Tim Sommer: Noted record/haiku producer…on baseball.
What matters is this: Baseball is back.
Baseball, which kept us company as a lonely child, and thrilled us when our middle school world was full of taunts and the snail-gray of boredom; baseball, which taught us math, patience, frustration, and loyalty to team and town; baseball, whose elegant pace reminded us of the need to breathe amidst the now-continuous distractions of the day, and whose green fields are full of space yet demand attention; baseball, whose radio and television announcers comforted us through long summer nights and shorter autumn days with tube-warmed voices as familiar as our mothers; baseball, which never changes yet is always in motion, and which continually promises us a spot under lights or sun in which to simultaneously richly relax and deeply focus; baseball, which allows us to have the heroes of every stage of our long lives immediately recalled simply by seeing the number on a uniform; baseball, which belongs to the sepia city and the sluicing subways and the green fields and the crystal blue country skies, all at the same time; baseball, which declines to grow old, even as we do; baseball, which refuses to be rushed in an era where now has already come and gone; baseball, my dear friends, which like the beautiful cream-colored bird glimpsed from the Brooklyn Bridge and silhouetted against the skyline, mysteriously vanishes with the chill and returns with the first rumor of spring; baseball is back.And to honor the return of baseball, and inspired by the accidental poetry to be found in the headline about the fastballer felled by fickle flicks of ashen bat, I am going to present you with some baseball haikus, to remind us of the grace, simplicity, and poetry inherent in our greatest game.
...Aroldis Chapman/Has a Head Full of Staples/A courageous Red.
Damn…this will chop off the last second of The Descendents’ “I Like Food”!
The loudspeakers at Fenway Park play a little Bob Marley music to introduce Shane Victorino whenever he comes to bat for the Boston Red Sox. For a lot of major leaguers these days, intro music has become a routine part of the aesthetic experience at the ballpark. A famous example would be Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” played for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, until he retired. Mute the music and it’s still baseball — it’s just a little less cool.
On that note, MLB in 2014 is going to limit, to 15 seconds, the amount of time a “walk-up” song gets to be played. This doesn’t affect sing-a-longs such as “Sweet Caroline,” or “Take Me Out To The Ball Game,” or whatever music is played between innings at your local MLB stadium. And, presumably, if your closer wants to have “Enter Sandman” or “Hells Bells” played, they’ll get the full allotment of time. But the walk-up songs, the songs played for every at-bat, they’re about to get cut off like an Oscar’s speech.
For Victorino, that means “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley is going to end before all of the chorus can be sung — which fans at Fenway have taken to doing. It needs at least 20 seconds, probably 25, for the gist to be heard. It might sound silly to someone from, say, Bobby Doerr’s generation, but Victorino thinks the truncated music situation will damage the experience for fans and players.
“Everybody has their own rhythm and way they go about an at-bat,” Victorino said. “If over the course of a season there’s a problem then Major League Baseball should tell Mr. So-and-So they’re taking way too long between pitches and this needs to stop or fines will come your way. I just don’t think everybody across the board has to [punished].”
But the Hot Stove was also imagined as a neat way to bring the worlds of baseball and rock ‘n’ roll together, and many previous outings have included ballplayers who play music in their spare time, like Bronson Arroyo. This year’s version had no active or retired players that we’re aware of, but fans did get to hear Chicago Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper belt out a most invigorating version of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” (Note to Don Orsillo: start practicing.).
Best of all, from a baseball purists’ view, was the appearance of The Baseball Project, a quintet devoted to rock songs about baseball, and featuring former R.E.M. stalwarts Peter Buck and Mike Mills, along with frequent R.E.M. collaborator Scott McCaughey, as well as Dream Syndicate leader Steve Wynn, and his wife, who plays drums. Buck didn’t make the trip to Boston, but that hardly mattered as Mills sang his heartfelt rocker “I Wanna See Dale Murphy In the Hall of Fame,” and McCaughey sang a song about Doc Ellis. And who among us could resist the galvanizing alt-rocker “Ted (Bleepin’) Williams”?
