Music and Baseball………Fantastic!
Music plays a big part of a major league baseball game. Not only do we have the singing of the “National Anthem” before the first pitch of the game, but we have music before , during and after the game. It is a natural part of the game, and considering we are now a multi-media entertainment culture, it is only going to grow and become more of the fabric of the game. When we arrive at the ballpark, there is usually some kind of music or noise to entice us into a state of excitement about the upcoming contest. Be it an old tune like “Centerfield” by John Fogerty or even just a local song written for you team like “It’s Our Season” by Tampa Bay artist Cristol.
Music has always been a part of the current environment of baseball. Take the player’s music as they walk-up to bat, or the celebration music that is played over the public address system when they score or even win the game. Every team has their favorites from Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, The Village Peoples ” YMCA” or even the odd favorite “Cotton-eyed Joe”. All these songs are pretty much guaranteed to be lay at least once a game in certain ballparks, no matter who you are playing.
But what is it that makes a artist want to write about a player? I know some of the players of the past deserve songs, but who in the present would you event think deserves or even should be considered for a song or parody. I am still waiting for a hip-hop song about Coco Crisp or Jimmy Rollins,or J-Roll as some people know him. Who is going to pen the ballad on the pitching of Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee., Or maybe we need a hard rock or alternative beat about the hitting of Josh Hamilton or Ryan Braun. Each could be a musical tribute to their favorite baseball player. It has been done in the past, why not today?
I mean sometimes songwriters do get bored and lack inspiration from daily events and their own lives, why not just dive into the baseball digest and write a three verse song on A-Rod, or even the rise and fall of the Detroit Tigers. They do not always have to write about romance, or a cheating girlfriend, or even a tragedy. I mean the past has brought us some great baseball related songs. They have been used to excite us, entice us and build the entire stadium into a melody of cheers and jeers for the songs. So who have produced songs in the past that have vocally immortalize players, well I have least five that I can think of right off the top of my head.
Warren Zevon did a song entitled ” Bill Lee” about former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee who claimed he liked to sprinkle marijuana on his pancakes. They called him the Spaceman because he was so weird. As Zevon put it, “You’re supposed to sit on your *** and nod at stupid things, man, that’s hard to do.” Then again, it depends how much they pay you. It was a very eccentric song about an extremely eccentric figure in our baseball past. Lee still does baseball signing and appearances. He did appear at a Rays 2008 contest and sign for the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. He was sitting their flanked by his kids as he signed photos and baseball for the fans.
Belle & Sebastian. I find it kind of odd that this Scottish group even knows a thing or two abut the sport of baseball, much less the abilities and the talents of the former L A Dodger and New York Mets catcher. But “Piazza, the New York Catcher” is an actual song, and Belle & Sebastian are a true group, so maybe they had a vision upon taking in one of America’s favorite games in a city where he was playing during his career. But this is the same Belle & Sebastian that wrote a song about John Wayne Gacy junior, and to think they also used Piazza on this album is a bit creepy, disturbing and fundamentally wrong.
But leave it to rock ballad singers Soundgarden to romanticize the deeds of one of the games meanest players in “Ty Cobb”. Yeah, leave it the grunge gang to immortalize one of the dirtiest, unrepentant players in the game. You knew upon seeing the title that it was not going to be a love song about how Cobb liked to spike his opposing players and send them to the hospital where without medical insurance these young ball players were certainly in harm’s way. He was also considered not such a nice guy in matters of race, money and progressive taxation. I can not imagine even New York Yankee Shelly Duncan having this song on his I-pod.
But then you have a group like S. F. Seals, who did a little serenade about the famous pitcher Dock Ellis . Come on, the guy’s name makes up Ellis-D and some say he pitched a no-hitter tripping on the stuff. Perfect. So the song, “Dock Ellis” is also included on the groups short lived Baseball Trilogy EP. The group’s even named after a minor league baseball team. I did get to see Ellis pitch once in a MLB Alumni game in St Petersburg back in the the early 2000’s. And by that time he was not looking like a cult hero, or even a pitcher as time and a bit of the abuses he held close to him during his life must have taken a lot out of the man. But considering his groups name is a minor league baseball team out of the San Francisco area, can’t get more conceptual than that.
But last, but not least I am going to visit the styling of a famous folk singer, Bob Dylan as he tells the tale of one of my favorite pitchers of all time Jim “Catfish” Hunter. In the song ” Catfish”, I suppose you could assume this is actually a song about fishing but it isn’t. Unlike “Hurricane” or “Joey,” Dylan stuck this tribute to Oakland A’s and Yankee pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter on his outtake box many years after the man’s prime. So any accusations of Dylan jumping on the Catfish bandwagon are misinformed. Just as I’m sure Dylan’s “George Jackson” single was not originally to be titled “Reggie Jackson” despite rumors to the contrary.
We all know of local artists that have done poetic justice to our baseball heroes. These are just a few of the ones that I know about. I did not include Simon and Garfunkel because everyone knows they penned in a line for Joe DiMaggio, but I wanted to include five songs here you might not have ever heard, or even realized lived in the musical annuals. Music is sacred to some baseball fans. I truly love a great baseball song. Over the last year there have been well known alternative groups like “We the Kings” who have paraphrased the Rays accomplishments on their own musical scores. But what other songs are out there that have been written for your team, or even it’s player that no one might know about, or should here…………..Let me know?
Photo credits: 1) www.raysbaseball.com/shop