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Backstreet's back and they're singing the Anthem, all right?

Big League Stew

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Oh my God, they're back again.

Perhaps because the Tampa Bay Rays meteoric rise stunned it, Major League Baseball has scheduled the Backstreet Boys — or at least what's left of 'em — to perform the "Star-Spangled Banner" before Game 1 of the World Series tonight. The guys are going to party like it's 1999, because that's about the last time they were relevant. (The above photo, from 2001, includes Red Sox manager Jimy Williams, who was widely considered the "sixth BSB.")

An act doesn't need a current Top 40 hit to open a Series, but it helps. That, or a legacy of success, plus some ties to the home team, is how best to judge a Game 1 anthem singer.

How does Backstreet (minus Kevin Richardson, who retired) measure up? Can they bring the flava' and show us how? Big League Stew's got some questions and the Boys better answer now.

Are they original?

Yeah. Nick Carter, the blondest one, hails from Tampa, and the group formed in nearby Orlando.

Are they the only ones?

Nah. Not even close. BSB sold 120 million albums (about 119 million before the turn of the millennium), leading the way for 'N SYNC, O-Town and 98 Degrees to dominate the airwaves when the music industry was vulnerable to the "boy band" gimmick. For an idea of what to expect tonight, click here for 'N SYNC's anthem before Game 3 (not Game 1!) of the 2000 Series.

Are they sex-u-al?

Yeah. Not sexual in a "bad" (Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl) sense, but in a "good" way. Founding BSB Brian Littrell 'n' wife spawned Baylee Thomas Wylee Littrell, who is 5. Aw!

You're still thinking, probably, "C'mon, the Backstreet Boys? Really? Is MLB taking great pains so as few people as possible care about the World Series?" Well, just wait until Los Lonely Boys do Game 2! (And though it hasn't been announced, Boyz II Men seem like a shoo-in for Philly, which leads to the question, what's with all the Boys — or Boyz?)

But for those of you who want to bash MLB for its usual bad musical taste, consider that the Gulf Coast ain't exactly Seattle '91 in its music scene. If they had to keep it local, should they have gone with Tampa's death metal kings, Morbid Angel, to do an atonal "America the Beautiful?"

Grunt once for yes.

Based on MLB's erratic history of Game 1 singers, Backstreet's actually all right. Consider this roll call of recent S.S.B/A.T.B acts, some with links (oh, sweet links!) to their performances:

Performer, Site and Season

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Boston Pops conducted by John Williams — Boston '07

Bob Seger — Detroit '06

Josh Groban — Chicago A.L. '05

Steven Tyler — Boston '04

Clay Aiken — New York A.L. '03

Groban (again!) — Anaheim '02

Jewel — Arizona '01

Billy Joel — New York A.L. '00

Monica — Atlanta '99

Tony Bennett — New York A.L. '98

Hanson — Florida '97

Robert Merrill — New York A.L. '96

Darius Rucker (Hootie) — Atlanta '95

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Aretha Franklin — Toronto '93

(UPDATE) Billy Ray Cyrus — Atlanta '92

Gladys Knight — Minnesota '91

Air Force Capt. Alan Boykin — Cincinnati '90

The Wiffenpoofs — San Francisco '89

Debbie Gibson — Los Angeles '88

Diane Schuur — Minnesota '87

Glenn Close — New York N.L. '86

Reba McEntyre — Kansas City '85

Hollis Gentry and Bruce Cameron — San Diego '84

John Denver — Baltimore '83

Jackson Five — Cincinnati '70

* * *

Finally, even though he didn't sing a Game 1, it wouldn't have been right to exclude this photo of the Marlins getting their Yanni on before Game 5 of the 2003 World Series.

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