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Enjoy this rare footage of Duke Ellington and his band playing baseball

Rare footage of Duke Ellington playing baseball

Baseball and jazz are two of America's greatest pastimes. Both began coming into national focus nearly 80 years ago -- one with Babe Ruth, the other with Duke Ellington. There isn't much footage of Babe playing the piano, but thanks to the Duke Ellington Center, there is footage of the Duke playing ball:

That's Ellington pitching and then taking his hacks around the 25-second mark. Has anybody looked cooler in a batter's box?

As Dan Colman's insightful article mentions, jazz musicians took a major interest in baseball during the 1930s and '40s. Benny Goodman, Count Basie and the Duke all formed squads with their bands. Louis Armstrong, a noted Mets and Dodgers fan, owned his own team called the Secret Nine -- better known for their stylish threads than their on-the-field skills.

Duke dreamed of becoming a pro ballplayer as a kid and worked his first job as a peanut vendor for the Washington Senators. He tried playing in youth leagues, but after getting hit by a pitch, his mother suggested a different direction:

"The mark is still there, but I soon got over it. With that, however, my mother decided I should take piano lessons."

Probably the right move.

h/t Open Culture via