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Giving the National Anthem the 'star' treatment

October 16, 2009 |  4:12 pm

The Dodgers and Angels are separated by more than just about 30 miles or so. When it comes to national anthem bookings, the Dodgers are a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, and the Angels skew more family picnic time.

But hey, that’s National League ball, folks.

In founding the American League, Byron Bancroft "Ban" Johnson saw a market for a cleaner, more family-friendly game. In her 2007 book “Crazy ’08,” Cait Murphy writes that Johnson “saw a market opportunity that could be filled by a game played as a wholesome entertainment.”

Cut to 2009 -- for the sake of a broad, over-generalizing blog post that waxes over 100 years of baseball history and numerous contradictions. These days, the Dodgers are rocking into the playoffs with Slash performing the national anthem. The Angels, meanwhile, are more likely to opt for youthful favorites such as Taylor Longbrake and Tori Kelly.

The Times’ Reed Johnson discusses the different cultures in his Saturday piece. Tapping Hollywood star power for the national anthem comes with risks. Of the Dodgers’ 1988 playoff run, Johnson wrote the organization “narrowly averted a clubhouse riot when Kenny G performed at Dodger Stadium in the sixth game of the National League playoffs against the New York Mets. The New Age saxophonist was literally long-winded, taking two minutes rather than the normal minute and a half, according to a Times report.”

Indeed, Johnson writes that “Steve Sax, the Dodgers’ second baseman, actually shook his fist at Kenny G while walking back to the dugout after the performance.”

But is some bad new-age jazz really as bad as it gets?


The world, perhaps, will never forget Roseanne Barr tackling the national anthem at a 1990 Padres game. But let’s instead focus here on a couple musicians who should have known better.

Michael Bolton had one of the more famous national anthem gaffes, performing the song during the 2003 American League Championship Series at Fenway Park with crib notes. Cut to the 46 second mark.

I still remember receiving angry text messages from friends and family who attended the Cubs’ division-clinching game on Sept. 20, 2008, when singer Rocco DeLuca went the all-falsetto route. Yet I couldn’t find that clip online, so instead we have Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who inserted some local, NASCAR pandering into the final seconds of this screech festival.

And finally, our favorite national anthem that wasn’t. The scene is Chicago, 1984, with the Cubs the favorite to win the National League pennant. Could Bill Murray have actually performed the national anthem? Maybe, if someone didn’t have to go jinxing things by bringing up two words that start with ‘W’ and ‘S.’


Share your favorite – or most embarrassing – national anthems below.

RELATED: National anthem singers are in a league of their own

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