Chatting with the Voice of the Ballpark
An Interview with The Voice of The Ballpark, Chuck Morgan
Rangers Executive Vice President, Ballpark Entertainment & Productions – the great Chuck Morgan – answered some of SDI’s most frequently asked questions about music and entertainment at the Ballpark:
What’s the origin of Cotton-Eyed Joe in the 7th-inning stretch?
I wish I knew the exact origin of the Cotton-Eyed Joe at Rangers games, but I didn’t get to Texas until February of 1983. First day of work with the Rangers, in an early morning staff meeting, I asked about traditions at Rangers games. I didn’t want to come in and change a bunch of things and they not be well received.
The only person that spoke up was Mary Ann Bosher. Mary Ann was the ticket manager at the time and told me, “We don’t have many traditions here, but you have to play Cotton-Eyed Joe in the 7th inning stretch.”
Mary Ann had been with the Rangers since day one and didn’t question that at all.
I was familiar with Cotton-Eyed Joe from my days with WSM radio in Nashville and The Grand Ole Opry. The version that I played at WSM a lot of times was by Al Dean and the All-Stars. And to this day, Cotton-Eyed Joe by Al Dean and the All-Stars is what we play in the 7th inning stretch.
Back in the 1980s, the time between innings was shorter and Cotton-Eyed Joe was all we could play in the 7th inning stretch. When the break time was increased in the 1990s, we were able to satisfy those fans that wanted Take Me Out to the Ballgame in the 7th inning stretch. So now, we play both.
In my opinion, Cotton-Eyed Joe is perfect for a 7th inning stretch at a Texas Rangers game.
What’s the process for players’ walkup music?
The process for walkup music is that there is no real process. It just happens.
About the last week of March each year, I send a note to the assistant clubhouse manager, Dave Bales. Dave will check around and send me a list back in about a week. Sometimes guys wait until they get back here, but most have something to start the season with. Once they get back, they call me or they work through the clubhouse guys. Some change daily, some keep the same song all year. One way or the other, it gets done.
What are some interesting stories about players’ walk-up music you can recall?
I guess the most interesting was David Dellucci and The Godfather waltz. He called and said that’s what he wanted. Knowing the song, I asked if that was what he wanted and he assured me it was. We played it, and had a lot of fan reaction after the first night; he stayed with it all the way to the end of the season, including the day of the Dellucci double.
(During the Rangers playoff run on September 23, 2004, Dellucci hit a game winning double to beat the Oakland A’s and keep the Rangers in playoff hopes alive. It is, for myself and many fans, one of the most memorable plays in Texas Rangers history):
Have you ever banned a song, or had to put the brakes on anyone’s request?
I have never banned a song. Since it’s a home game for the players, I do all I can to accommodate their request. Number 1, I subscribed to a service that provides me with the clean versions of all of the current hits.
Second, if you can’t get around certain lyrics, you can usually find an instrumental version of the song. The last option is editing out any words that might be offensive.
But again, the goal is to do all I can to make sure we take care of their request.
Since I was a kid I have been a follower of the hits, both in pop and country, from the 1960s on. Then I ended up being a radio guy, playing the country hits for number of years at WSM in Nashville. I still look at the country and pop charts almost every day, but over the last several years, I have added the Hot Latin hits to my daily reading.
Do you have particular songs that you like?
I have actually found a couple of Latin songs that I really like. During Rangers batting practice about 10 years ago, I might mix in one or two Latin hits every now and then; nowadays, in an hour’s time, there may be 5 or 6 top Latin songs on the BP mix.
Do you have a favorite walk-up song?
I don’t know if I have a favorite walk-up song; had I been lucky enough to play Big League baseball, I would have went with something Motown, like The Four Tops or The Temptations, or something the fans would get into and sing along.
What’s the favorite part of your job?
I’m lucky, I don’t think I ever grew up I’m like a kid at game time; that’s the best part – announcing players, watching the games – it doesn’t get much better than that.
And then, I like the sausage-making part of my job. In the off season, I sit down with my staff and spend 3 or 4 days putting together a promotions schedule. The twists and turns we have to go through to get that where we want it.
I love the fans; I appreciate Rangers fans so much and I enjoy meeting and shaking hands with as many as I can. Like I said, I never grew up. I have been very lucky to work at a couple of pretty cool places to have spent two careers – The Grand Ole Opry and Major League Baseball with the Rangers.
Which Ranger has the most fun with his walk-up song?
Elvis probably has the most fun with his walk-up songs. He changes quite a bit, and he changes to entertain himself and the fans.
And he puts a lot of thought into it.
Thanks so much for the time, Chuck. We Rangers fans appreciate it!
Thanks for asking me to do this, Chris. I appreciate it.