... By the time Peter Gammons appeared the All Star Band had swelled to ten (and sometimes eleven) members, and the vaunted hardball scribe had a new tune that just might be the best thing he’s ever done musically. We’re guessing the title is “Beantown—This Is Our Town,” but the rockin’ fervor of that song’s indelible portrait of Boston and Bostonians suggested that it ought to be replacing “Sweet Caroline” as our hometown sports teams’ anthem of choice (we’ll keep “Dirty Water” for the postgame theme song) for those seventh-inning/final period inspirational moments.
3. “The Natural” theme by Randy Newman: Forget steroids. Listening to those blasting oboes when Roy Hobbs connects at the end of “The Natural” is the greatest performance-enhancer there is.
2. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” by Jack Norworth: With all due apologies to Francis Scott Key and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” this is our true national anthem.
1. “Centerfield” by John Fogerty: Fogerty told me a couple of years ago that he considers center field to be “this mythical place … where all the greats played.” He’s right. And this song is a glorious and catchy salute to that.
OK, we’re the last to know this, right? Turns out that 17-year-old Lorde’s megahit song, “Royals” – the one that’s topped the Billboard Hot 100 for seven straight weeks now – was inspired by our own boys in blue in Kansas City.
Anything BUT “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
So how did “Sweet Caroline” get out of the doghouse?
After the Marathon bombings, teams across baseball, looking to show solidarity, played “Sweet Caroline.” “You scored a home run in my heart,” Diamond tweeted after hearing it played at Yankee Stadium.
Then, Diamond took an overnight flight to Boston and showed up, unannounced, at Fenway. He performed for the crowd. Inspired generosity or marketing genius? You decide. But with his strategic visit, Neil brilliantly ensured that we’d be stuck with “Sweet Caroline” through at least the Koji era.
It may be too late, of course. At this point, “Sweet Caroline” is emblazoned on our brains like the Giant Glass jingle. Guess what. Another song, played 891 times in a row, can become just as catchy. Just try. If Dr. Charles needs classic rockers, I’ll throw out “Lola” by the Kinks or the J. Geils Band doing “Love Stinks.” Want contemporary? You can’t deny the catchiness of Katy Perry’s “Roar.” And if it’s so important to stay loyal to Neil, how about Neil Young doing “Hey, Hey, My, My?”
Treat the playlist like a baseball team. If a song doesn’t work, option it to Pawtucket.
Don’t take my advice. Put together a group of music-savvy baseball lovers. Sit Bill Janovitz at the head of the table. He’s known for his band Buffalo Tom and helping organize the Hot Stove Cool Music event run by Peter Gammons and Theo Epstein. He’s also a season ticketholder. What song would be better than “Sweet Caroline?”
Brian Evans should have made the Basketball Hall of Fame before Jim Rice made the…huh? wha??
Boston Red Sox legend Jim Rice, a member of The Baseball Hall of Fame, has just completed a new TV commercial which will promote the new single “At Fenway,” now on sale at Best Buy and Amazon.com.
The song, written and recorded by crooner Brian Evans, was produced by multiple Grammy Award winning producer Narada Michael Walden…
After debuting at #3 on Amazon.com, astonishing given the single was released in November, during football season, the commercial was filmed last Monday at The Groveland Diner in Groveland, Massachusetts.
...“Red Sox Nation is everywhere. This has truly been a D2F (Direct to Fan) campaign at this point, and we’re blown away at the response to the song,” says Evans.
ESPN The Magazine’s Steve Wulf wrote about Rollins’ experience with the kids. Not surprisingly, the trip seems to have meant as much to Rollins as it did for the kids, who will hopefully get a nicer ball field due in part to Jimmy’s efforts.
The whole story is worth your time, for sure, but we thoroughly enjoyed one nugget in particular. Jimmy was pulled onto a stage during a lunchtime gathering on Martin Luther King Day and busted out a freestyle rap that went something like this, according to ESPN:
“One two one two, in Uganda baseball comes through
Big D Lee in the house and so is me doing it everyday casually
Because we like to play and get down, Uganda, Nsambya, the big towns
I’m not done, we get it down, we get it too, I stand up and push, it’s on you
Theo Epstein, the former Red Sox general manager, will return home this weekend to help host the semi-annual “Hot Stove Cool Music” charity concert that launched 12 years ago.
