Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beatles Baseball Tour

I was recently fortunate enough to go see Paul McCartney perform at Dodger Stadium.  Yes.  I do have interests other than just baseball.    As I watched  Sir Paul perform "I Saw Her Standing There", one of the earliest Beatles songs, I started to wonder had the Beatles played Dodger Stadium?  Had the four Liverpudlians ever stood on the mound where Sandy Koufax would have been pitching the day before or after?  After all, they had toured the country during the same years that the Dodgers were trying to win three straight World Series.

From there my thoughts led me to wonder what other baseball stadiums the Fab Four would have played.  What years were they in each one and what were the teams' fortunes when they appeared there?  Had they played in a stadium of a World Series Champion?

Why don't we take a look at their tour schedule and see what we can find about their tour of baseball stadiums:

1/12/64:  The Beatles had been riding the success of "She Loves You" as they toured the UK in late 1963.  Their new single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was released in the UK on 11/29/1963, just about a month before the US release.  There had been a million pre orders for the song and when it was actually released in the US on 12/26/1963  it stood at #45 on the charts.  The Beatles had already conquered  Germany and Sweden and were wrapping up a UK tour.  The boys were home For the holidays in 1963, playing Liverpool on 12/22 and London on 12/24 and 12/26.  The London stay extended trough the first few weeks of January and on 1/12 they played the second night of a two night stand at the Palladium in London.  It was the last stop on the UK tour.  The next leg would be in France.

2/4/1964:   The tour was enjoying success in France as they had in Sweden, Germany and at home.   The tour kicked off in France in Versailles on 1/15.  While they played France for a few weeks the US was starting to suffer from Beatlemania.  The demands for the Beatles was increasing and on 2/1 the US charts revealed the Beatles were a the top, ahead of "You Don't Own Me" by Leslie Gore.  On 2/4 the Beatles played the last show of their French tour. On 2/7 they boarded Pan Am Flight 101, known as the  "Yankee Clipper" and left for America.  Of course they played the Ed Sullivan Show. They later moved on to play the Washington Coliseum, Carnegie Hall and the Deauville Hotel in Florida.  Don't forget this was a winter time tour, mostly in the northeast and before Major League Baseball was played in Florida so there were no baseball stadium stops on their first trip.

8/19/1964:  After a brief return to England it was off to Scotland, Denmark and Hong Kong then on to Australia and New Zealand.  Beatlemania was now a world wide phenomenon.  On June 3 Ringo had been admitted to the hospital and missed part of the Australian tour, replaced by Jimmy Nicol.  Realizing it had only been a few years since he had replaced Pete Best, Ringo rushed to return to the group. The tour continued back to England with a few days here and there in Sweden and it was time to return to the US.  The first US visit had focused on the east coast.  Now they would move on to the west coast.  Their first stop this time was Daly City, CA.  It was only a month  after the release of the "Something New" US album but the set list did not reflect the new album.  The set featured "Things We Said Today" from the new album but the US Single (set for release in a week) "Matchbox" and the B-side "Slow Down" were not featured. Instead, Ringo performed "Boys".  Heavily featured were songs from their current film "A Hard Days Night" including the title track, "Can't Buy Me Love" and "If I Fell".  From Daly City it was on to Vegas, Seattle and Vancouver but still no baseball stadium visits

8/23/1964: On August 23rd in Los Angeles the Dodgers took on the Reds at Dodgers Stadium.  It was a Sunday afternoon game.  The Dodgers were having a poor season thanks to arm problems for Koufax and Drysdale.  The Reds, on the other hand, were in second place behind the surprising Phillies.  The Reds were red hot, having won six straight, but were in a tumultuous season.  Their fiery leader Fred Hutchinson had announced on 1/3/1964, just before the Beatles headed off to France, that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer.  On 8/12, just before the start of the current winning streak, a weak and tired Hutch stepped down.  The Reds now had a purpose and a rallying cry.  On 8/23 they faced the Dodgers at the stadium.  The Reds sent Jim O'Toole to the mound to keep the streak alive.  The Dodgers countered with Phil Ortega, Not exactly Koufax.  The game was scoreless in the bottom of the third when Nate Oliver opened the inning with a double.  Phil Ortega sacrificed Oliver to third and the Reds walked Maury Wills.  Dick Tracewski singled scoring Oliver. It would be the only run of the game and the Reds winning streak ended.  As the Dodgers fans left the stadium their euphoria may have quickly melted into frustration.  The 101 freeway would have been a parking lot.  Just 8 miles away just off the same 101 that feeds into Dodger Stadium, Beatlemania was erupting at the Hollywood Bowl.  Of course the Hollywood Bowl is not a baseball stadium.  although this concert would be one of the most famous in the Beatles history.  In 1977, as the world was still clamoring for anything new from The Beatles, who had disbanded nearly a decade before, Capitol Records released "The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl".  The album would include the 8/23/1964 performances of "Things We Said Today", "Roll Over Beethoven", "Boys", "All My Loving", "She Loves You" and "Long Tall Sally".

