Sunday, April 13, 2014

Van Lingle Mungo Revisited

Okay, I know it’s true—I have posted about Van Lingle Mungo in the past. But I plead my case for duplication:

  1. 1.    Dave Frishberg’s wonderful song, like baseball itself, is a perennial delight.
  2. 2.    YouTube in its infinite wisdom has taken down the video I linked to in the past.

There you have it: the lyrical & the practical side of things.

To expand on the lyrical: it’s April, & the signs of spring & renewal are everywhere. The cherry blossoms in Portland are in resplendent bloom, the skies are blue, the temperatures mild. As I went walking yesterday, there was a big crowd at Lillis Albina park to watch the opening day of Little League, & I myself was on my way to watch the University of Portland Pilots come back to win 10-9 in a rousing 2-run 9th inning rally. Today—under equally blue skies—I’ll be at Irving Park for my spring softball team’s game—the first of three seasons of softball for me this year. Yes, I do love baseball!

& now to the sublime: Dave Frishberg is a wonderful composer whose songs range from the comic to the romantic; he's also an accomplished jazz pianist & vocalist. He has penned such hits as “Peel Me a Grape,” “I’m Hip,” & “My Attorney Bernie,” not to mention some true gems that are less well known, including “You Are There,” “Sweet Kentucky Ham” & “Blizzard of Lies.” If you don’t know his music, do yourself a favor & check it out.

“Van Lingle Mungo” is a deceptively simple lyric—it lists 37 major league ballplayers who played between the 1930s & the 1950s; in addition to these names, Frishberg uses the word “and” seven times & the word “big” (in reference to Johnny Mize) twice—& that’s it. But the ballad he produces is one of the great love songs to baseball.

The players range from Hall of Famers like Johnny Mize & Early Wynn to obscure journeymen such as Sigmund Jakucki & Danny Gardella. The song’s titular Van Lingle Mungo was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers & later the New York Giants from 1931 through 1945. He was effective early in his career & was named to three All-Star games, but after suffering an arm injury in 1937, never really regained his form.

You can find the full lyrics here at the Baseball Almanac, which also supplies links to the players’ stats (for those who, like me, are obsessed with baseball statistics.) You can also see the complete statistical rundown on Van Lingle Mungo himself at Baseball Reference.

Hope you enjoy the song & the spring weather.

Image of Van Lingle Mungo in full wind-up links to its source at

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