By Katherine Cole
Doug Levine’s recent blog on baseball and music got me thinking about the connection our “great American past time” has with music.
Baseball has been celebrated in song almost since the first pitch was tossed. The most famous baseball song ever written sprang from a most unlikely source. When Jack Norworth wrote “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” in 1908, he had never even been to a major league game. But inspiration struck on a subway train as he stared at an advertisement for a game. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s not uncommon for musicians to play a concert (or even an entire tour!) in the outfield of a baseball stadium like Bruce Springsteen did this past summer, but did you know that some musicians love baseball so much, they schedule their tours dates around the game itself?
That’s what mandolinist Sam Bush has been known to do. Sam’s team is the St. Louis Cardinals , and he’s such a fan that he wrote a song about the Cards great Ozzie Smith on his “King of My World” CD. Sam’s tribute to the now retired back-flipping shortstop is called “The Wizard of Oz.”
Bob Dylan wrote a baseball song, too. It was about the late pitcher “Catfish” Hunter, not only one of the best pitchers ever, but one of the most important to those enjoying multi-million-dollar playing contracts today.
Catfish Hunter was one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers during a 15-year career that brought him five World Series rings with the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. He also strung together five straight 21-victory seasons, pitched a perfect game, and also won a Cy Young Award, given annually to the outstanding pitcher in each of the two major leagues.
But Catfish Hunter is also remembered for what Bob Dylan sings about: signing a five-year, $3.75 million contract with the Yankees in 1975, making him the games first multi-millionaire player. Catfish retired after the 1978 season, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. If you ever pay a visit to those hallowed halls, you might see Bob Dylan’s autographed album featuring the song “Catfish””
Singer-songwriter Chuck Brodsky is known for including a baseball tune or two on his albums, and even released a collection of just baseball ballads. “Moe Berg: The Song” is the story of a real life Dodgers player in their pre-Los Angeles days, when they called Brooklyn, New York home. Moe Berg lived a double life: baseball slugger and American spy.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Steve Poltz has never come out and admitted to booking concerts specifically to catch a game, but I’ve been to post-interview Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles games with him, so he must be thinking about it. Steve’s also sung the National Anthem before a game or two—this performance was in San Francisco last May.
And while we’re on the subject of The Giants— no discussion of baseball and music could be complete without Tim Flannery. The San Francisco Giants 3rd base coach is also a singer-songwriter and has released twelve CD’s of bluegrass-tinged music and has worked with artists including Jackson Browne, Garth Brooks and Jimmy Buffett. Baseball keeps Tim busy for much of the year but now that the season is over, he’ll be back out on tour soon.
Now let’s see…how many days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training?