Finding a baseball song with a Christmas angle (or vice versa) is no easy feat; in fact, outside of Gord Bamford’s awful “Baseball Glove” and Bob Seger’s request for a baseball bat in “Sock It To Me Santa,” I’m hard pressed to think of another song in which the summer game and the winter wonderland actually cross paths.
But when Teresa Brewer’s immortal 1953 hit “Too Fat for the Chimney” popped up on my Christmas playlist this week (yes, I am almost as obsessed with Christmas music as I am with baseball), it occurred to me that she was also responsible for one of the great baseball novelty songs of the 1950s — “I Love Mickey,” a duet (of sorts) with Mickey Mantle. Not exactly a straight-up Christmas-baseball tie-in, then. But close enough to get my wheels turning…
Like most pop vocalists of the era, Brewer didn’t write the songs she sang — her substantial repertoire of hits was primarily Tin Pan Alley fare, along with bleached covers of R&B songs by Johnny Ace, Sam Cooke and Fats Domino — but “I Love Mickey” was apparently the rare exception. Inspired by watching Mantle in action at Yankee Stadium, Brewer co-wrote the number in the spring of 1956, with the help of professional songwriters Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz.
The song itself isn’t much — a string of baseball puns that Brewer delivers with near-hysterical enthusiasm — but the presence of Mantle himself, who was clearly a good sport about the whole thing, gives “I Love Mickey” its lasting charm. He doesn’t actually sing, per se, but you can practically see the goofy grin on the Commerce Comet’s face every time he interjects his “Mickey who?” line, and his playful dig at teammate Yogi Berra is easily the funniest moment in the song:
1956, of course, was Mantle’s greatest season. He won the American League Triple Crown, hitting .353 with 52 home runs and 130 RBIs, while leading the majors in runs scored (132), total bases (376), slugging (.705) and OPS (1.169) and taking home his first MVP award. He also hit three home runs in that year’s World Series, the last of the legendary October showdowns between the Yankees and Brooklyn’s Dodgers. Compared to Mantle’s diamond heroics that year, “I Love Mickey” was a slow roller to second; the song rose no higher than No. 87 on the Billboard charts, despite Brewer and Mantle appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show to promote it.
While Brewer and Mantle never collaborated again (at least not professionally, though rumors of a romance did briefly swirl), Brewer’s songwriting partners on “I Love Mickey” went on to pen two other well-known baseball songs: “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame,” a 1960 hit for the Harry Simeone Songsters, and the original New York Mets theme, “Meet the Mets”.