Amy and official Red Sox Organist Josh Kantor pick 13 home run tunes!
It must finally be spring because baseball season has officially started. Baseball is not just America’s pastime, it’s also very rock n roll. Musicians can often be seen supporting their favorite teams: Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) and Jack White are Cubs fans; Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom) and Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo) are all about the Red Sox; Geddy Lee (Rush) loves the Blue Jays and Ira Kaplan from Yo La Tengo thinks that The Mets are amazing. Heck, Yo La Tengo wouldn’t have a band name without The Mets! According to Mets lore, in 1962 Center Fielder Richie Ashburn learned the phrase “I’ve Got it” in Spanish “Yo La Tengo” to prevent collisions with shortstop Elio Chacon who didn’t speak English. Unfortunately Left Fielder Frank Thomas didn’t speak Spanish and missed the memo and after causing collision asked “What the hell is a Yellow Tango?”
There are plenty of songs about baseball, but first I thought I’d get a couple of suggestions from a designated hitter, someone who is not only a musician but is very much involved in the game, Josh Kantor – the official organist for the Boston Red Sox since 2003. Josh also plays keyboards and accordion with various bands including the Baseball Project, the Split Squad and Jon Langford (of the Mekons) among others. He told us the song he loves to play at the ballpark changes from season to season (last year it was Freedom by Beyonce), here is a couple of his favorites to lead off our list.
The Ball Game by Sister Wynona Carr
Willie Mays Is Up At Bat by Chuck Prophet
Next at bat is major league super group The Baseball Project. Made up of Peter Buck and Mike Mills (REM), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate and Steve Wynn + the Miracle Three), Linda Pitmon (The Miracle Three) and Josh Kantor, every song they perform is about baseball and baseball players.
Ted Fucking Williams by The Baseball Project
There are lots to choose from in their catalogue, but my pick is “Ted Fucking Williams” about the famous Red Sox slugger. Oh and if you’re keeping score Scott is a SF Giants fan; Peter is a Washington Senators fan; Mike is an Atlanta Braves fan; Steve is a NY Yankees fan; Linda is a Minnesota Twins fan and Josh is a Red Sox fan.
All the Way by Eddie Vedder
When longtime Chicago Cubs’ fan Eddie Vedder’s song “(Someday We’ll Go) All the Way” was released in 2008, this singalong held the eternal hope of Cubs fans everywhere that one of these years their team would win the World Series again. Well, it took 8 more years but the Cubs finally did it in 2016 by winning the 112th World Series.
Dock Ellis by SF Seals
Next in the line-up is Barbara Manning of the SF Seals. Released in 1993 on Matador Records, The song Dock Ellis pays homage to Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher who threw a no-hitter in 1970. An impressive feat made even more impressive because he was tripping on acid during the game. Sadly this song isn’t available on Spotify but I’ve included it here ‘cause it is awesome.
Piazza, New York Catcher by Belle and Sebastian
Belle and Sebastian released Dear Catastrophe Waitress in 2003 which features their baseball song Piazza, New York Catcher. Although Mike Piazza of the Mets gets top billing, this song also references baseball legends Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays.
Bill Lee by Warren Zevon
Bill “Spaceman” Lee was a huge fan of Warren Zevon, especially the song “Excitable Boy”. In 1980 Zevon in turn showed his appreciation of Lee by releasing his tribute to former Red Sox and the Expos pitcher which touts The Spaceman’s love of the game as well as his willingness to speak his mind.
Joe Dimaggio Done it Again by Billy Bragg and Wilco
Center Fielder for the NY Yankees Joe Dimaggio aka Joltin’ Joe’s fans included folk hero Woody Guthrie, who penned this ode to him in 1949. In 1995, Billy Bragg discovered it, and set it to music. In 2000 Bragg and Wilco recorded and released it on the Mermaid Avenue Vol II.
Catfish by Bob Dylan
Swampy and bluesy, Bob Dylan wrote this tribute to Hall of Fame pitcher Jim ”Catfish” Hunter. Although it was originally written and recorded in 1976 Dylan didn’t release his version until 199. Joe Cocker and Kinky Friedman both released earlier covers of Catfish.
No-Hitter by Petite League
Can’t find much info on the NY band Petite League but looking at their Bandcamp page they are definitely baseball fans and their song No-Hitter fits nicely on this playlist. Sorry, no video
Cubs in Five by the Mountain Goats
John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats has been a Cubs fan since the third grade. He wrote this song in the 1990s when the last time the Cubs even made it to the World Series was 1945 and the last time they won was 1908. Yup, when this song was penned it might have seemed pretty hopeless. But as we know there’s no crying in baseball cause the Cubs finally won the World Series again in 2016, though it wasn’t Cubs in five – it took 7 seven games!
Tessie by Dropkick Murphys
The Boston Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series in 86 years, the Dropkick Murphys decided that Red Sox Nation needed a rallying cry and they delivered Tessie. Originally an old vaudeville song from the early 1900s it was adopted by the Royal Rooters to cheer the Boston Red Sox to their championships which they did until 1918. Did the Red Sox break their losing streak because of a song? Who really knows? But I can say that fans were singing Tessie when the Sox won the World Series in 2004.
Baseball by Ozma
Baseball is a love letter. It’s a love letter to the game. It’s a love letter to former love. It’s a love letter to a simpler time. It’s a love letter to baseball.