Five-time Grammy Award winner and Boston native James Taylor took the field and sang the national anthem before Game 2 of the World Series, and was also tabbed to sing “America the Beautiful” during the seventh-inning stretch, joined by survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The World Series is Major League Baseball’s premier event, calling for first-rate performances during the pregame ceremonies and in-game breaks.
Throughout the playoffs, Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox’ executive vice president and senior adviser, worked closely with the MLB to coordinate the talent and the placement.
In one of the final home games of the season at Fenway Park, Steinberg took the opportunity to pay another tribute to the bombing victims.
“Some things you defer on and some things you assert on,” Steinberg said before the game. “In one of these first two games, we’d like a Boston touch that allows us, in a small and subtle way, to recognize what kind of year this has been in Boston.
“Major League Baseball was wonderful about that, and that’s why you see James Taylor go out for seventh-inning stretch joined by people who will not be introduced by name. They symbolize so many more, whether they are bereaved parents and siblings, the wounded who are recovering, or the heroes. If there are eight or 10 people out there with James Taylor, they represent hundreds.
“That’s our way of saying, ‘Even in this World Series, which is baseball’s jeweled event, here in Boston, this is what this year has meant to so many people.’ ”
Throughout the ALCS, there were several inspiring Boston-themed performances. In Game 1, Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, who helped triage patients at the Marathon finish line, sang the anthem.
In Game 2, 7-year-old Jane Richard, who lost her 8-year-old brother Martin, in the bombing, sang the anthem. In Game 6, the Dropkick Murphys performed.
During Game 1 of the World Series, Mary J. Blige sang the anthem. Although she does not have a Boston connection (she is from the Bronx), she resonates with both a national and local audience — a balance the MLB tries to achieve in its pregame ceremonies. Last week, Blige released a Christmas album, titled, “A Mary Christmas” and a promotion flashed on the center-field scoreboard after her performance.
“Mary J. Blige is one of those types of artists,” said Marla Miller, the senior vice president of special events for MLB. “We’re looking for top-tier talent that is iconic — that can stand on the field in that kind of setting and sing a song that is harder than most songs. Mary J. Blige fits that bill.”
In mid-September, representatives from teams in contention for the World Series began to collaborate with Miller and the MLB to begin planning ceremonies.
“We start to get feedback from clubs regarding pregame ceremonies for ceremonial first pitches or anthem recommendations,” Miller explained. “We at MLB combine that with seasonlong national partnerships and relationships showcased during the World Series.”
Planning for the World Series is a thorough and collaborative process between the MLB, Fox, and the teams that are playing, but the MLB does have the lead.
The MLB also actively supports the military through initiatives such as Welcome Back Veterans, and before Game 1, three Medal of Honor recipients were recognized. A flyover also accompanied the national anthem.
That said, Steinberg was not the least bit disappointed that Taylor did not sing the national anthem in Game 1.
“It’s up to Major League Baseball,” Steinberg said. “Because Major League Baseball uses the World Series to make a very definitive statement about military and veterans, and that’s what they do in Game 1 wherever it’s played.
“We didn’t ask. It was Mary J. Blige in Game 1, and they said, ‘How about James Taylor in Game 2?’ It’s very collaborative, but it’s their lead.
“We’re honored to be here. If we can have just one more brushstroke to acknowledge those who were affected by the Marathon, then that’s our contribution.”Anthony Gulizia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gulizia_a.