Crab Grass Band News & History
This is subject to change at anyone's whim.
Redding Searchlight: July 30, 2009
Crab Grass Band brings unique form of fan support to Tiger FieldBy Leland Gordon
There's one thing that's more rare than an unassisted triple play, and fans who went to the Colt .45s' final 2009 home game on Tuesday saw it.
It was a pep band for a baseball team.
The Crab Grass Band brought a nine-member noise brigade to Tiger Field to cheer on the Humboldt Crabs and its unconventional method of baseball fan spirit sounded like it belonged in a basketball or football game. Complete with baritone and alto saxophones, a piccolo, two tubas, two trumpets, a trombone and a snare drum, the Crab Grass Band had a blast as it consistently roused the large contingent of Crabs fans who made the trek from Arcata.
It's something that's rarely, if ever, seen at baseball games. But that doesn't mean it doesn't belong, said Gordon Thompson (sic) [Johnson], who was the facilitator for the evening.
"Secondary entertainment is important in baseball, and live music really isn't the antithesis of baseball," he said, mentioning that the organ is a part of baseball fan culture. "Arcata is a true music town. There's always a drum circle somewhere."
It's also a town that loves its Crabs. The oldest summer collegiate league team in the nation has a steady and faithful following, and the band boasts 30 to 40 different people who have played at one time or another in the group. The Crab Grass Band has been playing its tunes since 1983 and boasts a playlist on its Web site of 112 songs - everything from "All Right Now" to the theme song from the video game Zelda.
It's more about music and fun, not baseball.
"The idea is that it's a true community band," said John Miller.
Reasons for the band's name are extremely simple, according to its Web site.
"The Crab Grass Band is sort of like crab grass - you can just never really make it go away. It just keeps showing up every year."
Music is the main draw. Having and sharing fun is the ultimate goal. Tuba player Megan McTavish said she's not a baseball fan but participates because of the enjoyment she gets. Supporting the Crabs is easy to do, she said, because it's also supporting Crabs fans in their efforts to let loose and enjoy the game.
"We just add great spirit," she said. "Wherever we go we have a blast."
Umpires, opposing players and Redding fans may not have had such a blast if they couldn't take a little ribbing. The group heckles and pokes fun consistently, without vulgarity or crossing lines of decent behavior, and finds ways to let everyone know it's there. Colt .45s manager Ryan Watson said it's not a factor for the guys on the field.
"I don't think it distracts the players," he said. "I've never seen a band at a baseball game. I guess it belongs in Humboldt but everywhere else it seems out of place."
A man who called himself Eddie Eagle said the verbal aspect is just another aspect of being a fan who wants to have fun.
"Heckling is part of baseball and we do it in the spirit of the game," he said.
It was diverse playlist Wednesday. Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" was a between-inning selection, and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" entertained fans during a pitching change in the first game.
Van Morrison's "Domino" helped pass the time between games, while the group went into the ragtime classic "A Hot Time in the Old Town" after a Crabs home run in the top of the fifth of the first contest.
To say that the group was completely on key every time would be a lie.
It's certainly not a conventional addition to a baseball game, and it's one baseball purists are guaranteed to scoff at. The Crab Grass Band, however, just wants to share the enjoyment of Crabs baseball. And Wednesday, there was no doubt that it accomplished its goal.
Reporter Leland Gordon can be reached at 225-8263 or email@example.com.
Photo: Gordon Johnson plays while other members of the Crab Grass Band sing to fans during the seventh inning stretch Wednesday at Tiger Field.Comments:
The Crab Grass Band was hilarious and worth going just to see them goof around. We went to the late game, and it was a blast. What a fun evening.
I have been to a Crabs game in Arcata. They put on a great game in a nice little stadium & the band is really fun. I would go the Colts games if it wasn't so hot here. I never even heard of the Colts until a week or so ago.
[LINK TO STORY] | [LINK TO PHOTO] | [LINK TO VIDEO OF BAND PLAYING "BLUES BROTHERS"] | [LINK TO VIDEO "25 OR 6 TO 4"]
A home away from home in Santa Clara
Ray Hamil, Eureka Reporter, 6/27/08
The Humboldt Crabs are making something called a road trip this week, and while that might be a term most fans of the team are not familiar with, rest assured.
