The Sporting News, December 24, 1952:

Ex Big Leaguer Dahlgren Composes Yule Song, ‘You taught me to pray’

An experience last Christmas in his home town of Arcadia, Ca, led Babe Dahlgren to compose the words and music to a Christmas song titled “You Taught Me to Pray,” Dahlgren relates in a letter to Publisher J.G. Taylor Spink of the Sporting News.

“Last year we found a post card in our mail box shortly before Christmas. All of our neighbors received them. We were told to contact the chairman of a local group if we wished Santa Claus to visit our homes on Christmas Eve. Mrs. Dahlgren liked the idea, even though our boys were 9 and 7 years old respectively. When we told the boys that Santa Claus was coming, they looked at each other with wise little grins. There was no doubt in their minds as to whom Santa Claus would be if he did come to our house.

“Christmas Eve we were in the living room testing the lights on the tree when with happy shouting and jingle bells the boys ran to the front door. As they opened the door, in came Santa Claus. As he called them by name, they looked at me with open mouths. Santa gave them each a gift, told them to go to bed early because he would be back later with more gifts. Then he ran down the driveway shouting ‘Merry Christmas,’ crossing the street, down another driveway and into the house of a neighbor. We could see him swinging the little girl around the room and hear him shouting, ‘Merry Christmas.’

“We settled down finally and came back into the house to sit around the tree, but not for long because we heard voices signing. Opening the door again, there in front of our home stood carolers, faces lit by candles they held, singing for us and then following Santa’s tracks to each home. It was a wonderful Christmas – even without snow on the ground. I felt deeply indebted to ‘Santa’ (a local postman) and the carolers for making our Christmas such a happy one.

“The thought that they were spending their Christmas Eve walking from house to house to make others happy was a sober one indeed. But they were having a good Christmas, too. “I hated to see them go. I wanted Christmas to stay, believe me. Hearing the Christmas carols, hymns and melodies gave me the desire to write one.

“It was six months before I found the melody and it took me three months to find the words I wanted to use.

“Recently, on a Sunday, I gave my boys a copy to take to Sunday School. Later I stopped to visit the director of the church. I wanted to know what he thought of my song – the melody – the words.

“Don Ruud, the director, looked at me and said, ‘Babe, I like your song. I haven’t heard it with any musical accompaniment as yet but my wife studies voice and she sang it beautifully. The melody, though not like our church songs because it is written with ‘popular music’ appeal, still makes good listening and has something soothing about it. It has a definite message, Babe, and I got it. The thing that I like most about it, Babe, is it was written by a ball player. When I think of how the kids in America idolize ball players and think what it would mean to the churches of America if the kids knew a ball player wrote such a song, I only wish every kid in America could hear it.

“Well, Taylor, that’s it. I guess I’ll always be known as a ball player. I hadn’t thought of it that way. It seems that if I do write something good, it will reflect on all ball players.”

Following are the words of Dahlgren’s song:

You taught me to pray,

It was Christmas and gay

All the world seemed to say

Merry Christmas

You taught me to pray

When you sang songs that day

Christmas carols that say,

Merry Christmas.

Bethlehem’s Christ child,

The Savior, was born.

Angels in Heaven called this

Christmas morn.

Good will, peace on earth,

Praise the Lord

Praise His birth!

Bless the day I learned to pray

Dear Lord.

*Matt Dahlgren is the author of Rumor In Town and the new novel, The Flannel Past. He can be followed on Twitter: @mattdahlgren12 or


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