Watching Aubrey Huff’s clutch 9th inning home run on TV to tie the Padres in San Diego Thursday night I enjoyed Duane Kuiper’s dramatic call, “It’s outta here!” And when the Giants finished batting in the ninth inning the station replayed Huff’s HR before going to commercial with the familiar chords of “Bye bye baby!”
All long-time Giants fans know “Bye bye baby” as the Giants battle hymn going back to the ‘60s. It was based on Giants’ announcer Russ Hodges signature home run call. But what you may not know is Russ use to say, ”Bye bye baby” when the other team also hit a home run. It was actually overwhelming feedback from Giants fans who made “Bye bye baby” the signature call for Giants’ HRs. Here’s the story behind “Bye bye baby” as told by Russ Hodges(*) himself:
“Everybody in my business has a favorite expression, and sometimes it catches on beyond his wildest dreams. That’s what happened to Mel Allen’s “How about that?” which has become part of the American language. Whenever somebody on the Giants hits a home run, I say, “Bye bye baby,” and our fans have picked it up and made it their own. It’s a battle cry, which any western follower of the Giants instantly recognizes, and we now even have a song based on it.
This melody, which was conceived one day in 1962 by Aaron Edwards, a popular KSFO announcer, is hardly a classic in the mold of “On Wisconsin” or “The Washington Post March,” but it doesn’t sound bad when it’s played loudly enough and it’s easy to sing. People at Candlestick Park get plenty of chances to sing it because whenever something good happens to the club, Lloyd Fox belts it out on the organ weekdays while Del Courtney and his band play it on Sundays.
I’d been using the term “Bye bye baby” for home runs since 1954, but New Yorkers never adopted it. To them it was just another pet expression by a sports’ announcer, such as many of us have. Mel Allen calls a home run by saying “It’s going-going-gone.” Harry Caray in St. Louis says, “It might be-it could be- it is a home run.” Curt Gowdy in Boston says, “See ya later,” and Vince Scully in Los Angeles starts describing the length of the drive, then says, “Forget it, it’s gone.”
So it wasn’t I who made “Bye bye baby” famous on the West Coast, but the fans of San Francisco. I had always called every home run that way, whether hit by one of the Giants or somebody on the other team. When I came to San Francisco, I assumed I’d just keep right on doing it.
The first home run on opening day in 1958 was hit by Daryl Spencer in the fourth inning. As the ball went into the stands, I said, “Bye bye baby,” just as I always had in New York. Orlando Cepeda hit one in the fifth, and I said it again. I didn’t think much about it either time.
The next day, Duke Snider of the Dodgers came up in the third inning and belted a tremendous shot over the right field fence, which veteran observers said was the longest home run ever hit at Seals Stadium. The minute it left the bat we all knew it was gone, and I yelled, “Bye bye baby.” A little later Dick Gray hit one for the Dodgers, so I said it once more.
Before the game was over, we began getting phone calls from fans objecting to my using “Bye bye baby” in describing Dodgers’ homers. When I stopped in at the studio later, I found out that people had been calling up all afternoon about it, and the next day we had an absolute flood of letters.
“If you’re going to say ‘Bye bye baby’ at all,” a woman wrote from Marin County, “use it just for our side. We don’t want to hear it when somebody else hits one.”
Her letter was typical of the hundreds that came in. So when I went to the ballpark that day, I saw my duty and I did it. Gino Cimoli of the Dodgers hit one out of the park in the second inning and I simply called it a home run. But when Bob Schmidt of the Giants banged one in the fourth, I gleefully howled, “Bye bye baby.” I guess everybody was happy, because the mail was predominantly favorable.”
And that’s how “Bye bye baby” was officially born as the exclusive home run call of the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, April 17 during the third game of the 1958 season. And the Giants beat the Dodgers 7-4.
(*) Russ Hodges and Al Hirschberg,
(Doubleday, Garden City, NY: 1963) pp. 168-169.