Why? Because when it comes to the Crabs experience, it doesn't matter whether they're playing at the Arcata Ballpark or 320 miles south of it, some things never change.
The sound of the wood bat is still so much better.
The Crab Grass Band still likes to make a lot of noise.
The Crabs are still losing to the Fontanetti A's.
Still, the occasion was one worth savoring, even considering a disappointing loss, and the atmosphere, as always, was one to soak in.
I admit, I arrived at Stephen Schott Stadium at Santa Clara with a little trepidation.
Sure it's a beautiful ballpark and a wonderful setting for a baseball game, but it's also "their" turf, as close to at home as the San Jose-based A's ever get to play the Crabs, and I was wondering if they'd be gunning for "us."
After all, before this summer we've been beating up on them in Arcata for decades, since well before many of their current players were even born.
But in reality, it didn't seem to matter whose ballpark it was, the Crabs contingent of fans still out-numbered their opponents, and that was even before the Crab Grass Band arrived.
When the band got there, any hopes of a nice quiet day at the ballpark for the "home" fans went out the window.
Heck, they even brought a full drum set all the way from Arcata.
Unfortunately, the players didn't seem to draw much inspiration out of the band's presence. Maybe someone should remind them that no other summer collegiate baseball team has its own personal band traveling for every game.
Regardless, as the game wore on, the atmosphere grew in stature, and naturally "blue" had plenty to do with it.
With the Crabs trailing 5-3, the speedy Michael Miller appeared to score all the way from second on a Richard Cates base hit, but he was called out at the plate by the umpire, all of which didn't sit very well with the Crabs Grass Band and the rest of the Crabs fans in attendance.
Someone even went so far as to call it "the worst call ever," which must be really bad considering all the bad calls that have been made in the history of baseball.
I wanted to go over to the umpire to tell him what he really should have called, but he was too busy at the time dealing with a distraught-looking Crabs first base coach Matt Wilson, who was shouting in his face.
Apparently Miller is so fast, even "blue" can't keep up with him.
"Hah, you don't get the calls here," someone on the A's side called over.
Does that mean we're supposed to get them at home?
"Take that umpire on our next road trip," another fan from the A's side called out, and Crabs fans spent the rest of the day wishing they would take him now.
All in all, it was just another Crabs game a few hundred miles from home.
And win or lose, the beauty about baseball is we get to do it all over again the next day.
Thanks, Kevin: Crabs celebrate Morsching's life at the Arcata Ball Park
Erik Fraser/The Times-Standard 09/09/2007
The Crabs celebrated the life of pitcher Kevin Morsching on Saturday evening, and it was clear that in death, Morsching gave the team a tremendous gift. For through the death of this extraordinary young man, the Crabs family has grown stronger, it has grown closer, and it has, simply, grown.
The approximately 300 people who gathered around home plate at the Arcata Ball Park Saturday night truly were a family, and they came because each of them had been touched by Morsching, who died last month at the age of 21 after suffering severe head injuries in a skateboarding accident in Rapid City, S.D.
The ceremony began with two of Morsching's teammates, Denis Hill and Tyler Axelrod, and Manager Matt Nutter bringing in Morsching's No. 7 jersey from the bullpen and putting it on a stool on the mound.
In honor of the way Morsching used to sprint to the mound, Hill and Axelrod ran the last 100 feet or so from the outfield grass to the rubber. Nutter then placed a baseball on the stool, tapped the jersey and walked away.
Among those who spoke were Nutter, Crabs President Randy Robertson, former teammates Denis Hill, Tyler Axelrod and Dale Solomon, and Morsching's aunt and uncle, Kirk and Karen Richards.
And every story -- many of which involved his passion for rock-climbing -- focused on the fire and enthusiasm that Morsching injected into his own life and the lives of everyone around him. Nutter had so many stories that Robertson eventually had
to take the mic away, just to keep the night moving.
