team’s big star / Will die on third forever.
The shortstop simply cannot play / With the jerk who’s second sacker / The pitcher can pitch to anyone / But certainly not to his catcher.
So who would want these diamond gems? ‘/ They’re diamonds in the rough / A baseball team needs nine good men / One guy just ain’t enough.
A nation’s like a baseball team / It’s run by teamwork too. / And every race and every creed / Works with Y-O-U.
Play ball with all your neighbors / Pitch in a little more / Americans, join your teammates all / Roll up a winning score.