Take Me Out . . .

. . . to the ball game

You need look no further than a John Hughes movie (or your own adolescence) to realize that jocks and freaks don't really mix. But occasionally, the seemingly disparate paths of pro athletes and musicians do cross, from jocks trying to be rockers (Jack McDowell, Scott Radinsky) to rockers honoring jocks (Yo La Tengo, Koufax). The queen of guitar-strumming baseball fandom is definitively Barbara Manning, whose solo record One Perfect Green Blanket announces its presence with a cover painting of a well-manicured ballfield; she also cut the three-song Baseball TrilogyEP for Matador back in '93. Her "Dock Ellis" also placed high in our artists' poll of the best baseball tunes ever, to celebrate the joyous arrival of Opening Day. Enjoy.

Dave Insley, honky-tonker
Favorite team: Arizona Diamondbacks

My favorite baseball songs are both from a Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers early-'80s Twin Tone release, Rockin' and Romance: "Walter Johnson" and "The Fenway." They are both such fine, sweet story songs -- classic Modern Lovers material.

Music and baseball have more in common than bad personal hygiene and painful groin injuries.
Jill Pearson
Music and baseball have more in common than bad personal hygiene and painful groin injuries.

Brian Pearl, Matt Pond PA guitarist
Favorite team: Los Angeles Dodgers

"Welcome to the Jungle," Eric Gagne's theme. I rediscovered Appetite for Destruction on our last tour. It was always my favorite Guns N' Roses record.

James McMurtry, singer-songwriter
Favorite team: New York Mets

"Centerfield" by John Fogerty. I don't like the production -- fake-sounding hand-claps and the like -- and I couldn't quote you one line of the lyrics other than parts of the chorus. But the raw exuberance still comes across, and exuberance is what rock 'n' roll and baseball are all about.

Paul Westerberg, ex-Replacements
Favorite team: Minnesota Twins

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game," man. I mean, there's no other.

Mike Patton, Fantômas, etc.
Favorite team: San Francisco Giants

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" -- the avant-garde vocal jazz interpretation by Ozzy Osbourne [performed at Wrigley Field in 2003]. Since he either did not know the words or was too loaded to articulate them, he gave a gibberish rendition that would have made Kurt Schwitters gnash his teeth with envy. Only in America!

Ben Kweller, indie-pop heartthrob
Favorite "team": Anti-Yankees

Definitely Madonna's "This Used to Be My Playground." When I was 12, me and my buddy Jonny Jackson went to see A League of Their Own up in Dallas. There were these two hot girls our age, maybe a little older, that sat right next to us. We flirted the whole movie but got no action. Then the movie was over. The credits rolled to this great, slightly depressing song and the girls were gone! I never got her name or anything. This song always brings me back to that theater and reminds me of that frustrating time when you just wanna make out.

Sarah Kelly, rock gospel Grammy nominee
Favorite team: Chicago Cubs

I remember when I was much younger, going to see Cubs baseball games at Wrigley Field with my grandparents. Probably the highlight was the music blaring over the loudspeakers. One of my favorites was when "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" would blast out. Growing up in a Christian household, we didn't listen to rock music, so this was definitely an experience for me.

Jason Mackenroth, Rollins Band
Favorite team: Los Angeles Dodgers

My favorite baseball song is more of a baseball moment, but Geddy Lee of Rush singing "O Canada" a cappella at the 64th MLB All-Star Game in 1993 is priceless! As odd as it may sound, it actually makes perfect sense knowing what big baseball fans Rush are. There is an amazing vulnerability in his voice as he performs live with no backing in front of millions.

Donald Carpenter, Submersed
Favorite "team": Anti-Yankees

The theme song from The Natural. It's the only movie that can give me the same goose bumps at home that I get at the stadium. That movie makes me wants to go hit balls and shag flies.

Johnny Spampinato, NRBQ
Favorite team: New York Yankees

"I Love Mickey." It cracks me up every time. Anything with Mickey in it is always great! Those older records are so innocent, and with true baseball spirit, it's hard to beat them.

Ryan Fox, '89 Cubs
Favorite player: Don Mattingly (?!)

"Cubs in Five" by the Mountain Goats. It equates a handful of implausible events -- such as the Cubs winning it all and The Canterbury Tales topping the best-seller list for 27 weeks -- with the possibility of the couple in the song rekindling their relationship. It's sort of like saying, "When hell freezes over," though with arguably clever and contemporary references.

Anders Parker, ex-Varnaline
Favorite team: New York Yankees

"Catfish" by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy. An outtake from the Desire album, it was released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3. It's got a really swampy-type feel. The song always makes me think of those real hot, muggy New York summers, and the pace of a ballgame in that kind of heat.

Steve Albini, Yankee-hater and professional cynic

Unfortunately, there are no good ones yet.

Rob Trucks is the author of The Catcher: Baseball Behind the Seams (Emmis Books).

 
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