Many tears were shed as the stories flowed, and it seemed that every tear added strength to the bonds that hold the Crabs family together. The Crab Grass Band played some of Morsching's favorites, including Elvira, Sweet Caroline and of course, Ozzy Osbourne's “Crazy Train,” to which 8-year-old Tyler Hughes danced on the infield in his own tribute to Morsching.
Morsching's death has surely cast a cloud over everyone who knew him, but this cloud has many layers of bright silver linings.
Most importantly, Morsching was an organ donor, and the Morsching family was in a perfect situation to take maximum advantage of that. Combine the fact that Morsching was declared brain-dead -- a necessary component -- with the fact that Karen Richards works for a company that facilitates organ donation in the Bay Area, and Morsching's organs and tissues were able to help over 400 other people across the United States, from California to New York.
And the silver linings for the Crabs family is that, even though he won't be on the mound in 2008, his impact will be evident. Morsching's brother, Kirby, will be on the Crabs' roster next year, and their parents plan to come out to see the team that their elder son fell in love with this past summer.
Hill, Axelrod and Solomon all plan to come back as well, to continue what they started with Kevin Morsching. It's always good for the fans when there are a lot of familiar faces on the new season's roster (this year there were only three).
The rest of the team might just be made up of guys from South Dakota, because Nutter said everyone out there who knew Morsching had heard about what a great organization the Crabs run, and wanted to experience it themselves.
As Kirk Richards said, “There's a strong contingent of Crabs fans in Rapid City.”
Kevin Morsching will always be remembered as someone who, because of his zeal for life, lived more in his 21 years than most people could in 90. And he's given the Crabs and their fans more than we could ever ask for. And for that, I believe thanks are in order.
And the big-time award show winners are...
Ray Hamill, Eureka Reporter: Jan. 20, 2007
"... Best Musical: And the Hammy goes to the Crab Grass Band, which alone is worth the admission price to a ball game. ...
Most Anticipated Ballpark Opening of the Year: And the Hammy goes to the Arcata Ballpark on opening day of the 2007 Crabs season. I saw the new lights turned on the other night for the first time and I have to say it looked ... what’s the word I’m looking for .. oh yeah, bright! And the new field looks great."
Humboldt State University Website: Jan. 2007
THE CRAB GRASS BAND – THEY’RE BAAAAACK
By JIM GOULD (from the 2004Humboldt Crabs Program)
Well, yes, the Crabs are unique. The semi-isolated location, the history, the community support, the volunteers that make it happen. Everything about the Crabs seems to scream UNIQUE. And then you consider the Crab Grass Band, and uniqueness climbs right off the chart – the Unique Chart, that is. The Band has yet to make a chart-busting CD, but they’re working on it. They recorded their first CD last year.
So how do the Crabs rate their own band? As a rule, major league teams don’t have their own bands. Oh, they’ve got an organist here or there. Some even refer to their “keyboard artists”. Occasionally they’ll even invite a band or two in for some big game game. But a team band? Nah, it doesn’t happen….Unless you happen to be in Humboldt County.
The Crab Grass Band sort of happened about 20 years ago. A bunch of former Lumberjack band members from Humboldt State University got together and asked the Crabs if they could play at a few games. Ned Barsuglia, the Crabs GM at the time, said, “Why not?” And the rest, as they say….
Contrary to suspicious minds, the Crab Grass Band was not named for Humboldt County’s most famous and most infamous products. Officially the band was christened by the mother of an original member who noted that despite a lack of sophisticated management and deep-pocket financing, the band managed to survive and return to the ballpark every summer, just like that pernicious weed. Thus the name. And that is the official word.
Gordon Johnson, the delightful ensemble’s “Semi Conductor” claims about 40 Crab Grass Band members, more or less. Twenty-five or so make it to the games…depending. The members have real day jobs – and wives – and husbands – and families. But enough of them manage to make it to the park to entertain the fans, raise the spirits of the team and razz the competition. Razzing, after all, is part of what baseball is all about. And the Crab Grass Band does it sooo well. Not crude. Not obscene. But oh so deliciously nasty.
