CONTRARY TO popular belief, not everyone loves a polka. A minor league baseball manager in Florida named Lee Elia is one who does not, at least not at all times and in all places. Sounding what may be baseball's musical high note of the season, the Clearwater Phillies manager took his team off the field for 10 minutes to protest the playing of polka music during a game in West Palm Beach.
Mr. Elia has managed long enough, in both the major and minor leagues, not to be too surprised by anything he encounters at a ballpark -- including the sound of the "Polish Jig" coming over the PA system in a place thought to be far outside the Polka Belt.
But as he was quick to point out, it wasn't the polka per se that angered him; rather, it was the idea of music -- any music -- being played during game action, especially between pitches. "I don't care what they do between innings," Mr. Elia said after the game, in which his team beat the West Palm Beach Expos, 10-3. "They can play all the music they want. They can run dancing elephants out there. But don't play between pitches. There's got to be some professionalism."
The manager has a point. Not only does music distract players, it also has the effect, when used to punctuate the action (whether with polkas, gallops, waltzes or themes from the great musicals), of making what is supposed to be a ball game seem more like a would-be music video. More important still is the potential advantage it gives certain unscrupulous ball clubs, which could conceal a musician or a disc jockey behind the center-field fence to steal opposing catchers' signs and then signal each pitch -- "Ride of the Valkyries" for a high hard one, "Moon River" for a changeup.
Mr. Elia's action is extreme but perhaps the only one available until the day when umpires take control and -- whenever they hear a stadium combo striking up a number between pitches -- step forward to announce: "That's it -- game called on account of accordion!"