Legendary baseball journalist Peter Gammons and a slew of musical performers will join Epstein, a Brookline native, at the Paradise Rock Club in Allston for Saturday night’s fundraiser – three months after he resigned as general manager of the Red Sox to lead baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs.
...Boston-native actor Mike O’Malley, who plays a regular role on the TV series “Glee” will emcee the gathering that includes scheduled performers: Grammy award-nominated, Boston-native Susan Tedeschi, Boston rockers The Remains, Grammy award-winning guitarist Derek Trucks, indie folk band Deer Tick, indie rockers Mean Creek, garage punk band The Sprained Ankles and the “Hot Stove All-Stars” featuring Gammons, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz, indie rocker Kay Hanley, J. Geils Band’s Seth Justman, folk rocker Robin Lane, Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Tanya Donelly and more, organizers said.
Q: Probably not a lot of 50-something former MVPs can say they’ve been getting into Wilco and other bands, huh?
A: Well it’s been fun, and I think that’s the fun of Twitter – this intersection or cross-section of diverse people and interests, and you connect in ways … it’s been fun. In fact, I did a [online interview] with Peter Moylan, and he was asking me about music I listen to. And he and Chipper [Jones] were wondering who half the bands were that I named…. [Laughter.] I’m going to have a contest on Twitter and say the first hitter that walks up to [to the plate] with Wilco or something like that playing, I’m going to get him [a prize].
Q: OK, let’s change gears a bit. Murph, has this time of year become frustrating for you because of the annual Hall of Fame voting announcement? Or do you still allow yourself to be optimistic about your chances?
A: I’m always kind of optimistic. Not really frustrated, I think because my percentage [of votes] hasn’t really been knocking on the door, you know? I think if it’d been at 60 percent or something for five years, it might be different. I mean, I always try to be optimistic. I know my percentage is pretty low and you need 75. And I’m not really close. So in that way I’m not really frustrated.
To be honest, I thought my percentage would be higher over the years. It hasn’t been high. I tend to feel like I’ll get a bump this year. We’ll see. There’s been some talk about guys that played in the ‘70s and ‘80s, that there might be some revisiting of their careers [by voters], and I have some people that have been supportive. So we’ll see. I appreciate the support and I try to stay optimistic.
$300 to see Kenny Cheney and Tim McGraw? That’s the shitkickingest thing I’ve seen since Elton Britt ran for President in 1960!
If taxpayers pick up the tab for a new sports stadium which later hosts a concert, where does that money go and does the public get a kickback for their investment? That’s a question currently occupying many minds after the first concert at Target Field sold out in only four hours.
FOX 9 News reporter Tom Lyden began looking for the answer after a viewer e-mailed, asking if the team pockets all the profits from the concerts held at the ballpark—but when it comes to the money trail, there are few simple answers with public stadiums.
Baseball may be the game of the summer, but Target Field is now proving that there’s big money to be made beyond baseball. Soon, about 39,000 country music fans will pack the house to see Kenny Cheney and Tim McGraw. Some fans even shelled out $300 per ticket.
So who gets that money? Twins spokesman Keven Smith says he wishes they did, but the concert promoter and performers take in all the money generated at the gate. The Twins keep the concessions cash—but they don’t know how much that will amount to.
“We don’t know how concessions go,” Smith admitted. “We run a baseball team, not a concert venue. Not yet.”
Nickelback? Foo Fighters?.....You’d think Moylan would be touting the Mangel Wankers or something, but nooooo.
Embattled rock band Nickelback have found themselves in the middle of another sports controversy—a Twitter fight with Peter Moylan, a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves baseball team.
Moylan threw the first high heater after attending the Foo Fighters’ Dec. 2 show at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Australia, tweeting how much more he liked Dave Grohl’s band than Chad Kroeger’s.
“Note to @nickelback please attend a @foofighters concert. That’s how’s it should be done chad,” he wrote.
Nickelback, who’ve been drinking their fair share of haterade lately on account of their unpopular football half-time shows, were quick to respond with kind words for the Foos and a baseball-savvy burn for Moylan.
“@PeterMoylan Foos are killer for sure. We’re doing just fine too thanks. ? for you Pete, is watching Kimbrel better from the bench or on TV?” the band tweeted.
