#Popups: Macklemore and the Mariners

Written by: Nate Tweedie

Baseball and pop culture have intersected in America for more than a century. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum takes a look at these cross-over stars and events in our web feature #PopUps.

On July 24, Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Griffey will be the first member of the Hall of Fame to wear a Mariners cap on his plaque.

Few fans will be more excited about this than Seattle native and lifelong Mariners fan Ben Haggerty. Haggerty is better known by his stage name, Macklemore. Macklemore and his musical partner Ryan Lewis have become a household name for hits “Same Love”, ”Downtown”, and “Thrift Shop”.

Macklemore’s relationship with the Mariners demonstrates the ongoing intersection of Pop-Culture with the National Pastime. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed their single “My Oh My” on April 8, 2011 at Safeco Park. After a six game road trip to start the season, Macklemore and Lewis performed the single prior to the Mariners’ home opener that season. The timing was not a coincidence. Longtime Seattle broadcast announcer and 2008 Ford C. Frick Award winner, Dave Niehaus had passed away the previous November. Additionally, April 8, 2011 was declared "My oh My! Dave Niehaus Day" in Seattle and King County, Wash.

The song “My Oh My” is in memory of Niehaus. The song follows Macklemore telling the story of baseball in his youth and of the Mariners 1995 playoff run, which clearly made a lasting impression on him as a child. He states that when he turned on the radio and heard Niehaus, “the voice on the other end might of well’ve been God’s.” Also, the song references Niehaus’ two most popular catch phrases: “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it is grand salami time!" for a grand slam and the song’s title “My, Oh My!” for an exciting play.

In addition to the two catch phrases, “My Oh My” also features Niehaus’ call during the final inning of the 1995 American League Division Series. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Edgar Martinez hit a line-drive down the third base line at the Kingdome. Joey Cora scored easily on the hit and Ken Griffey Jr. was waved on to home from first. In Niehaus’ words, “the throw to the play will be late.” Griffey had scored the run to send his team on to the American League Championship Series, the furthest the franchise had ever been in the Postseason.

The 2011 Opening Day performance of “My Oh My” and the song’s music video are not the end of Macklemore showing up at Safeco Field, or in baseball gear. On June 12, 2014 Macklemore walked out to the mound, took a selfie, and then shook off the catcher’s imaginary sign twice, before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Macklemore wore a customized jersey with the No. 1 on it. Fans in attendance to the game also were lucky to take Macklemore home with them. June 12, 2014 was Macklemore Bobblehead Giveaway night. The pitch was honored forever in the 2015 Topps First Pitch set. However, this was not the first or last time Macklemore threw out the first pitch. The hip-hop artist also threw out the first pitch in 2012 and most recently on April 29 of 2016.

The relationship between Macklemore and the Mariners goes deeper than just performing, bobbleheads, and throwing out first pitches. Macklemore created a custom version of his hit “Can’t Hold Us” for the Mariners. The song, and associated video were played as the Mariners took the field during all 2013 home games. Additionally, Macklemore teamed up with “King” Felix Hernandez and the Mariners for an anti-bullying campaign known as Change the Game. The two make a powerful anti-bullying team as they are two of the largest stars in the city.

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Again in 2016, Macklemore and baseball intersected. In late June, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed their current hit “Dance Off” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. While performing on stage Macklemore was wearing a jacket over a 1986 style Dwight Gooden Mets jersey. The video went viral on social media and had over one million views on YouTube within a week.

Finally, astute baseball fans may have made a leap at the final baseball reference - Macklemore’s name. Haggerty credits the creation of his stage name, Macklemore, to a school art assignment when he created the name Professor Macklemore for a superhero. It is interesting to go one step further in this analysis. While this story is likely true and has been repeated many times, one still must wonder where the name popped into the head of a 17 year old Ben Haggerty.

In 2000, while the 17-year-old Mariners fan named a fictional character Professor Macklemore, the Seattle Mariners were enjoying the skills of a utility player by the name of Mark McLemore. According to USA Today and FindTheBest.com, the name McLemore is used by only 1 in 100,000 Americans. Also, the list of famous McLemores is very short. The only McLemore on the list that would have been alive, old enough, and in a field of interest for young Ben Haggerty was Mark McLemore of the Mariners. While the singer has never admitted this, it does seem a reasonable assumption that Haggerty was inspired to name his stage persona after the 5-foot-11 switch-hitter.

I am just waiting for the McLemore and Macklemore joint bobblehead to pop up.

Nate Tweedie is the manager of on-site learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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