No need for messy ticket submissions.
Swift was linked to Francis Scott Key before Travis Kelce in her formative years, as the unsigned artist sought any kind of break by belting out the national anthem in front of as many packed crowds as she could find.
She sent her demo tapes “everywhere,” she told Rolling Stone in 2008.
“When I was 11, it occurred to me that the national anthem was the best way to get in front of a large group of people unless you had a record deal,” Swift said. “So I started singing the national anthem wherever I could.”
Swift had an association with the Philadelphia Phillies early in her career – both the major and minor leagues.
She sang the anthem in front of 45,900 fans in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, a game the Phillies won en route to their last championship. Tim McGraw — whose name is also the title of one of Swift’s early hits — delivered the game ball. Swift joined fellow Philly figures Patti LaBelle and John Oates as 2008 World Series anthem singers.
Before that, Swift made the short commute from her six-bedroom home — roughly 5 miles — for appearances at Reading Phillies Double-A games in 1999 and 2007.
She wore cowboy boots and a knit hat for her April 5, 2007 anthem, with some of the most famous baby names on hand for Opening Day. She played a stripped down version of the song on the grass behind home plate while mascots Change-Up the Turtle, Blooper the Hound Dog and Bucky the Beaver stood solemnly with their right front paws and other appendages on their awesome chests. Swift saluted triumphantly in front of the crowd alongside Screwball, his “R” hat askew and his signature red tongue draped over his chin.
Baseball fans in the area shelled out some serious cash back in the day to catch Swift in concert — even a one-song set. But who would ever expect when teams at all levels are blasting through anthem singers night after night, that one would emerge as an eventual 14-time Grammy winner, including a four-time winner for album of the year?
Rob Hackash worked for Reading in various departments, notably as director of communications, for 21 years. He said this week that Swift was outstanding on the mic, even at such a young age.
“To borrow an old scout’s phrase, she had a presence,” he said.
Hackash said the team primarily worked through Swift’s family, including her parents Scott and Andrea, to thwart an appearance.
“My memories are all fond of Swifts in general,” Hackash said. “(Her dad) wanted her to sing the anthem in front of a crowd. Her first Reading game was kind of a stepping stone to getting something on tape to send to the Sixers. That’s kind of why they came to us. I always remember Scott as a good guy, good dad. It took it from there and eventually ended up with the Sixers.”
Swift got the call to the big time and sang the national anthem at a Sixers game on April 5, 2002. Allen Iverson didn’t play in that game, but Swift was there at age 12, wearing an American flag sweatshirt and headband. center field in front of 20,754 fans.
The 76ers presented Swift with duffel bags full of memorabilia, including a jersey signed by team members.
“My mom and I were just jumping up and down we were so excited,” Swift told The Reading Eagle for an April 19, 2002 story. “I just really enjoy doing that. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
How big a step for her career were the Sixers? A month ago, The Reading Eagle noted that Swift did another rendition of the anthem, just at Wyomissing High School for a basketball game between the school’s faculty and community members.
Former Sixers game operations manager Kathy Drysdale said in 2002 that Swift’s voice immediately caught her attention on a tape Scott Swift handed over.
“Her voice is so strong and powerful at 12 years old,” Drysdale said. “You look at her and think, ‘Did that come out of her mouth?’
Swift nailed the performance.
Matt Cord has been the voice of the 76ers as their public address announcer since 1998. He quickly pulled up a photo on his phone of a young Swift singing the anthem at the Wells Fargo Center when asked about it and recalled the specific instructions that had for him. The presentation.
“She was from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, and I didn’t know that town,” Cord said from his courtside seat. “Her dad was right here and he says, ‘Just say Reading.’ So I went with Reading. We introduced him as a country star from Reading.”
The Reading Eagle story ended on a hopeful note, with writer Jeremy Carroll noting, “Last month, the Swifts traveled to Nashville, where they pitched (her) CD to record companies in hopes of landing a record deal. “
Oh, she signed that deal—and many more in the years to come. But her career was still in its infancy — Swift dropped her debut album in late 2006 — when she returned to Reading for the anthem, to the organization’s delight and surprise.
“At this point, the first album was already out, it was already big,” Hackash said. “I kind of got it, this was a big deal. We had players from all different parts of the country and those guys, like Texas kids, South Carolina kids, they knew exactly who she was. They knew the ‘Tim McGraw’ song, they knew it. I thought this outgrew our little area here. More.”
Swift hasn’t forgotten her Pennsylvania stadium roots, of course.
Only now can it cause a frenzy of fans as it fills Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, as it did for three nights last May. Swift called out the Eagles one night — “Guys, come on. I’m from Philly,” she told the crowd — though her alliance is now clearly with Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs.
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