Wallowing in old games on opening day? Here’s an ‘aural treasure’

The Giants-Dodgers tiebreaker was almost lost to history, but now it’s made an audio hall of fame

New York Giants’ third baseman Bobby Thomson on Oct. 3, 1951 after his homer that gave his team a victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers and the National League pennant.
The radio broadcast of this famous moment sports history is among this year’s additions to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)
New York Giants’ third baseman Bobby Thomson on Oct. 3, 1951 after his homer that gave his team a victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers and the National League pennant. The radio broadcast of this famous moment sports history is among this year’s additions to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)
Posted March 26, 2020 at 4:27pm

It was supposed to be opening day for Major League Baseball, until it wasn’t. Anyone who’s bummed, know this: Russ Hodges’ call of the 1951 National League tiebreaker between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers is now an “aural treasure.”

In other words, it’s a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant recording” that has “touched our hearts and shaped our culture,” according to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who made the announcement this week.

When Bobby Thomson hit a walk-off home run in the nationally televised game, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, millions were watching. But it’s the radio broadcast that earned a spot among this year’s additions to the National Recording Registry. “There’s a long drive. It’s gonna be, I believe — The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” announcer Hodges said of what became known, in a roundabout borrowing from poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, as the shot heard ’round the world.

Other sportscasters called the game too: Ernie Harwell for Giants TV, Red Barber for Dodgers radio and Gordon McLendon at the national level. Yet Hodges’ voice, vibrating with joy and disbelief, is the one people remember. It was a piece of history that was almost lost, since the Giants’ radio station didn’t archive the broadcast at the time. Instead, a fan asked his mom to capture the ninth inning on his reel-to-reel tape deck.

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That close call shows why it’s important to preserve sound for future generations, which is the whole point of the National Recording Registry. Each year the librarian of Congress names 25 items — music, mainly, but spoken word counts too — to the running list, which was established by the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000. 

The winners this time around include the Village People’s disco banger “Y.M.C.A.,” Tina Turner’s album “Private Dancer,” the original Broadway cast recording of “Fiddler on the Roof” and, for all those trying to tune out relentless coronavirus news, Eddy Arnold’s 1965 single “Make the World Go Away.”

The full registry now totals 550, just a tiny sliver of the library’s collection of nearly 3 million recorded sound items. The idea is to increase “preservation awareness” through a kind of audio hall of fame. 

To be clear, this doesn’t mean the Library of Congress is here to help you listen to these things online. “Due to copyright concerns, the Library of Congress is unable to post even sample audio of most Registry selections,” the website states.

Can we at least get a Spotify playlist? Apparently not. But the library has compiled some listening guides, and NPR is breaking down this year’s selections in its “Sounds of America” series.

The public can participate in one other way: nominations. Anyone can suggest a pick, as long as the recording is at least 10 years old and extant (as in actually surviving, not lost).
The final rule: You can submit as many nominations as you like, as long as it’s fewer than 50 per year. Choose wisely.

Here are this year’s inductees to the National Recording Registry (or the “ultimate ‘stay at home’ playlist,” as the Library of Congress is calling it):

  1. “Whispering” (single), Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra (1920)
  2. “Protesta per Sacco e Vanzetti,” Compagnia Columbia; “Sacco e Vanzetti,” Raoul Romito (1927)
  3. “La Chicharronera” (single), Narciso Martinez and Santiago Almeida (1936)
  4. “Arch Oboler’s Plays” episode “The Bathysphere.” (Nov. 18, 1939)
  5. “Me and My Chauffeur Blues” (single), Memphis Minnie (1941)
  6. The 1951 National League tiebreaker: New York Giants vs. Brooklyn Dodgers — Russ Hodges, announcer (Oct. 3, 1951)
  7. Puccini’s “Tosca” (album), Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Angelo Mercuriali, Tito Gobbi, Melchiorre Luise, Dario Caselli, Victor de Sabata (1953)
  8. “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” (single), Allan Sherman (1963)
  9. WGBH broadcast of the Boston Symphony on the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination, Boston Symphony Orchestra (1963)
  10. “Fiddler on the Roof” (album), original Broadway cast (1964)
  11. “Make the World Go Away” (single), Eddy Arnold (1965)
  12. Hiromi Lorraine Sakata Collection of Afghan Traditional Music (1966-67; 1971-73)
  13. “Wichita Lineman” (single), Glen Campbell (1968)
  14. “Dusty in Memphis” (album), Dusty Springfield (1969)
  15. “Mister Rogers Sings 21 Favorite Songs From ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ ” (album), Fred Rogers (1973)
  16. “Cheap Trick at Budokan” (album), Cheap Trick (1978)
  17. Holst: Suite No. 1 in E-Flat, Suite No. 2 in F / Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks / Bach:  Fantasia in G (Special Edition Audiophile Pressing album), Frederick Fennell and the Cleveland Symphonic Winds (1978)
  18. “Y.M.C.A.” (single), Village People (1978)
  19. “A Feather on the Breath of God” (album), Gothic Voices; Christopher Page, conductor; Hildegard von Bingen, composer (1982)
  20. “Private Dancer” (album), Tina Turner (1984)
  21. “Ven Conmigo” (album), Selena (1990)
  22. “The Chronic” (album), Dr. Dre (1992)
  23. “I Will Always Love You” (single), Whitney Houston (1992)
  24. “Concert in the Garden” (album), Maria Schneider Orchestra (2004)
  25. “Percussion Concerto” (album), Colin Currie (2008)

[GOP grumbling over GAO look at Minor League Baseball]