Billy Joel? Elton John? Paul McCartney? Screw the wrecking ball…bring in the mofo Wrecking Crew to tear these MOR (Middle Of the yellow brick Road) ####-tinklers down!
Combining the life stories of Billy Joel and Shea Stadium with a minor-key glimpse at the relentless, Robert Moses-driven suburbanization of Long Island, Last Play at Shea captures a moment of bittersweet transition that valiantly attempts to valorize a world that is falling apart. (In the case of Shea Stadium, of course, this is literally true: within six months of Joel’s two concerts there in July 2008, the facility would be demolished.)
Though we were steadfastly resistant to Joel’s music during its heyday, the passage of time has softened the edges of his work: like Elton John (with whom he began touring after giving up songwriting in the 90s), his gift for melody ultimately forgives many sins. If one had to knock down Shea Stadium, Billy was indisputably the man to give it its sendoff.
The filmmakers knew they were creating too many narratives for their film to escape a feeling of it being neither fish nor fowl, so they found a fourth strand that gives it a semblance of narrative drive—they relate Shea Stadium’s history to the iconic event of its youth, the 1965 Beatles concert.
This fourth layer provides a musical link between Joel and the Moptops, and injects suspense into the unfolding story: will Paul McCartney find a way to appear at Joel’s farewell to Shea? Will things come full circle before the wrecking ball?
Tell me when it’s over, Steve…please tell me when this is all over.
Among those rooting for the Brewers to reach the World Series may have been the band, the Baseball Project. While none of the members are Milwaukee fans (or Cardinals fans), they did have a gig lined up for the Milwaukee if the Brewers made the World Series—but you know the rest of the baseball side of the story.
The group—made up of indie rock veterans Steve Wynn (the Dream Syndicate), Linda Pitmon, Scott McCaughey (the Minus 5) and Peter Buck (R.E.M.)— wrote some songs for the folks in Milwaukee that went unused. Still, the group did release a song from that planned set on its website. The song, well, the title speaks for itself: “C’mon Prince (Stay In MIlwaukee).”
You’ve got to give the guys credit, they’re right when they point out to Fielder that he’s “got nine more years of Ryan Braun hitting right in front of you/You think any other three and four hitters can do the damage you two will do” and “You’ll have have money coming out of your ears/Even if you sign for just five years.”
The band’s website says its working on an alternate version: “C’mon Albert (Stay In St. Louis).”
Ugh, more crapthetic tie-in crap…meanwhile Shiitty/Awesome gets passed over again!
Game 7 of the World Series is slated to air on Friday night, and for the second time during the baseball classic we are going to have an “American Idol” alum performing the National Anthem.
Who is it going to be? According to reports, Chris Daughtry is going to be taking to the field in order to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” just a week or so after season 10 champ Scotty McCreery performed the same song. Daughtry is also the third artist with direct Fox ties to perform, as “New Girl” star Zooey Deschanel has also taken on the anthem.
Who would you rather party with—the 1969 Mets or the 1986 Mets?
Oh, the ‘86 Mets. They’re closer in age to me. ... My idea of partying is sitting at a bar and nursing a beer for two hours and talking baseball. I did that in Pittsburgh once. I was with Ed Lynch and Keith Hernandez, and for about three hours we went through two beers and 50 years of baseball. That’s my idea of partying.
Keith Hernandez is great to talk to. He’s my favorite announcer. He’s articulate. He’s intellectual. He knows the game. He comes from a side that’s not a real jock side. He’s got a style, and I really enjoy his approach to the game. You know what Keith Hernandez once said? He said he couldn’t get interested in the game until his team was losing by about three runs. He didn’t think the game was interesting until then. Isn’t that amazing? That’s a champion. Joe Montana didn’t start playing [hard] until the fourth quarter, when his team was down by two touchdowns. Keith’s brain would wake up down by three runs. He’d say, “Now the game’s interesting to me. If we’re up 10-0, it doesn’t mean anything.” That’s a real gamer.
Do you have any baseball mementos or memorabilia?
