We don’t have baseball right now, and I miss it. That’s really the least of our many concerns, but it’s a part of the strange, scary reality these days. As with all the other things we’re missing from our lives, we’re having to just do our best. We get creative and find a modified version of the thing that’s missing, or we replace it with something else entirely. We get curbside carryout instead of hitting the buffet. We watch Major League instead of the ball game. We do what we have to do.
Music has been a constant in my life. I started playing piano when I was six. I sang in choir and played brass instruments in band in high school. I picked up guitar in the dorms in college and eventually learned to play mandolin, ukulele and harmonica, and probably some others that I’m forgetting. I’ve never advanced past amateur status as a musician, but I’ve played a lot of music in my life. And when I’m not playing, I’m listening.
It would be weird not to have music and, thankfully, it’s something I can still enjoy in this bizarre version of life we’re living. It’s helping fill the void that’s left by baseball and all the other things that are missing right now. It’s a source of comfort in strange times.
So with that in mind, I’ve put together a playlist of baseball songs that I hope will make you feel a little more normal or at least take your mind off of all of the weirdness that’s going on right now. That’s right, I made you a mixtape, which is perhaps the dorkiest yet most sincere way of saying “I care.” You’re welcome.
This is not a greatest-of-all-time list; if you want one of those, they’re out there. No, these are songs to put on while you’re working from home or cooking up some canned goods. They’re not so much a celebration of baseball as a reminder that it still exists and that things will eventually return to normal. They’re baseball songs to get you through a pandemic.
Here they are. There’s a YouTube playlist below where you can listen.
1. “Bill Lee” by Warren Zevon
This tribute to Bill “Spaceman” Lee is not very long, but it’s a clever song about a quirky guy, with lots of great piano and some wicked harmonica. In other words, it’s classic Warren Zevon.
2. “Joe Dimaggio Done It Again” by Billy Bragg and Wilco
The Mermaid Avenue albums are full of great songs and this one is no exception. There’s so much going on in the arrangement, but it’s never in danger of falling apart. That’s really hard to do.
3. “Piazza, New York Catcher” by Belle and Sebastian
Mike Piazza held a press conference to announce that he was not gay. That actually happened, and it’s briefly documented in this song. If anyone has a guess as to who the pitcher in the later verses might be, let me know. I’ve always suspected it was based on someone, but I’ve never been able to figure it out.
4. “Royals” by Lorde
This isn’t a song about baseball, but Lorde claims the inspiration for the song was an excellent picture of George Brett in National Geographic. How awesome is that?
5. “Catfish” by Bob Dylan
Joe Cocker has the better-known version of this song, but I love this swampy studio outtake from Dylan himself, who wrote the song after Catfish Hunter signed with the Yankees. The “million dollar man” doesn’t have to work on “Mr. Finley’s Farm” any longer.
6. “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley
Mike Campbell wrote this song (sans lyrics) for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers originally, but it was Don Henley who ultimately took it on. Henley’s lyrics are great, but it’s still fun to imagine what Petty might have done with it. The title is the only thing baseball related, but I’m including it anyway because it’s a fantastic song. It has been scrubbed off of YouTube for reasons that probably make sense to someone, so I resorted to a live version for the list.
7. “America’s Favorite Pastime” by Todd Snyder
Todd Snyder wrote a song about the no-hitter that Doc Ellis threw while tripping acid. That sentence just makes sense and makes me feel better about everything. “His sinker looked like it was falling off a table/but nobody was hallucinating that.” Awesome.
8. “Knock It Out of the Park” by Sam & Dave
I’m not sure these metaphors all hold up to scrutiny, but that’s not really the point of Sam & Dave. The groove is hot, and that’s all that matters.
9. “Monument Park” by Baseball Project
Baseball Project is a collaboration between members of R.E.M. and The Minus 5, among others, and they do nothing but baseball songs. Their debut album, Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails might be one of the greatest album names ever.
10. “Need You” by Royal Headache
Wasn’t “Royal Headache” a Royals slogan in the ‘00s? Ok, this one’s a tough sell as a baseball song, but this is a Royals site and they have “Royal” in their name, and besides, this band is really fun. It’s like Spencer Davis Group and The Ramones became best friends and formed a band.
What songs did I miss? What have you been listening to – baseball-related or otherwise?