Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Put Me In Coach…

I just put my 2 year old Jack to bed. As usual, we closed out the day with the two songs I’ve been singing to him since he was a baby. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and the slightly less popular “Meet the Mets” are staples in my toddler’s winding down portion of the bedtime process.

Whether it’s at the ballpark, or cruising with the top down on a brisk afternoon, certain baseball songs send chills down our spines. There’s something special about music that celebrates our National Pastime. Many songs were written about the game itself, and others simply reference players of yesteryear. Some “sports anthems” have nothing to do with baseball, yet have become synonymous with baseball moments. I highly doubt that Freddy Mercury ever imagined that “We Are the Champions” would become the theme of Bronx, NY in late October.

As far as I’m concerned, the first spring day I hear John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”, baseball is officially underway. When the crack of the bat is sounded in that song, it’s as if Winter has magically turned to Spring. There are few tunes that capture the anticipation of the coming season as this Fogerty classic.

In addition to Fogerty’s salute to Mays, Cobb, and DiMaggio, many other tunes reach back to pay homage and celebrate baseball’s legendary players and personalities.

“Talkin’ Baseball” in its original “Willie, Mickey & "The Duke" format, as well as later adaptations, is pure baseball bliss. Here in the Southeast, Alabama’s 1993 “The Cheap Seats” is a fan favorite, capturing the essence of paparazzi-less baseball. Back in the 1980’s, legendary rockers Don Henley and Bruce Springsteen chimed in, recording “Boys of Summer” and “Glory Days” respectively. Even the great Bob Dylan got into the act, when he penned “Catfish”, a bluesy number about the late Jim “Catfish” Hunter.

Odes to loyal fan followings such as “Tessie”, most recently recorded by the Dropkick Murphy’s, became a fan favorite in Boston. The song was written as a dedication to the “Royal Rooters”, a Red Sox fan club in the early 20th century. “Tessie” was borrowed from the Broadway musical “The Silver Slipper”. The song was originally sung at Fenway, not only to encourage Red Sox players, but also to distract the opposing team. The first time I heard the song was while playing a Sony Playstation 2 video game, which featured the song on its baseball simulation game soundtrack. “Sweet Caroline”, which singer-songwriter Neil Diamond recently revealed was inspired by Caroline Kennedy, has been played at every Red Sox home game since 2003. The song was first played at Fenway Park in 1998, as a tribute to a Red Sox employee who had named her newborn Caroline.

Paul Simon wrote a pair of baseball-referenced songs, “Mrs. Robinson“ from the film “The Graduate”, and lesser known “Night Game”, off “Still Crazy After All These Years”. Just prior to the release of “Still Crazy…” in 1969, Simon threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the soon-to-be Miracle New York Mets.

As the 20th century drew to a close and the New Millennium began, a number of hard-driving crowd-pleasers were adopted by individual players as entrance themes. Trevor Hoffman would enter late-inning San Diego Padre games to the echoes of AC-DC’s “Hells Bells”. A pair of stoppers, Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner chose Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as their personal musical introductions…..a topic that was hotly debated in New York City when Wagner pitched for the Mets.

(It was later determined that Wagner was a long-time Metallica fan, and had been using the song for about three years prior to Rivera’s use of the metal band’s hit single).

I still prefer Charlie Sheen trotting out from the bullpen to “Wild Thing” in the film “Major League”.

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