From Hollywood it was on to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, Cincinnati (they did not make a stop at Crosley Field where the Reds had lost to the lowly Mets the day before), two nights at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York (just three weeks before Bob Dylan had debuted on the same stage with a backing band known as "The Hawks" but would later go on to become The Band), Atlantic City, Convention Hall in Philadelphia, the Indiana State Fair, Milwaukee Arena, the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Olympia Stadium in Detroit, Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.  The tour seemed to go on forever. Montreal, Jacksonville, Boston  (The Gardens, not Fenway), Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and New Orleans.  By now it was mid September.  The Beatles baseball stadium tour was about to make the first ever stop.

9/17/1964: Kansas City has long been a baseball town, although it was not always a Major League baseball town.  As far back as 1884 the Kansas City Cowboys played in the Union Association.  The Kansas City Monarchs proudly represented the city in the Negro Leagues with players like Buck O'Neil and Jackie Robinson.  As the 1940' turned to the 1950's cities could no longer support two teams.  Boston now belonged to the Red Sox and the Braves moved on to Milwaukee.  St.Louis now was only Cardinal territory as the Browns moved to Baltimore.  Philadelphia was no different.  The once powerful Athletics of Connie Mack were now a financial mess.  They were purchased by banker Arnold Johnson and moved to Kansas City in 1955.  Five years later, as Johnson was watching the A's spring training camp, he passed away. Enter Charles O. Finley. One of the least liked owners in the game (by commissioners, owners and players) Finley made his fortune in insurance sales.  When Johnson passed away Finley swooped in and bought the struggling franchise.  He knew the A's were not very good and he knew there had to be ways to bring fans to the stadium.  He would invent ways, some called them gimmicks, to get attention.  There was the mechanical rabbit named Harvey that popped up behind home plate to hand the new balls to the umpire.  There was the Donkey for a mascot named Charlie O (leading to the obvious joke of Finley naming a jack ass after himself).  Finley wanted to get people to the stadium and nothing in the world could draw people like the Fab Four.  The Beatles had one open date on their tour: September 17.  The tour had become a long nightmare.  Ear splitting screams.  Trains, Cars, Planes.  Hotels.  Hiding from fans.  They were all looking forward to the day off.  Finley didn't care.  The Beatles reluctantly signed on, giving up their off day.  Not only was it a work day, it was a long one.  It started with a press conference.  In proper Beatle fashion the boys gave quick, humorous answers.  When a reporter began to ask what they would do after the mania ended,  George finished his question with "after the bubble bursts?" Paul said that he and John would continue songwriting but George would go on to play basketball.  "Or roller skating.  I haven't decided yet," George continued. So why basketball and not baseball?  One reporter asked if they liked baseball.  John responded "Not particularly." Paul responded with "Ooh, very good game Mr. Finley.  Very nice."  John explained himself "only on TV."  Ringo was more direct.  "You throw the ball and then another ten minutes you smoke a cigarette then throw another ball."  Whether they liked baseball or not, they liked Kansas City enough to open up the Municipal Stadium set with "Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey".  It was followed with "You Can't Do That", "All My Loving", "She Loves You", "Things We Said Today", "Roll Over Beethoven", "Can't Buy Me Love", "If I Fell", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "Boys", "A Hard Day's Night" and "Long Tall Sally".  The set lasted roughly thirty minutes meaning the boys were paid about $5000 per minute.

