The Austin Chronicle


By Christopher Gray, April 1, 2005, Music

Glory Days

With March Madness of both the NCAA and SXSW varieties subsiding, it's time once again to smell that new grass on the field. In honor of Sunday's Opening Day, TCB compiled an album's worth of baseball-themed music. Many of these songs, and many more, are available on Hungry for Music's Diamond Cuts series, which has released a volume every year since 1997. Play ball!

CHUCK BERRY, "Brown Eyed Handsome Man": In the final verse of Berry's 1956 R&B hit, the titular hero whacks "a high fly into the stand" on a 3-2 count to win the game. Also recorded by Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson, and Waylon Jennings.

BOB DYLAN, "Catfish": Dylan follows Seventies A's/Yankees strikeout artist Jim "Catfish" Hunter as he whiffs Reggie Jackson, becomes baseball's first million-dollar free agent, and hunts quail on his 100-acre spread. Though written at the height of Hunter's career in 1975, not officially released until 1991's The Bootleg Series.

JOHN FOGERTY, "Centerfield": The perennial. Fogerty's title cut to his 1985 album celebrates "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and the kid in all of us who yearns to "touch 'em all." Besides the song's constant use in TV sports montages, its opening cadence is a popular rally clap at Houston's Minute Maid Park.

STEVE GOODMAN, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request": Goodman, who famously wrote redneck anthem "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" for buddy David Allan Coe, premiered this 1983 lament on Chicago's WGN Radio. By his reckoning, the Windy City's rich blues history is inextricably linked to the Cubs' misadventures in the "ivy-covered burial ground" of Wrigley Field.

MARAH, "Rain Delay": The rootsy Philadelphia rockers put this on their 1998 debut, Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later On Tonight, and even enlisted Phillies play-by-play announcer Harry Kalas to record an intro.

NELLY, "Batter Up": Austin-born Nelly hung up his minor-league spikes when he got in the rap game, but remembers his former career on this Jeffersons-quoting cut from 2000 smash Country Grammar: "I'm stealin' second and third and lookin' home, peepin' greedy now."

JACK NORWORTH, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame": Vaudevillian Norworth wrote the lyrics to this seventh-inning-stretch staple on a 1908 subway ride into Manhattan; composer Albert von Tilzer penned the music. It's since been recorded well over 100 times, by artists as varied as George Winston, Raffi, and Los Straitjackets.

TREY PARKER, "America (Fuck Yeah)!": The chorus of this would-be anthem from last year's puppet farce Team America: World Police extols baseball alongside other American institutions like Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and the Gap.

KENNY ROGERS, "The Greatest": The silver-haired Houston native returned to the country charts after a long absence with this sweet-natured 1999 hit about a plucky youngster who can't quite hit his own pitching just yet.

S.F. SEALS, Baseball Trilogy: Named after San Francisco's pre-Giants club, the Bay Area indie rockers debuted with this 1993 three-song EP memorializing troubled Tigers pitcher Denny McLain, the last man to win 30 games in a season; Pirates hurler Dock Ellis, who threw a no-hitter tripping on LSD; and Northern California's own Joe DiMaggio, who began his pro career with the Seals.

PAUL SIMON, "Night Game": Typically existential character study from Simon's 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years. Things go awry when the unnamed pitcher dies on the mound.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, "Glory Days": The Boss' hard-driving Born in the U.S.A. rocker uses an encounter with a high-school buddy who could "blow that speedball by you" to ruminate on days gone by. Former Yankees and Padres slugger Graig Nettles takes Springsteen deep in the video.

UNKNOWN, "Baseball Polka": The first known baseball song, "Baseball Polka" appeared in 1858 – 11 years before the first professional ballclub, the Cincinnati Red Legs, threw their first pitch.

JERRY JEFF WALKER, "Nolan Ryan": From Walker's 1990 album Navajo Rug, details the career of the Refugio-born fireballer (and now Round Rock Express/Corpus Christi Hooks co-owner) through four teams and six no-hitters. "A hero to us all," sings Walker, a sentiment with which present Lone Star aces from Roger Clemens to Josh Beckett undoubtedly agree.

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