From Vanilla Ice to Justin Bieber: the Miller Park Songbook

Pascal Le Segretain

Digging into the music played at Miller Park during a single game this week.

Speakers explode with the latest chart-toppers at practically any point in the game these days. Batters walking up to the plate. Pitchers coming to the mound. Innings ending. Innings beginning. Mound visits. Rhubarbs with the umpires. The first-base coach patting a player on the butt. A manager spitting seeds upon the emerald grass. They all have their own musical selection in today's game, the better to engage the casual fan.

Well, it seems that way at least. Maybe we're just getting old. After all, I don't want to listen to any of the songs on my 12-year-old niece's iPod on a normal day; don't even talk to me about listening to them at the ballpark. When Buster Posey is bearing down against Clayton Kershaw, anything that isn't the sound of horsehide hitting wood or leather sounds inappropriate ... especially "Blurred Lines!"

But what if we're wrong? What if the ballpark musical experience isn't as overbearing as think? Wouldn't we just feel silly?

With this thought in mind, I attended Monday's Pirates/Brewers game at Miller Park. As I kept score, I also noted every single musical choice that came out of the stadium speakers. (A complete list of the day's music, from the "Star Spangled Banner" to the game's final out, can be found in the linked appendix.)

First, I should say I'm not singling out the Brewers. I go to a dozen Brewers games a year and I always enjoy myself.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here's how the game broke down...

Musical Cues vs. Total Pitches
Total Pitches in Game 271
Total Pitches w/Some Musical Cue (inc. walk-up songs) 152
Total Pitches w/Some Musical Cue (no walk-up songs) 119

Of the 271 pitches thrown on Monday, 119 had some sort of musical cue afterwards. If we count the walk-up music for each of the Brewers' plate appearances, that brings the total to 152, or 56 percent of the game's pitches punctuated by music in some way. This does not include the extended musical selections heard during nearly every inning break.

Put it all together, and those speakers are getting a workout!

Best and Worst
Fewest Musical Cues in an Inning 1 (Top 4)
Most Musical Cues in an Inning 13 (Bottom 4)
*excludes walk-up songs

The Pirates sent up three batters and took 11 pitches in the fourth inning and the only thing played in the stadium was a snippet celebrating Marlon Byrd's first-pitch out. It was almost too good to be true. In the bottom of the inning, however, the Brewers had two runners on with one out in a tie game. This must have seemed like a key moment early on, so the speaker operators went into overdrive.

Most Popular Genres
Type of Music Times Played
Organ 63
Rock 23
Pop 16
Hip hop 8
R&B 5

Some might be surprised to see the organ was the most played music type in a modern ballgame. I guess even One Direction can't wipe away tradition completely. As you'll see below, most of these selections fall into the "exclamatory" or "call-and-response" categories.

Most Popular Songs
Song Times Played
"Centerfield," John Fogerty (clapping intro) 11
Generic dance music 8
"We're Not Gonna Take It," Twisted Sister 2

You know the clapping at the start of John Fogerty's "Centerfield"? Yeah, Miller Park loves to play that. There are also a number of different dancing cues that the Brewers play between pitches. They were all indistinguishable to these ears (and my Shazam app).

Organ Music Selections
Selection Times Played
Exclamatory (various) 20
Charge! (various) 18
Call-and-Response (various) 13
Rendition of famous song 5
Other 4
Let's go, Brewers! 2
Here we go, Brewers! 1

The organ is used more often than anything else at Miller Park, usually to punctuate a single play or to get the crowd involved. "Exclamatory" selections are the brief (~one-second) snippets that are played after an opposing player makes an out or a Brewer gets on base. Think of it as a punctuation mark for the play. "Call-and-response" selections are the various bits that are played in order to get the crowd to clap along. The various versions of "Charge!" were played often enough that I gave them their own category.

There's plenty more to be found in this detailed breakdown of the day's music. Did any single player hear more in-park music than others? Was there a pattern to the selected music, maybe cycling from punk to hip hop to pop, or was it a more random order? And just how long did the fans have to wait before they were subjected to "Y.M.C.A."?

There's no doubt that in-stadium music is a key part of the ballpark experience. From Vanilla Ice to Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne to Toby Keith, Miller Park packs a large, but varied, set of music into its afternoon songbook, and they play it often. On this particular Monday, a fan could hear music highlighting three out of every five pitches. Of course, this is just a single data point. In order to know for sure how Miller Park stacks up, we'll need unbiased, objective numbers from other major-league ballparks.

And just think, with enough data, we might even be able to start a MUSICf/x system! Who wouldn't want to know that Mike Trout performs best after listening to 10 seconds of early-90s hip-hop?

Get on it, internet. Shake those tail feathers!

Click here for the batter-by-batter breakdown of the music at Miller Park.

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