Jul 25, 2013, 1:07 PM PDT
On this day in 1990, one comedienne managed to momentarily tarnish America’s pastime and the national anthem with a shrill, ear-piercingly off-tone, rendition of the song.
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, we’ll examine Roseanne Barr’s wretched version of The Star Spangled Banner.
Roseanne mangled the song right out of the gate. She made no attempt to sing or stick to any type of tempo as she quickly shrieked out each patriotic word. When the initial shock wore off on the fans in attendance in San Diego, they started loudly booing the comedienne. This caused her to stop and laugh for a moment, before continuing her assault on everyone’s unsuspecting ear drums. Clearly resenting the crowd’s reception, she screamed louder and louder until the end. Mercifully, it lasted just one minute.
After the song ended, Barr spit on the field and waddled off with her arms raised. She was clearly basking in the shower of boos. The backlash had only just begun. Two days later, Barr had to hold a press conference to issue an apology. People Magazine documented the damage.
Within 48 hours of Barr’s fingernails-on-the-blackboard performance—after which she hitched up an imaginary athletic supporter and p’tooied on the field—the comedian had drawn salvos from the national press, from President Bush (“a disgrace”), from Secretary of State Jim Baker (“disgusting”), and from more than 2,000 irate fans who called the stadium to complain.
Time Magazine determined it was the worst rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner ever.
The thing is, we’re not sure whom to blame. True, Roseanne makes no attempt to sing in anything that resembles proper pitch. But shouldn’t the real blame lie with the organizers of this 1990 San Diego Padres game? Did they really think the shrill comedienne had a set of hidden pipes as yet unrevealed to the American public?
Is it really the Padres fault? Think about it this way: Each baseball team has 81 regular season home games per year. With all 30 Major League Baseball teams playing a 162-game schedule, there are roughly 2,430 renditions of the anthem every year. And that figure ignores playoffs, spring training and the minor leagues. The national anthem is performed before every professional sporting event across all sports, but baseball has the most performers to book by far.
As a result, baseball teams will warmly welcome anyone even remotely considered a celebrity.
The Padres could have done their homework, though. Barr’s awful anthem wasn’t her first revolting offense at a baseball game. During the 1989 World Series, she and her husband at the time, Tom Arnold, mooned the crowd at the Oakland Coliseum.
In the end, the aftermath of Barr’s bad behavior hurt the ratings of her hit TV show. The San Diego Padres took the high road and played a pre-recorded version of The Star-Spangled Banner as performed by the U.S. Marine Corps Band for the remainder of the season.
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