The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: To mark the World Series in Major League Baseball, two world-class symphonies post a YouTube smack down. | October 25, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, as a friend reminded me, it is here: Time for the World Series in Major League Baseball, of which Game 2 of a possible 7 will have been played by the time most of you read this.

Major League Baseball logo

And the two teams — the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals — that are vying for the world championship trophy (below) both come from cultured cities that boast world-class orchestras: The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

World Series Trophy

I am not really a fan of any baseball team — or of team sports in general —  but I do think baseball appeals to a lot of musicians. I know from personal experience that the superstar violinist  Itzhak Perlman (below) is a big fan who once announced the updated scores of a  world series games with the New York Yankees between pieces  and from the stage of the old Madison Civic Center.

Itzhak Perlman close

I wonder what the appeal of baseball to musicians is.

Maybe it has to do with the rhythm of the game.

For the member of a symphony orchestra or chamber music ensemble, maybe it is the team aspect.

For individuals, maybe what matters is the same kind of hand-eye coordination on which so much music-making on instruments depends – as does pocket pool, archery and target shooting, all of which I also like.

In fact, avid pianist that I am, I love watching baseball pitchers – like the great retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (below)  —  but only at home on TV where I can see the pitches relatively close up and also check how the speed is measured and the contortions that batters have to go through to hit the ball.

Throw the ball. Catch the ball. Hit the ball.

Easy game, right?


baseball pitcher mariano rivera

Anyway here, at the bottom, is the World Series Symphony Smack Down is a link to a story — with some surprises — on The New York Times music blog and to the video (which has overtones of the gang warfare in Leonard Bernstein‘s “West Side Story”)  on YouTube.

Listen and tell me in the comments section why your think so many classical musicians like baseball?

And which city has the better symphony as well as baseball team? In other words, no matter who wins the series, I want to know who you think wins the Symphony Smack Down

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Loved the video, esp. the humorous “trash talk”.
    The two ensembles were surprisingly well-coordinated.


    Comment by Ann Boyer — October 26, 2013 @ 10:49 am

  2. I cannot honestly say I love baseball in the slightest. I’ve never liked it, and I feel it has too many stops to be exhilarating. That said, Bryon Janis loved baseball – in fact, his first piano teacher once took him to a game between the Pirates and the Cubs as a reward. The game was to determine who went onto the World Series. Unfortunately for Janis, his teacher had scarce interest in the game and in the bottom of the sixth, declared it was time to go home. Janis was furious.


    Comment by Isabella Wu — October 25, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

    • Hi Isabelle,
      Thanks for reading and replying with a great anecdote.
      Makes you wonder what Byron Janis would say if asked why he liked baseball so much?
      Any ideas as speculation?


      Comment by welltemperedear — October 25, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

      • I really could not say. So I will attempt to explain why my favorite sports connect with music. For me, it would be biking, cross-country running, and soccer.

        Which, doesn’t give much of a lead into any reason. With biking, it is the freedom and the control that attracts me. For cross-country, it would be a likewise reason. For soccer, it is the teamwork, the brain, the quick reflexes and power required.

        But none of them really have much to do with music. Certainly, they are all connected within my personality to my music, but then all things are. Perhaps there is no exact correlation between musician and interest baseball?

        But here is an interesting question: How would one’s favorite sports parallel their musicianship? Is there any connection into music, and how does sports affect one’s music?

        Modern day sports, in our 21st century America, are the remnants of our lives as past hunters and gatherers. The hunter lives in us through the sports, though the hunter is not socially accepted into our society nowadays. Deep inside us, there is a hunter, a stalking presence, that may soon be lost to our ever-changing world.

        So it is that the individual sports affection we have reflects our personality. Those individual sport spirits, hunter souls, may as well be echoed through the way one interprets the world, and then from the world, into music.

        It is a rather confusing thought, and perhaps needs more refining. But I think, if I truly was only walking around in circles, then the truth is again that all disciplines are interconnected. Then there must be – must be – something with baseball and Perlman, Janis, Prof. Howard Karp, and you. The music then, that you and they would make, must be at least slightly interlocked in some way. The baseball must have come alive in someway, creeping through the heart to come to surface. If that is true, then the bikers – I know several musicians who commute to UW Madison – and I must find something alike in our music.

        Again, walking in a circle, but if the universe is so interconnected, how can one avoid the redundancy if one is to understand the entirety of life?

        Ahhh…for one to truly understand the complexity of music, one must understand the universe.


        Comment by Isabella Wu — October 27, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

  3. Seiji Ozawa is conducting left handed in the video clip. Any thoughts on this?


    Comment by Janet Murphy — October 25, 2013 @ 11:04 am

    • No idea.
      Perhaps an injury.
      The founder and lead violinist of Concerto Koln changed from right hand to left hand after a repetitive stress injury, I believe.
      How about other readers responses?
      Thanks for reading and replying.


      Comment by welltemperedear — October 25, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

  4. One of the neater features of Overture Center are the TV monitors in the Green Room, backstage hallways and chorus dressing rooms. They say they’re for stage cues or the offstage band in Mahler’s 2nd. I don’t know about that, but they do help the MSO get through Sunday afternoon performances.


    Comment by Rolf Wulfsberg — October 25, 2013 @ 7:07 am

  5. I’ve never heard either the Boston or St. Louis Symphonies live or recorded so I can’t judge based on the most important factor–hearing. But if I had to choose, I’d vote for Boston. Cordially, Larry


    Comment by Larry Retzack — October 25, 2013 @ 1:28 am

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