At a time rich with traditions, I was a bit sad last week to learn that one of my personal favorites wouldn’t be happening this Christmas.
Every year since I can’t remember when, a longtime friend and colleague has compiled a wacky CD of holiday music. The tradition goes so far back, he originally used to hand out cassette tapes before technology advanced to the point that he could easily burn disks instead.
For me, this was a big step up a few years ago because I never got as much out of the tapes, seeing as I haven’t regularly listened to cassettes since around 1987 when I bought Richard Marx’s debut on CD because it was one of the first to show up in the new format.
I’ve regretted that purchase ever since.
Anyhow, having digital versions of the music meant I could rip the disks onto the computer and add the songs to the Christmas playlist on my iPhone, thus getting them into the full holiday rotation.
The best things about the compilations were that the music was typically off-beat and unfamiliar, and each year featured a theme, like surfing, beer, Charlie Brown, etc. The crowning combination came a couple of years ago when this creative fellow — who is affectionately known here as “Sweet Pea,” thanks to the nicknaming prowess of a former employee — came upon the genius of pairing Christmas and baseball.
The result was a mashup of movie sound clips, original tunes and a ridiculous but amusing collection of cover songs inspired by America’s pastime. It is now my favorite set of Christmas music, and I am happily infusing our December activities with these melodies, to the delight of Mr. Big Fifth-Grader, who is picking up more baseball history in the process.
Among the highlights:
• The song about legendary St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith: He went to Cal Poly, I told Mr. Big. He’s a Hall of Famer, and there’s a statue of him outside the baseball stadium. Wait, he said, you went to the same school as someone in the Hall of Fame? Yep, you got it.
• The song about baseball clichés, sung to the tune of “We Three Kings”: How hard must it have been to find rhymes for “grand salami,” “golden sombrero,” “the Mendoza line” and “Tinker, Evers to Chance”?
• The song exhorting off-season pro ballplayers to stop loafing and get back to work for the upcoming season, to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”: My favorite part goes, “When you’re done complaining, remember all the fans, who didn’t spend the fall and winter sitting on their cans, working at their jobs all day, not working on their tans. You’ve got eight weeks of exercising … and dieting too … there’s eight long weeks of shaping up to do.”
• And the song that recounts momentous baseball moments, to the tune of “Deck the Halls.” The best thing about this one is it was written before the Red Sox started winning championships. Who else wishes we could go back to that time? Thread those tunes in with clips from movies like “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams” and you’ve got a baseball fan’s soundtrack for Christmas.
Thanks once again, Sweet Pea, for sharing such a well-edited collection. It will hold me over this year, but here’s hoping you have more time in 2014 to restore the tradition.
Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joetarica.