All my memorabilia, and all my cherished things are in my heart and in my brain—although I do have a baseball cap that was autographed by both Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays. That’s the only thing I got—only the two greatest players who ever played. (Laughs.) I don’t believe in collecting things. I’m fond of saying, “It’s not the things that touch your hands that matter, it’s the things that touch your heart.”
WATCHING I like music documentaries. I just recently saw “We Jam Econo — The Story of the Minutemen,” who were a California punk band from the ’80s. The Minutemen were one of those bands that didn’t really catch on in the mainstream and yet was incredibly influential on other artists that did make it.
The other one that I saw was “Hype!,” which is about the Seattle grunge scene. It has great archive footage of bands like Nirvana and Sound Garden and also Alice in Chains playing in the Seattle bar scene. It’s interesting how clusters of bands develop in certain areas.
LISTENING I listen to a lot of podcasts. My favorite is World Football Daily. It’s a two-hour soccer podcast. It’s got a lot of correspondents from all over the world who cover soccer. My go-to band is Oasis, but I have a friend in the music business who keeps me up to date with newer stuff, some of which I like, some I don’t. He recently introduced me to Glasvegas and Cold Cave.
“Derek, I’ve got a screw loose for you…” (cue Jaye P. Morgan gongflash)
As organizers of “The Derek Jeter Plays” can attest, not just theatrical characters find “El Capitan” inspiring.
“Basically, [actor] Wende O’Reilly came up with this fantastic idea to promote Derek Jeter by way of plays. So she wanted an evening of plays, actually she would be the only one, with her and Derek Jeter to be with her in it,” says producer-actor Joan Pelzer. “But we decided, let’s make it a big evening and have other people involved.”
So Algonquin Seaport Theater put out a call and got more than 30 submissions. The seven plays selected are part of an evening of one-act plays called “The Derek Jeter Plays,” and they all involve baseball and the Bronx Bomber.
As for O’Reilly, she’s thrilled to play alongside her favorite guy, at least on stage, in “Pasta Diving Jeter,” about a crazy fan like herself.
“I haven’t been arrested or, you know, have any restraining orders out or anything like that, but I would consider myself more fanatical then fan,” says O’Reilly.
Closers need these songs more than anyone. Pitching just one inning to end the game, they rely on elements of intimidation that workhorse starters can’t sustain over six or seven innings. Closers are performers in the full sense of the word, and their entrance music is nearly as much a part of their personas as a filthy slider or 97-mph fastball. Yet few understand what makes a good entrance song. They have much to learn. Most of which, incidentally, can be found in the following guide.
¡Oye como va! It’s not hard to make out the blurry figure with his arms raised behind the percussionst. That’s St. Louis Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa providing a little backup for legendary musician Carlos Santana at a recent show.
Citizen Ben Weixlmann thought that some might not believe him, so he tweeted a photo of La Russa, (pretty much) plain as day on stage at the historic Fox Theatre in St. Louis during Santana’s concert Tuesday night. La Russa reportedly scooted over there after his postgame media session at Busch Stadium concluded.
And there he is, just like the ocean under the moon! He’s even smiling, which is not something you usually see from The Genius.
Along with his 26 bombs, Trumbo has driven in 80 runs, collected 55 extra base hits and has a .486 slugging percentage percentage, leading the team in all four categories. And he came up with probably the Angels’ biggest hit of the season against the Rangers on August 18, when he slammed a two-run homer off reliever Mike Adams to give his team a 2-1 win, and keep them within six games of the leaders. Without the shot, LA is swept by Texas, falls eight games out, and likely says goodbye to any post-season participation. They’ve gone 12-6 since that win, cutting 2 1/2 games off the lead. Not bad for a guy who was about to become a platoon player when he was struggling and the Angels acquired power hitting first baseman Russell Branyan in late May.
...“I’m a huge music guy,” Trumbo says, “especially any kind of Rock and Roll.” And if you’re familiar with post-hardcore music, you know that Trumbo walks up to the batter’s box to the sound of the band THRICE and their song “To Awake and Avenge the Dead.” Thrice has put out some amazing CD’s, including “The Alchemy Index Vols. I & II” in 2007 and ” Vols. III & IV in 2008. 2002’s “Illusion of Safety” contains the song Trumbo uses as his walk up tune. Overall, the Orange County group has sold over one million records and is on the verge of releasing “Major/Minor, scheduled to drop on September 20th. And just to illustrate that being a major league player does indeed allow you entrance into places most never see, Trumbo has already heard the CD. “I was really lucky to get to hear it before the release. It’s great. The fans are going to love it.”
