Saturday, July 28, 2001

If You Put A Glove To Your Ear, You Can Hear The…Music! By Mark Hughson

Baseball and music - how much do they relate to one another? Sure there have been actual releases of “Baseball Music” (The Songs of the Mets, Baseball’s Greatest Hits etc), but those songs were originally recorded mostly for sportsy-novelty effect and are now documented mostly for historicism.  What I am talking about are the natural (though sometimes odd) ways that baseball and music have been connected.

Every game starts with the “Star Spangled Banner,” every 7th inning with “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”  Every half inning, pitching change, and rain delay has a special melody, whether it be “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Hey Hey Na Na Kiss Em Goodbye,” or possibly, if the music coordinator is clever/evil enough, Milli Vanilli’s “Blame It On The Rain.”  And what about the organ? The organ player in an old time stadium was like God. If he wanted 50,000 people to chant “CHARGE!” he could make it so. Of course the organ player of today’s games is really a Yamaha X-1200 hooked up to a computer and sound system, but we still get to hear those rousing, building chords – dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah. Nickel beer nights and other ridiculous promotional events come and go.  But the music has and will always stay.

Did you know that pitcher Denny McLain, in 1968, won 31 games for the Detroit Tigers?!!!?  (Ok, so you probably knew that - BUT!)  Did you also know that Denny recorded and released numerous organ music LPs, one of which was called Denny McLain In Las Vegas?  Stunning lounge-act renditions of “The Girl From Impanema” and “Mediation”…

So maybe I’m shooting a dead horse here (how does that phrase go?)  We know that music and baseball are related.  Anyone can see the superficial associations.  Here, I have compiled a list of baseball-music commonalities that go to a much deeper level:

-Both music and games have a “tempo”

-Every batter, pitcher, or game has a “rhythm”

-Both musicians and ballplayers can have “hits”

-Old school pitchers used the spitball, old school punk rockers spit.

-“Stadium Rock” is a genre of music

- The paradigm of the Major Leagues and the Minor Leagues is disturbingly similar to the interplay of Major Labels and “Minor”/Indie labels.

-Just about every major leaguer has a trading card to collect.  So do NSYNC, The New Kids On The Block, Michael Jackson, The Monkees, etc.

-Baseball has John Rocker, music has Eminem.

-Music is a form of art.  Baseball is a form of art. Just ask Ozzie Smith.

-Rapper/Superstar/Late 80’s icon M.C. Hammer was at one time the bat boy for the Oakland Athletics.

-Both baseball players and cheesy novelty radio dj’s break records.

-Rookie pitchers learn how to cover the bag.  Rookie NOFX-wannabe punks learn how to cover “The Bag.”

…Moving on, we come to the section of this piece that I like to call -

Baseball Related Music Material – There Is A Standard

The theme of baseball can be seen on numerous music releases.  However, one must be able to weed out the meager, half-assed connections in order to delve into some real baseballized albums. Below are some typical “external” music-baseball links. - Both the super power pop punk band 30 Amp Fuse and the extremely mediocre punk band Black Train Jack have used pictures of pitchers on their covers – but so what?  These are respectable attempts but nothing deeper than a cool retro pic to add to the aesthetics of the album. - The talented and humorous Canadian group Moxy Fruvous mentions the Sky Dome in one of their songs, and the talented and overrated Beastie Boys name drop Shea Stadium.  Although a case can be made that both bands are paying tribute to their native cities and teams, the real purpose for citing those stadiums was for the rhyme.

And now, it is my honor to present to you an album that is the quintessential example of music-baseball relations – the musician: Matt The Electrician, the album: Baseball Song.

First take a look at the overall visual presentation.  Carl Sever, who played for the 1932 San Francisco Seals, adorns the cover.  Carl Sever is Matt’s grandfather.  The back of the album is a collage made with a 1960 San Francisco Giants program, with song titles filling up the lineup slots.  It has also has a 1985 Topps Greg Minton baseball card. The cd itself has an imprint of a baseball on it, with realistic seams and smudges.  Printed throughout the insert, along with song lyrics, are little league pictures of Matt himself, his wife Kathie, Tom Pearson, the bass player, and Dave Sanger, who played drums for the album.  Dave is also the drummer for the country-swing band Asleep At The Wheel.  These pictures not only contribute to the overall baseball appearance of the album, they also show a true baseball background.  Baseball is in their roots. Baseball is in their blood.

Moving on to more connections...Although said to be coincidence, I have a suspicion that the song order is supposed to parallel the lineup of a  baseball team.  There are nine songs.  The first two songs are strong and fast numbers.  The third, fourth, and fifth songs are, in my opinion, the best songs on the album.  The end of the album, though still very good, eases the pace a little.  The eighth track is called “Goodbye,” and it’s pretty much the farewell song, followed by the utility player or perhaps pitcher covering the band Ed’s Redeeming Qualities’ “Buck Tempo.”

Continuing to one of the most important baseball-related features of Baseball Song, is the title track itself.  The song begins with a hint of  the “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” melody.  If you close your eyes, and listen to the lyrics, you’ll find yourself right there in the bleachers.  A fun, lazy, day with your sweetheart.  Nothing else matters, except being there, and being with her.  A beautiful, brilliant song that truly captures the essence of a day spent at the park.

Later on in the album, we come across the up-tempo “Too Late To Change.” The song is a great proclamation of independence and a positive look on the future.  How could a baseball fan not love this verse?

“I’ll be a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

And my fork ball with defy the laws of physics

and I’ll get the second recorded perfect

            game in world series history.

The President of the United States will call,

He’ll say thank you Matt, you’ve saved baseball.”

Last and certainly not least, I have some words to share from the man himself – Matt (“The Electrician”) Sever.  He sums it all up better than I could…

“Carl Sever primarily played shortstop, occasionally third base...while playing with the SF Seals, he was the lead-off batter and Joe DiMaggio hit clean up…the nine songs/nine players kinda worked out for us, but was purely coincidental to begin did help with the baseball motif though, don't ya' think?.....”

“Mostly, I'm not much of a stats guy...I've never been good at remembering lots of information about any given thing...however, I don't look down on those that can...I wish that I knew what Ted Williams batting average was for his rookie season, and I think that those who do know are very cool, without exception....but I've always loved the feeling that I get from baseball, much like the feeling I get from playing music...kind of unadulterated fun....I find these days that I have more fun playing softball than watching most pro games, but I am still a sucker for the roar of the crowd and all that...and the whole feeling behind Baseball Song was, don't give up on the game just because there's some corruption in it...I know that's very 'field-of-dreams', but I'm kind of a romantic about the purity of institutions that I hold dear...any way, sorry about the rambling horseshit, but I hope that helps...” 

It certainly does Matt.  It’s all music to my ears…

[To order Baseball Song, go to]

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