BY KATHERINE COLE
This is a very happy week for baseball fans the world over—the 2013 major league season officially started on Sunday March 31st, when the Houston Astros beat their in-state rival Texas Rangers 8-2.
OK, calm down. This isn’t turning into a sports blog. But there’s a longtime love affair between music and baseball that bears revisiting. I shared a few of my favorite baseball songs in honor of the 2012 World Series last fall, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Music and baseball have been intertwined almost since the game began. Historians set the date as 1854, when J.R. Blodgett wrote the first known song, “The Baseball Polka.” But it’s safe to say that even the biggest fans in American have never heard that song– most of us are only familiar with “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Even if you’ve heard that classic a million times, check out this version from the 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Sam Bush put together his own all-star team and they knocked it out of the park! (end of the baseball cliches, I promise!)
Baseball came up when I interviewed Sam last year. He told me one thing he loves about the game is that, unlike football or basketball, there’s no real clock ticking down the seconds until the game is over. “In some ways, it’s a very leisurely game. But can be really intense. And anyone can be the hero. I’m still surprised by baseball every time I see a game.”
I wish I’d thought to ask Sam if he’s ever had a chance to talk with former New York Yankee Bernie Williams about the book he wrote on the connection between music and sports.
Williams knows of what he speaks. Now 44 and retired since 2006, he hit .297 over 16 seasons with the Yankees, won four World Series titles, played in five All-Star Games and won four Gold Glove Awards. On the music side, Bernie Williams has also released two albums, receiving a Latin Grammy nomination in the instrumental category for 2009′s “Moving Forward. “La Salsa En Mi” gives you a pretty good idea of what his original music is all about.
There’s no denying Bernie Williams is taking his second career very seriously. Album number 3 is in the works, and Williams was spotted here in Washington recently. He came to town with other musicians to ask lawmakers to set aside more money for music education in public schools.
Here’s a weird one I just couldn’t squeeze in – David Frishberg‘s “Van Lingle Mungo.” You need a bit of backstory to fully appreciate this masterpiece: Frishberg was writing a song and found himself at a loss for words. He started leafing through the Baseball Encyclopedia, which lists everyone who ever played in the major leagues, the unusually named pitcher Van Lingle Mungo among them. Jackpot! The finished lyrics to what became David Frishberg’s most popular song are the names of baseball players, plus the worlds “and” and “big.”