One interesting note about the band is that the competition looks forward to the encounter. On more than one occasion when the Crabs are building the schedule for the coming year, the Crabs are asked, “Will the band be there?” And the answer is always, “Of course.”
The added pleasure that the band brings to the ballpark was underlined last year at the All American Invitational Tournament in Gresham, Oregon. Gresham organizers asked the Crabs management if the band would mind playing at some of the tournament games in which the Crabs were not on the field. “You’ll have to ask the band,” the Crabs replied. So the organizers asked, and the band agreed. Their fame now spreads well beyond Humboldt County. They’ll be back in Gresham this summer. They’ll need to raise some funds to make the trip. They might ask for your help. But they’ll be there.
Much like the baseball team they’ve supported for 21 years, the Crab Grass Band is unique. You can catch them at the park. Oh, and that CD? It’s on sale for a very modest fee at the concession stand. You can check out the band at their web site at crabgrassband.org.
Crab Grass Band: 21 facts for the 21st anniversary
by GAIL GOURLEY
(from the 2003 Humboldt Crabs Program Book)
1. Did you know that...the Crab Grass Band was founded 20 years ago by a group of musicians from Humboldt State's Marching Lumberjack Band? In 1983 Hugh Scanlon was a student at Humboldt State University and had been playing with the Marching Lumberjack Band. "A number of us from the band were staying around for the summer and knew about the Humboldt Crabs," said Scanlon. "We thought it would be fun to go down to the ball park and play down there a little bit; it would give us an excuse to kind of keep our chops up musically and go enjoy some baseball at the same time." That first year saw six or seven musicians in the band, with Marching Lumberjacks forming the nucleus and a couple community members joining in. Scanlon, who today works for the California Department of Forestry and is also a firefighter with the Arcata Volunteer Fire Department, ended up directing the band that first year and several times since then.
2. Did you know that...the band was enthusiastically supported by Ned Barsuglia, then Crabs general manager, and well received by the fans from the beginning? One of the first things Scanlon did to get things started was talk to Barsuglia. "Ned's a sweetie," said Scanlon. "He was very easy to talk to about this. He said, 'Oh yeah, you guys wanna come down, that'd be great. We'll see how it works out.' We showed up and the crowd reception was almost universally fantastic."
3. Did you know that...the band today consists of a conglomeration of current and former members of the Marching Lumberjacks as well as community members, including high school musicians and even an occasional middle school student?
4. Did you know that...the band takes its musicianship very seriously? What? It's true. The Crab Grass Band has had its swings of highs and lows over the last two decades, says Scanlon. "The musicianship of the group has varied a lot over time, and it has a lot to do with the number of people that are in town and the instrumentation that's in town. If we don't have the right people playing the right instruments the band's balance isn't right. Parts are missing. If you end up with too many missing key parts it just does not work very well. When the instrumentation is good the band has the potential to sound very good."
5. Did you know that...The Crabs organization supplies band members with a hot dog and a soda at each game they play? No free beer, though.
6. Did you know that...there was one year the band didn't play? It was either the sixth or seventh season, 1988 or 1989 - Scanlon's not sure exactly. But he said the next year Gene Joyce, one of the earlier band members, picked up the ball and continued the tradition.
7. Did you know that...Hugh Scanlon credits his mother for coming up with the idea of the band's name? "It did make sense because the Crab Grass Band is sort of like crab grass - you can just never really make it go away. It just keeps showing up every year," Scanlon said.
8. Did you know that... the Crab Grass Band is not to be confused with the Kinetic Madness Band or the Marching Lumberjacks? Although some of the music and membership is the same, Scanlon says, they are different entities.
9. Did you know that...Shorty loves the Crab Grass Band? "The Crab Grass Band is awesome," says Crabs Head Coach Ken "Shorty" Ames. "We love 'em. We wish they were there every game." He said he's been in hundreds of baseball parks across the country and this is the only team that has a band that he knows of. "It's so 'Humboldt Crabs' it's incredible. The other team will be coming in and they'll ask 'is the band gonna be here tonight?' They know it all up and down the coast."
