While the Library of Congress celebrated the addition of its Bob Wolff collection last month, the archivists brought out many bits of baseball and D.C. memorabilia. Included in that display was the sheet music for Hail to the Senators, a 1943 ditty that doesn’t seem to have caught on with the populace
“The Nats gave early comers to the game a sneak preview of their new theme song, ‘Hail to the Senators,’ over the loud-speaker system. It may be played between games of today’s twin bill,” The Post reported that summer, in what seems to be the only time we’ve ever mentioned the song.
(Although a retired Navy Rear Admiral, one “P.D. Gallery,” used the phrase in a 1967 letter to the editor. “The Washington Senators have given the District the biggest boost in spirits since the Lindberg story!” he wrote. “Their spirited comeback from a hopeless last place to within striking distance of the top is an inspiring performance….This baseball team has contributed immensely to getting our minds off possible street troubles and onto healthy ‘rooting for the home team.’…Hail to the Senators!”
“Hail to the Senators,” of course, is reminiscent of another local fight song. It goes without saying that by 1943, “Hail to the Redskins” was already well established in D.C. The song had actually debuted five years earlier, during a big social event in the city.
“There’ll be Redskin war dancing on the Shoreham Terrace next Wednesday evening,” The Post’s nightlife column reported in the summer of 1938. “For the “Redskin’ Pow Wow” will come off that night. All of the Redskins will be entertained by their boss, George Marshall, and Mrs. Marshall (nee Corinne Griffith). Many prominent officials of the Federal and District governments will also be on hand to greet Washington’s champion footballers.
“Barnee, now maestro of the Redskins as well as the Shoreham (he’s big enough to go into the line, too), will play the Redskins’ new rally song, ‘Hail to the Redskins,’ with emphasis on war whoops and drums. Barnee composed the music, Corinne Griffith the words. A sample – “Scalp ‘em, swamp ‘em! We will take ‘em big score.’ ”
“Hail to the Redskins” was actually played at a Senators game in that summer of ’38, causing some intrigue among ownership, and by that winter it was already well established.
“About every third person you meet on F street is humming a tune, and if you listen carefully you might even catch the words: ‘Hail to the Redskins, hail to vic-to-ree. Braves on the warpath, fight for ol’ D.C..,’ ” wrote columnist Richards Vidmer in December of ’38. “They’re playing it at the tea dances. They’re playing it at the night spots….It’s the song of the Redskins, as far as I know it’s the only professional football song in existence, which perhaps is just as well. The professionals, as a whole, don’t go in for the campus spirit, but Washington is different. It’s probably due to the influence of George Preston Marshall. Mr. Marshall never went to college himself, but somehow there is something very collegiate about him.”
That song has lasted 75 years, and yet D.C. still doesn’t have a baseball anthem. Unless someone wants to re-do “Hail to the Senators.”