This week, pitchers and catchers – and everybody else – reported to spring training.
It’s the first real activity signifying the approaching 2016 baseball season, and as such it’s time to dust off some time-honored baseball songs.
below, enjoy a list of tunes inspired by the diamond…songs that you hear before a game at batting practice, in the game itself over the PA system and in your head constantly if you consume baseball 24/7 like most diehard fans.
Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder is an unabashed Chicago Cubs fan – so naturally he penned a solo song paying tribute to the ‘lovable losers’.
Of course, with the Cubs heading into the season with extremely high expectations, this could actually be the year they exorcise their World Series demons and win their first championship since 1908.
Eddie would surely be quite happy if that happened…
Ah, the minor leagues. Future MLB stars do their time in the low levels, accumulating experience en route to the Majors.
In the early 1990s, Alabama wrote an ode to the minors with Cheap Seats, a song featuring lyrical passages like the following:
We like our beer flat as can be.
We like our dogs with mustard and relish.
We got a great pitcher what’s his name.
Well we can’t even spell it.
We don’t worry about the pennant much.
We just like to see the boys hit it deep.
There’s nothing like the view from the cheap seats.
Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter is an MLB icon. The late pitcher was one of the league’s best pitchers for most of his career, and made headlines with the powerhouse Oakland Athletics of the early 1970s.
Bob Dylan immortalized Hunter further with the song Catfish, unearthed as part of the Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased) 1961-1991 collection.
One of the most obvious choices around, John Fogerty‘s Centerfield is STILL played nearly every single day at baseball stadiums everywhere. It’s almost as ubiquitous as Take Me Out To The Ballgame, given that you will most likely hear it at some point during a trip to the ballpark.
Not only that, the song’s opening hand-claps are often played throughout a game itself to get the fans on their feet…
This one makes the cut due to its prevalence at the ballpark.
If you head to a game and the home team wins, there’s a decent chance you’ll hear Kool & the Gang‘s Celebration. The Oakland A’ sand Los Angeles Angels are at least two of the team that regularly blast this over the stadium PA after a victory, and there are undoubtedly others that do as well…
One of the classics in Peter, Paul and Mary‘s career is the jangly Right Field, an ode to the position and how it sometimes is less exciting than the other roles on the field…
One of Bruce Springsteen‘s most popular songs, Glory Days is a tale stemming from those instances of reconnecting with figures from your past at the local bar…such as the old star baseball player who never became the big star he thought he’d be.
Sometimes, we just can’t let go of past glories and cling to them tightly no matter how far removed we are from them…
This quirky little song by Scottish indie outfit Belle & Sebastian is specifically about Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza (and the past rumors of his perceived homosexuality, something he has vehemently denied).
Why they decided to write an entire song about him is anyone’s guess, but it’s worthy of a spot here due to its randomness, for sure.
This classic isn’t exactly about the sport of baseball, but the line
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
remains ingrained in the collective consciousness to this day.
This 1950s anthem paying tribute to the great Willie Mays, also known as the ‘Say Hey Kid’, reads as a celebration of his amazing skills on the diamond:
He runs the bases like a choo-choo train
Swings around second like an aeroplane
His cap flies off when he passes third
And he heads home like an eagle bird.
Originally performed by Woodrow Buddy Johnson in 1949, this tune celebrates the groundbreaking accomplishments by Jackie Robinson, who ushered in a new era of baseball by being the first African-American player to suit up with big-league club (the Brooklyn Dodgers).
The Baseball Project is a band featuring Steve Wynn of Dream Syndicate, Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5 and R.E.M and Linda Pitmon of Golden Smog. They’ve relased a handful of albums strictly about baseball, and the song Harvey Haddix is one of their best.
The song tells the tale of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Harvey Haddix, who carried a perfect game for twelve innings until losing in the 13th due to his offense letting him down. Along the way, the song name-drops all the other pitchers who have thrown perfect games in MLB history (a list that, whenever it grows the band adds new lyrics). Here’s the 2013 version:
BONUS TRACK: Take Me Out To the Ballgame (Edward Meeker, 1908)
Because of course.