10. Did you know that... band members have been known to heckle the umpires and razz the opposing team? No, really. "Well, we've had 20 years to work on it," Scanlon explained. "Yeah, we've got some heckles that have sort of evolved and grown over the years, but the heckles we use are all in good fun. Quite frankly, you'll see most of our heckles directed at the umpires, but the umpires actually do a pretty good job for these games. No one's perfect and it's kind of fun to just give the umpires a taste of what it would be like if they were in the big leagues."
11. Did you know that...Crab Grass Band members have arranged some of their own music? For example, Hugh Scanlon arranged one of the group's signature finales, Free Bird, in 1995 and it worked so well that it's a favorite among many band members as well as fans. In fact, said Scanlon, it went over so well for the Crab Grass Band that the Marching Lumberjacks put it in their play book. And one of Scanlon's personal favorites, an arrangement of David Bowie's Let's Dance, was done by former band member Bodie Pfost. "That is also a very fun song to play," says Scanlon.
12. Did you know that...it's not easy being the band's director? Although the directorship has rotated over time, Scanlon held the title for several years. He said, "Being director of the band changes your mindset to some extent because you have to focus on what the band is doing; prepare the band for the next break between innings, get songs up and make sure everybody knows what's going on - which means actually watching the baseball game can be difficult when you're the director. And I do very much enjoy watching the Crabs play." For the past few years, tuba player Gordon Johnson has shouldered the responsibilities of directorship. Johnson, whose day job is with the County Department of Public Health, has played on and off with the band since it started.
13. Did you know that...the band has a few rehearsals in May? "We typically rehearse a few times before the season starts but once the season starts we don't rehearse anymore," said Johnson.
14. Did you know that... the band plays at about 20 - 24 games during the season? "Our schedule for playing games is actually pretty aggressive," Scanlon said. "We play a lot of games, relatively speaking, for being just a bunch of folks who happen to be in town. We're talking about summer here in Humboldt County."
15. Did you know that...band attendance for an average game ranges from about 14 to 20 players? This high level of commitment, Scanlon says, is because of the fans. "The Crab Grass Band people are certainly as much in it for the revelry of the crowd as anything else, and that feeling that we're performing and putting it out there and it's appreciated. So to the extent that the fans are there and they like to have the band there and they let the band know that, that helps a lot. That's probably the biggest thing."
16. Did you know that...the Crab Grass Band plays other gigs occasionally? Recently they played for the McKinleyville Little League Jamboree and they occasionally field requests for other gigs. Scanlon would like to see the band play at a San Francisco Giants game but that hasn't yet worked out.
17. Did you know that...six members of the band went up to the tournament in Oregon last summer? And that they lit the place up? They were so popular that the tournament management asked them to play at games that the Crabs weren't even playing in. With travel funds nonexistent, the dedicated band members slept on the floor of a former band member's house near Gresham. Scanlon missed the first game due to work. "I came up a little bit later," he said. "Being that time of the year with fire season, I wasn't sure if I was going to be in town or not." Scanlon ended up getting a few days off and listened to the first Crabs game on the radio. Overcome with a desire to participate in the festivities in Oregon, he "basically jumped in the car and was able to get up there in time for the next game."
18. Did you know that...the band is planning to raise money this summer to support a return trip to the All-American Invitational Tournament and maybe even to buy better uniforms? "A lot will depend on how successful our fundraising efforts are this year," said Johnson.
19. Did you know that...the Crab Grass Band hopes to put out a CD? According to Johnson, "It's still just a dream, but we're continuing to work on the CD project."
20. Did you know that...the Crab Grass Band would like to have a reunion this summer? Calling this the 21st anniversary, the group would like to track down anybody who has been involved with the band over the years. "Our records, of course, are pretty hazy," Scanlon admits. They're looking at a target date of somewhere around the July 4th weekend. "In the past we've had a number of former Crab Grassers come up for July 4th because it's just so fun to play at the ballpark for that event."
21. Did you know that...Scanlon envisions for the band "a long and bright future playing for the Humboldt Crabs, continuing to entertain at the ball park?" And that's great news for supporters of this unique Humboldt Crabs Baseball tradition.