Robert Merrill (1917-2004), American operatic baritone, was a Brooklyn boy who had a choice between pursuing a career in baseball or music. He decided to let his pitching abilities finance his musical training.
He was a lead at the Metropolitan Opera, New York for thirty years from 1945, almost exclusively in the Italian repertoire from Rossini’s Figaro in “The Barber of Seville” to Marcello in Puccini’s “La Boheme”.
He was well known in America for his renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Yankee baseball games; and throughout the opera loving world for two of the most popular classical recordings ever made – the duet with the great Swedish tenor, Jussi Bjorling: “In the Depths of the Temple” from Bizet’s “The Pearlfishers”; and the legendary serendipitous recording of “La Boheme” that happened when some enterprising soul realised that the conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, Bjorling, the Spanish soprano, Victoria de los Angeles, and Merrill were all in New York on the same day with free diaries for the following day. Both recordings are still available.
Bizet: In the Depths of the Temple: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCDIwQwQxrQ