The sport of baseball has overlapped with the arts more than any other American pastime. There exists a body of great baseball literature, for example, and throughout history even a number of baseball-related songs have made their way into our shared cultural experience.
No other sport really comes close in this regard (though boxing has inspired a number of great writers and great films).
So it’s not really much of a surprise that my favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, would intersect on some plane with one of my favorite bands, Brooklyn-based Yo La Tengo. In this video on the band’s site, Ira Kaplan shares the story behind the band’s name by interviewing Mets great Ed Kranepool.
Here’s the story in a peanut shell:
Kranepool was on the Mets during their inaugural 1962 season, in which they were one of the worst teams in the history of baseball. Centerfielder Richie Ashburn (a future Hall of Famer) and shortstop Elio Chacon had difficulty communicating on several shallow pop-ups because Chacon spoke almost no English. Another player suggested Ashburn learn the phrase “Yo la tengo!” which translates to “I got it!” in Spanish, to avoid collisions. Soon after, a pop-up to shallow left brought Ashburn screaming in toward the infield, shouting “Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!” Chacon backed off, but Ashburn crashed hard into leftfielder Frank Thomas, who did not speak Spanish and had no idea what Ashburn was yelling about.
In college we had a Japanese guy who didn’t speak much English, either. Instead of learning the Japanese for “I got it!” though, we just let him get everything. Man, that kid worked hard for his roster spot.
Kaplan’s Korner [Yo La Tengo Official Web site]