As the baseball season moved along so did the tour.  In the American League the White Sox fought the Yankees down to the wire with the Yankees narrowly winning the pennant.  In the National League the Phillies had one of the greatest collapses of all time as the Reds and Cardinals closed the gap in one of the tightest races ever.  On the tour the Beatles juggernaut was wrapping up.  They played Dallas on September 18 and New York on September 20.  Then it was back to Australia briefly before returning home to the UK.

Their 1965 tour would take them all over Europe.  Italy, Spain, Germany, France.  They would return to the United States for another concert tour and another appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on 8/14.  The next concert would be one of their most iconic.

8/15/1965:  The Beatles had released the US version of their soundtrack for their film "Help!" the day before (the UK version had been released on 8/6) and their popularity had never been higher.  The Beatles were having every moment of their lives documented setting a new precedent for hysteria over celebrity.  A film crew followed them as they prepared for a concert at Shea Stadium.  To this point in the history of the stadium there were few positive memories.  There was Opening Day of the stadium in 1964.  Then of course there was the All Star Game in 1964.  Other than that it had only seen a lot of losing baseball by the home team.  The Mets play got more laughs than a Beatles press conference.  In their fourth season the Mets saw little improvement and just a month before the Beatles took the stage the New York icon Casey Stengel had stepped down as manager.While Stengel's legend was ending, The Beatles'  legend was about to grow.  On a hot summer New York night the band kicked off the evening with "Twist and Shout".  The set list that followed heavily reflected their recent release with songs from the soundtrack.  The set included "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby", "Act Naturally", "Help!", "Ticket to Ride" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy". The final song of the evening provided an iconic Beatles moment.  As Paul sang "I'm Down" John started playing the organ with his elbow causing the other members to break into hysterics.

8/20/1965: The tour continued and the traveling strain must have been tremendous.  They went to Toronto, Atlanta (still a year from getting the Braves) and Houston.  On 8/20 they played in Chicago.  The home town White Sox were on the road and were red hot.  In fact, while the Beatles were playing in Comiskey Park, the White Sox were busy in Kansas City winning their seventh straight in what would become a ten game winning streak.  The fifth place White Sox, who had finished a close second the year before, would finish the 10 game winning streak by climbing into second place but were still  6 1/2 games out of first. The team they were chasing would be the resident of the next stop for the tour.

8/21/1965:  Baseball in Minnesota was relatively new.  In 1961 The state had attracted the failing Washington Senators, a team that had not reached the post season since 1933.  Although they had left the nation's capital as a joke, they actually had a nice collection of talent.  They would not immediately compete in their new surroundings but they were building to something.  1965 was when it all came together.  The Twins took over first place in the American League on July 3 and would not relinquish the lead.  On August 21, as the Beatles played Metropolitan Stadium, the home town Twins were beating the Angels to maintain an 8 game lead over first.  A few months later, this same facility would see one of the great Game 7 pitching duels in World Series history.

The 1965 tour would wind up with stops in Portland, San Diego (still a minor league town), two nights at the Hollywood Bowl and ending in Daly City, CA.  By the time the Beatles came back to the states the attitude of fans would be drastically different.

For the next several months the group stayed close to home playing all over England and recording their next album, Rubber Soul.  The summer tour would start in England but quickly headed to Germany and Japan followed by the infamous stop in Manila.

In March of 1966 John Lennon had made a comment in an interview in London claiming that at that time the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.  The discussion was about the issues the Catholic Church in England was having with attendance at services and not about Lennon's inflated view of the band.  The discussion was taken out of context in the United States as the band prepared for their tour of the states.  In early August the southern states erupted in a fury over the interview and "Beatle Burning" parties were very popular events.  The tour went on  regardless. It kicked off on 8/12 in Chicago then on to Detroit (though they again avoided Tiger Stadium).

8/14/1966: Their next stop was Cleveland where they played at Municipal Stadium.  The Indians were in 3rd place, although at 13 games behind the league leading Baltimore Orioles they were not exactly in contention.  The Indians had been on the downward trend over the last few years and it was a slide that would continue for quite some time. While the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, the Indians were struggling for popularity in their own backyard.  The Beatles played 11 songs, none of which came from the Revolver album which had been released just a few weeks before.

