The Eulogizer: Pop song composer Ruth Roberts

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Ruth Roberts, 84, wrote ‘Meet the Mets’

Ruth Roberts, a popular song composer whose work was sung by millions of New York Mets fans and the Beatles, among many others, died June 30 at 84.

Roberts co-wrote "Meet the Mets," the catchy and enduring fight song for New York’s new National League team in 1961, even before they had played their first game. The song has been revised and revamped several times, but this writer — who grew up singing the tune at Shea Stadium — as well as others who noted Roberts’ death tended to agree that the original version is the best.

In 1984, the Mets changed the tempo and rewrote the lyrics, replacing "Bring your kiddies, bring your wife / Guaranteed to have the time of your life," with "Hot dogs, green grass all out at Shea / Guaranteed to have a heck of a day." A 1999 version tended toward a rap/R&B style.

But none of the changes "ever eclipsed the original version. It’s so stylized, it couldn’t have been written in any other period but the early 1960s," said Bob Thompson, a professor of music at SUNY Purchase and the head of the Baseball Music Project. "It’s one of the most charming, endearing parts of the Mets’ history. It was about the honesty and the purity of the game. It turned the spotlight away from the players and onto the fans. It’s so corny — and that’s what makes it beautiful."

The Wall Street Journal provides a detailed history of how the song came to be, as well as the complete lyrics, and reported that the Mets and ad agency J. Walter Thompson were looking in 1961 to build a new brand out of the ashes of the departed Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. They created a contest for the new team’s logo and also put out a call for a theme song. Roberts’s entry was one of 19 songs considered.

The song,  performed by the Glenn Osser Orchestra, was released to the public in 1963. It is still played at Citi Field, the Mets’ current home, and versions are played during TV and radio broadcasts.

"I think it is the most nationally well-known theme song maybe in all of sports," said Mets broadcaster Howie Rose. The song was played at Citi Field before the July 1 Mets-Yankees game as a tribute to Roberts, who studied at Northwestern University and the Juilliard School of Music in New York.

A 2010 New York Times article, "Mets May Have Musical Edge on Yankees," compared "Meet the Mets" to the Yankees’ theme song, and the article’s headline gave away its conclusion.

Roberts wasn’t a one-hit wonder, though. The native of Port Chester, in suburban New York, sold her first song in 1947 at the fabled Brill Building in Manhattan. "The Moon is Always Bigger on a Saturday Night" was recorded by big band leader Orrin Tucker, who died in April at 100. Other artists of that era who recorded Roberts’ songs were Arthur Godfrey and the McGuire Sisters.

But her songwriting even reached into the rock era. Buddy Holly included her song "Mailman Bring Me No More Blues" as the B side of his record "Words of Love." The Beatles, big Holly fans, recorded the same song, as did John Lennon in a solo performance. The Beatles’ version was never released until their Anthology 3 collection in 1996, and the Lennon version has surfaced only as a bootleg. Videos of Holly, the Beatles and Lennon versions can be found by clicking here.

Other sports-themed songs were "Mr. Touchdown, USA," which Roberts co-wrote with two others; "I Love Mickey,” about Mickey Mantle; and "It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame,” which was played for many years at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Both songs offer ironic twists for someone so closely associated with the team that tried to fill the Dodgers’ place or replace the Yankees in New Yorkers’ hearts.

Coming soon from the Eulogizer

In coming days, The Eulogizer plans to write about Sabina Van Der Linden-Wolanski, an Australian philanthropist and Shoah survivor; New York architect Larry Bogdanow; British anti-Zionist activist Simon Levin; and New York ad executive Eugene Kummel.

 

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