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Best Baseball Songs Ever: Georges Bizet – Toreador from Carmen

April 12, 2011

Georges Bizet – Toreador from Carmen (1875)

Georges Bizet: The Original Bad News Bear

This quitting thing, it’s a hard habit to break once you start. – Coach Morris Buttermaker

How did an opera that was first performed one year before the establishment of the National League produce one of the best baseball songs ever? And how is it that an aria about the glories of bullfighting is, in fact, best suited to baseball? Thank The Bad News Bears (1976) and its soundtrack’s composer Jerry Fielding, who liberally utilized not only “Toreador,” but other themes from Carmen, elevating what could have been a pedestrian tale of overcoming adversity into an epic exploration of triumph and redemption set against a prophetically searing portrait of unbridled competition’s dark side.

My father took me to see The Bad News Bears when it came out. I was eight years old and as I recall, he attempted to cover my ears when the cursing began, but it quickly became evident that was a losing strategy and soon thereafter he gave up. At the time,  I thought it was the greatest movie I’d ever seen and to this day, it remains in my top ten.

Not only does The Bad News Bears capture an authentic slice of Americana, but it also transforms one of the seminal musical compositions of the 19th century. At first glance it may seem ironic to mix high and low culture, but when you’re a kid, your trials and tribulations are everything. Jerry Fielding and director Michael Ritchie understood that there is nothing ironic about feeling the huge sweep of emotions life offers for the first time. The soundtrack accentuates the monumental scope of a little league season, leaving an emotional echo that lasts long after the credits fade.  It is a tremendous achievement.

The montage beginning at 5:16 chronicles the rocky rise of the Bears, propelled by an ingenious remix from Carmen and ends about a minute later when Ahmed takes a fly ball in the nuts.

Losing never felt so sweet. If only we could learn this film’s great lesson: winning at any cost is not winning at all.

Carmen – Toreador MP3

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