8/15/1966: While the Beatles tour left Cleveland and landed in DC, the new Senators landed in Cleveland.  The Senators were a struggling team.  They had been added to the league when the original Senators left for Minnesota.  They would lose that night, something they would do 88 times that year.  The Beatles would give fans at Washington Stadium (later renamed Robert F. Kennedy Stadium) something to cheer about.  Playing a set identical to the one in Cleveland the night before the Beatles continued to thrill the young fans, although the band themselves were growing tired.  They moved on to Philadelphia where they played JFK Stadium.

8/21/1966:   The next stop for the Beatles was Crosley Field in Cincinnati.  While the Beatles were having their ears blown out by ear piercing screams, the Reds were in Houston getting blown out by the Astros. The Reds had traded their star Frank Robinson before the start of the year and the results this season were not what they expected.  The Reds sat in 6th place.  They would finish in 7th.  For the Beatles, they were focusing on an end to the tour that had become a burden to them rather than an exciting adventure.  They played the same set as they had in Cleveland and DC.

8/22/1966: It was now on to St.Louis and Busch Stadium.  It was the same set of songs.  It was the same process.  The tour was getting to be a nightmare.  The Cardinals were suffering through a nightmare season themselves.  Just two years removed from a World Series title, the Cardinals now sat in 5th place, nearly ten games out of first.

8/23/1966: From Busch it was on to New York and a return to Shea Stadium.  While the Beatles' had suffered a tumultuous year since they had last played there, the Mets' fortunes had taken a slight upturn.  Very slight.  They were still a very bad team but at least they were not in last place.  Even better, they lost less than 100 games this year.

8/28/1966: The tour moved on to Seattle on 8/25 then moved to southern California for an 8/28 stop at Dodger Stadium.  Los Angeles was the defending World Champion.  While the Beatles were ready to set up the stage in the outfield the Dodgers were engaging in a struggle with their rival, the San Francisco Giants.  The two teams were in a fierce struggle with the Pirates and were separated by only one game.  The Dodgers won that day, giving them two of the three games in the series.  The Beatles took to the stage that evening knowing that their tour was almost done.

8/29/1966: This was it.  While the Dodgers moved on to New York to play the Mets, the Giants moved on to play the Phillies in Philadelphia and the Beatles moved into Candlestick Park.  They had not told anyone yet, and had not really even discussed it as a group, but this was the end of the tour and the end of touring.  The set list was the same as it had been all tour, with one exception. the final song of the tour was "In My Life".

The Beatles would not play live in public again until January of 1969.  It would be their swan song on the rooftops of London.  The world had changed quite a bit in the time that the Beatles toured the US and so had the game of baseball.  When the Beatles came to the US the Yankees were the dominant team.  By the time they were done touring the Orioles and Cardinals were on their way to a league domination and the Yankees were headed into one of the darkest periods of their history.

As the great American game, the majority of players in Major League Baseball history were born in the United States (nearly 88%).  How many players in MLB history were born in the UK?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Congratulations to TJD for answering last week's trivia question.
A.L. East: Red Sox (71-91)
AL: Central:Twins (70-92)
A.L. West:Rangers (67-95)
N.L. East:Phillies (73-89)
N.L. Central:Cubs (73-89)
N.L. West: Diamondbacks (64-98)


  1. This article brings back a lot of memories and significant dates.
    1/12 is my wife's birthday and 2/4 is my mother's birthday. 8/22 is the anniversary of my father's death and 8/28 is my son's birthday and anniversary.
    1964 was the happiest year of my teenage years. That's why I enjoy the hits of '64.
    Here is a crazy story. I was invited to a sweet sixteen party in April 1964. The girl's whose birthday asked a couple of us to put on Beatles' wigs and add lib a Beatles tune.
    The one thing I remember from their tour is Atlantic City.On the last Saturday in August 1964 I went to Atlantic City for the day.I passed by Convention center and it was chaos. TV cameras and wires everywhere. Atlantic City was between the democratic national convention and the Beatles concert or visa versa.
    You mentioned that the Beatles played Convention Hall in Philadelphia. This is where the Philadelphia Warriors/ 76ers player their home games until the Spectrum was built.
    From your blog today it sounds like the Beatles were the originators of the Ultimate Ballpark Tour.
    As far as the trivia goes I have no idea so I am guessing 1.


  2. I love the way you wove together the history of the Beatles' touring and baseball history. I had no idea "In my life" was their last song. Very fitting! :) Great job! - Hope


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