For most of his life, my brother believed that there was a direct correlation between the Montreal Expos’ fortunes and his own. (Given my brother’s occasional happiness and success, the theory was dubious from the start, and it would finally be disproved in 2004 when the Expos were given a name-change and moved to Washington and he was not.) In 1981, the Expos made the playoffs for the first and only time in franchise history, but were defeated by the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. The final game, which was played on a drizzly Monday and was decided by a late-game home-run by Rick Monday, would come to be known by Expos fans as Blue Monday.
My sister was never a sports fan. She preferred art to athletics and my earliest memories of her are my earliest musical memories: “Blue Monday” or the Happy Mondays or The Chills emanating muffled through the closed door of her room - music that has persistently shaped my understanding of how the world sounded at the time I came into it.
Ten years after Blue Monday, I cared a lot more about Fernando Velenzuala than I did about The Chills. Ten years after that, baseball had lost its appeal and music had replaced it in the forefront of my mind. Nearly ten years hence, I think about music less than I used to and baseball almost not at all, though I still derive great pleasure from The Chills and can’t help but think of Fernando Velenzuala as I listen.
Ronnie’s Wallbangers are this week’s cover boys. Yep, they’re jinxed.
Happy hour in the Brewers’ clubhouse starts early, with Morgan flexing in two coats of baby oil, Axford scanning the room for the putters used in naked golf, and the team listening to a head-rattling mash-up of music ranging from Marilyn Manson to Lil Wayne. In the dugout the starting pitchers recline in their personal cushioned chairs, including one they claim has supernatural powers to improve changeups. Batters commemorate hits by raising their claws and growling like beasts from the movie Monsters, Inc. They celebrate walk-off wins by punching one another in the kidneys. All teams have customized handshakes ... but the Brewers have customized handshakes with their security guards.
The Brewers irritate some traditionalists—or as Morgan calls them, “plain-Jane wonderbreads.” This year St. Louis manager Tony La Russa has accused the Brewers of everything from throwing at Albert Pujols to stealing signs to changing the lighting at Miller Park depending on which team is at the plate. (Major League Baseball dismissed a formal complaint about the latter). Last week catcher Jonathan Lucroy flipped his bat after a home run, and a couple of Dodgers recoiled. “As long as I can remember, that’s how they were,” says L.A. outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., who came up through the Brewers’ organization. “Everybody had fun. Everybody showed emotion. It was a relaxed environment. You add Nyjer to that mix, and he is the ingredient that makes it all bubble over.”
If baseball players are the pillars of one model of orderly society, art is littered with the corpses of social outcasts. Nietzsche and Van Gogh went crazy. Dostoyevsky was politically oppressed. Brian Wilson couldn’t get out of bed for a decade. But there’s a reason why A&E can get away with running low-budget shows like “Hoarders” and “Intervention” back-to-back for 24 hours at a time. Even in the baseball universe, we can’t escape the pull of human-interest stories. Roy Halladay didn’t become the best pitcher in baseball until he was forced to reinvent himself in low-A ball. Josh Hamilton recovered from hard drug addiction. Zack Greinke overcame anxiety. Of course, the oft-repeated stories are always about the successful recoveries – the Lenny Dykstras and Ken Caminitis who fall victim to their own excesses are relegated to occasional fine-print bulletins and lamentful obituaries. They become “True Hollywood Stories” or the subjects of sanguine television movies.
Jacoby Ellsbury was born three days before Amy Winehouse. Think about that for a second. Jacoby Ellsbury is older than Amy Winehouse. In a game in which an early middle-aged man is referred to as a “shell” or a “corpse” by cynical commentators and some men shift to the coaching ranks in their mid-thirties, Ellsbury is a paragon of youth. He’s 27 and he’s having the best year of his career – hitting .300, stealing a ton of bases and just now adding power to the mix. He’s emerging as one of the best young – emphasis on young – players in the game today. To say that he’s still very much alive would be understating the point.