Friday and Saturday nights, June 2 and 3, 2023, the Savannah Bananas slid into First Horizon Park, home of the Nashville Sounds, with much fanfare. It was very appealing. Sorry for the puns, but it was a weekend for the baseball gods to pass judgement on a new brand of baseball reminiscent of the barnstorming teams of days gone by.
Two Nights of Carnival Atmosphere
For those two nights the Bananas took on the Party Animals, a formidable foe that brought back memories of the ever-present Washington Generals touring with the Harlem Globetrotters and may still do. Decked out in Pink and Black uniforms in contrast to the Bananas yellow, the party atmosphere was electric for both ball clubs for two hours on the field, and over two hours before the game outside the stadium.
Heck, the Bananas even brought their own marching band, just a few of the 80-member crew who all travel together.
Once the national anthem was sung, the soiree began. So did the music, which never stopped the entire game, with rounds of Feliz Navidad, the Addams Family theme, YMCA, and of course, the Tennessee Volunteers theme song, Rocky Top (woo!), kept the crowd in the game if not with their applause, at least with their voices.
Ball games these days are interlaced with walk up music and music between innings, but not a Savannah Bananas game. It never stops. And it was loud. I mean, really, really loud.
Where there is music, there is usually dancing, and the players from both sides were often joined by the umpires, who added a flavor all their own because umpires are expected to show no nonsense during a game. Once again, this was not a typical game, and the question is whether it was even baseball.
Are the Globetrotters playing real basketball? If the answer is “Yes,” then the Bananas are playing real baseball. It may not be typical in the normal sense, no, but the game is built around entertainment and not competition.
Lucky enough to be the fan that snags a foul ball hit into the stands? The batter is out. Want to call for a replay on a close play? Throw a banana onto the field to signify to the umpire for another look. Like dancing between innings or during a time out? Look for shirtless players performing their best river dance or Irish jig.
Baseball on Stilts
Adding to the circus atmosphere is a batter on stilts in the eighth inning, who promptly singles before being forced at second on a force play, but not without galloping like a giraffe heading for the next high-hanging mango.
Actually, “circus” is a great word to describe the on-field amusement. There is plenty of baseball, although not all the time, such as when 15-year major leaguer and 2002 American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito comes out to pitch the top of the sixth inning for Savannah, then plays his guitar and sings from the third base coach’s box while the Bananas are at bat in the bottom of the inning.
The brainchild of yellow tuxedoed Jesse Cole, who emceed the entire night including a baby crawl race, this brand of baseball might not allow fans to execute a conversation with their neighbors, but the spectacle gave sell-out crowds something to talk about.
© 2023 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.