Friday, August 1, 2008

Rockin' Baseball

Here's the Baseball Project doing "Past Time" on Letterman.

Their album Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails was one of the first things I downloaded after my emusic downloads refreshed, and I've been enjoying it. The concept of an entire album of songs about baseball might sound a little shaky, but Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey are top-flight songwriters as well as major seamheads, so the album is like a pitcher's duel between two crafty veterans.

For every McCaughey gem like "Past Time" (which mentions Pete Rose barreling into Ray Fosse, Joe Pepitone's sideburns, and Oscar Gamble's afro) or "The Yankee Flipper" (a firsthand account of Scott's night on the town partying with Jack McDowell, Mike Mills, and Dennis Diken - "two guitars, bass, and drums" - before Jack's Yankee Stadium "finger" incident), Wynn fires back with a "Ted F*ing Williams" (which is how Teddy Ballgame used to psych himself up when he was on deck) or "Harvey Haddix" (about the Pirates pitcher who was perfect for 12 innings before losing the game in the 13th. Complete with a roll-call of perfect game hurlers: "Len Barker against the Jays.. and Catfish for the A's. Don Larsen, in the series, in 1956..Why don't we add 'Ol Harvey to that list?").

Listening to this Baseball Project album inspired me to come up with a mix of similar songs about baseball. It's inspired by this baseball mix by 2f's, and featured many of the same songs from his mix.

The title, "Rockin' Baseball", is a pun on that cheesy Terry Cashman song about Willie, Mickey, & the Duke that begat this parody.

Rockin' Baseball

1. "Baseball-Football" - George Carlin
This is an early version of the monologue, that doesn't have my favorite bit about football being about "downs" - "What down is it?" while baseball is about "ups" - "Who's up?". RIP G.C.

2. "Joe DiMaggio Done It Again" - Billy Bragg & Wilco
This is a Woodie Guthrie tune from Mermaid Avenue II. DiMaggio inspired both Hemingway and Guthrie, as well as Paul Simon and whoever wrote that "Joltin' Joe" song.

3. "Catfish" - Bob Dylan
A Dylan song about Jim "Catfish" Hunter that I didn't know about until the 2f's tape. This has Catfish striking out Reggie Jackson, so must have been written in 1976 (the one year when Reggie and Catfish weren't teammates).

4. "Where's That Hit?" - The Hoodoo Gurus
People who claim that baseball hasn't spread to any countries that haven't had U.S. military occupation conveniently forget about Australia, which the sport keeps growing more popular. I think this Gurus song uses baseball as a metaphor for a band "looking for a hit" on the fourth album of a four album deal with Elektra so they can stay in the majors for a while longer.

5. "Cubs In Five" - The Mountain Goats
This song from Darnielle's "lo-fi" period also uses baseball as a metaphor. I'll love you again when the Cubs win the World Series. Which might happen this year.

6. "Harvey Haddix" - The Baseball Project
Steve Wynn's song about Haddix. I'm going up to visit my parents this weekend, and am including this in the mix so I can play it for my dad. He and his brother (my uncle) went to the Braves-Pirates game on the day after Haddix's quasi-perfect game.

7. "Bill Lee" - Warren Zevon
Warren's song about "Spaceman" Lee, who was the Warren Zevon of baseball -- "sometimes I say things I shouldn't".

8. "Right Field" - Peter, Paul & Mary
I heard this in the PP&M concert that PBS used to run during every pledge drive for twelve years. I used to play right field in baseball, and once caught two fly balls in an inning (in 8-9 year old baseball, catching a fly ball is like hitting a homer!)

9. "Moonshot Manny" - Joe Pernice
This song is out of date now, because Manny just got traded to the Dodgers yesterday. He'll be hitting moonshots in Chavez ravine for the rest of his career this year.

10. "Dock Ellis" - SF Seals
11. "Dock Ellis" - Marvin's Garden
Two songs about Dock Ellis, the Pirates pitcher who pitched a no-hitter in 1971 while tripping on LSD. The skips on the SF Seals version are on my original CD, so I need to re-rip that sometime.

12. "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" - The Hold Steady
I downloaded this from stereogum last opening day. The Hold Steady are major ball fans (Craig Finn played the encore in SF this week with a Johan Santana Twins #75 jersey) who bring their own style to this stretch staple.

One of my pet peeves about this song is when people pluralize "Cracker Jack" (there's no such thing as "Cracker Jacks"!). And, as former pitcher Larry Anderson noted, "Why do the fans sing 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' when they're already at the ballgame?".

This year is the 100th anniversary of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" -- the lines that people sing during the seventh inning stretch are just the chorus to a much longer song.

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