In the offseason, the gates are locked, the box scores don't refresh, and the standings are stagnant. There are no grilled onions to smell, no tessellations in the grass to study, and no uncomfortable plastic seats to torture your hindquarters. Exiled from the ballpark, I find myself nostalgic for things that otherwise irk me once the season is in full swing: I miss eavesdropping on gabbing fans a few rows in front of me as they insist on the importance of pitcher wins. I long for the summer days when my sandals stick to the concrete under my seat because some degenerate threw their chewing gum there, and I'll admit it: I even miss the ballpark music that I normally scoff at. That's what spawned the baseball playlist.
Last offseason, I found myself listening to random walk-up songs, entrance music, and the predictable underscoring of in-game entertainment, not because I liked them, but because I missed the associations they conjured. This playlist is the auditory expression of baseball-inspired Stockholm Syndrome -- you may not like everything, but I bet you find you're tapping your toes every now and again, willfully or not.
I've created an interactive Spotify playlist of baseball songs, which I've creatively named, "The Baseball Opening Day Playlist." It currently contains 85 songs, seemingly a large number, but still far too few to be an exhaustive catalog of every song ever played in a stadium. Rather, the playlist is a jumping-off point for conversation and collaboration: You can subscribe to the playlist just to listen, or add your own songs with just a few clicks.
Here's a sample of some of the songs you'll find on the playlist, along with notes on why they were selected:
Songs about Baseball
- Ted F*&%king Williams (The Baseball Project)
- Meet the (Yo La Tango)
- Talkin' Baseball (Terry Cashman)
- Infield Fly (The Isotopes)
- Centerfield (John Fogerty)
- Bill Lee (Warren Zevon)
- Piazza, New York Catcher (Belle & Sebastian)
- Joe DiMaggio Done it Again (Billy Bragg and Wilco)
There are some terrible songs about baseball. Some are too poppy, like John Fogerty's "Centerfield." Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" begins with baseball, but ruins the reference by calling a pitch a "speedball" instead of "fastball." There's also an earworm about Carl Yastrzemski that sounds like it was recorded in a tin can during the Great Depression, but actually came out the same year as the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." As such, you needn't rush to listen to most songs about baseball. There are, however, a few exceptions. Yo La Tengo's cover of "Meet the Mets" is enjoyable, "Bill Lee" by Warren Zevon sounds like the rest of his discography, and while an indie pop duo from Glasgow may be an unlikely source, "Piazza, New York Catcher" by Belle & Sebastian takes the prize as my favorite song about baseball. There's also the entire body of work by The Baseball Project, a super-group comprised of Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, and Linda Pitmon, great rock songs that are elevated by their baseball content.
Fortunately for your ears, some of the truly awful baseball songs aren't available on Spotify. You're stuck with "Talkin' Baseball" (Terry Cashman), a popular song that pays tribute to players from the 1950s. There were numerous variations released by Cashman covering most of the teams from that era, so if you ever find yourself with an abundance of time, you could compare the rWAR for all of the rosters mentioned in Cashman's songs. Doesn't that sound fun?
There are a few more songs about baseball that I would have loved to include, songs such as "Say Hey" (the Treniers), "All the Way" (Eddie Vedder), and "Subway" (Jim Nuzzo), but those fall into the category of songs that aren't available on Spotify, so they get an honorable mention.
- Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond)
- Beer Barrel Polka (Jaromir Vejvoda)
- Thank God I'm a Country Boy (John Denver)
- Take Me Out To the Ballgame (Albert Von Tilzer/Jack Norworth)
- Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (Steam)
- Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)
Every stadium embraces its own traditions. This diversity is one of the many things to like about baseball. You can take a kayak to a Giants game, sit on a rooftop near Wrigley Field, or eat a pulled pork sundae filled with mashed potatoes and gravy at a Brewers game. Just as modes of transportation, the view, and cuisine vary, so does the music. The Opening Day Playlist includes some of the songs that you'd associate with different parks around the league.
Try as you might, there's no escaping 37,000 people screaming, "SO GOOD, SO GOOD, SO GOOD" in your face during the eighth-inning spin of "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway Park. At most Cubs games a B-list celebrity will butcher the lyrics to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." After the seventh-inning stretch in Milwaukee, you can sing "The Beer Barrel Polka" ("tararrel" is a real word!), and if you're at a Tigers game, you'll hear some giggling when a stranger informs you, "THERE IS NO SOUTH DETROIT!" during "Don't Stop Believin'."
Despite Camden Yard's urban setting, John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" has been a Baltimore tradition since 1975. On the Southside of Chicago, when an opposing pitcher is pulled, he's played off the field by "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," the crowd chanting the refrain, "Hey hey hey, goooodbye," a tradition started by organist Nancy Faust that hast lasted more than 30 years.
I'm Sorry, Don't Get Mad
- Who Let The Dogs Out (Baha Men)
- Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)
- YMCA (The Village People)
- Gangnam Style (PSY)
- Party in the USA (Miley Cyrus)
- Cotton-Eye Joe (Rednex)
I don't consider myself an overly fun or goofy person, and that makes enjoyment of some in-game entertainment difficult for me. I have a case of Dontpointthatoverhereaphoia (the fear of Jumbotrons) so severe that I found myself yelling at the camera man at Nationals Park to get away from me last season because he had put me on the big screen twice in one game. I don't like the wave or t-shirt cannons, and I certainly don't care for some of the music that's blasted at absurd volumes, including but not limited to "Who Let the Dogs Out," "Cotton-Eye Joe," or anything that appeared on Jock Jams Volume 1-156. Still, given the number of folks I see hamming it up for the camera during "YMCA" or galloping during "Gangnam Style" at every game, I'm laying odds that a handful of you actually enjoy these songs.
- Kashmir (Led Zeppelin) -- Chase Utley
- Take on Me (Aha) -- Michael Morse
- Your Love (The Outfield) -- Gordon Beckham, etc.
- Give Me Everything (Pitbull) -- Victor Martinez
- London Calling (The Clash) -- Mike Lowell
It's a common hypothetical: What would your walk-up song be if you were a big-leaguer? I'd probably use "Unsatisfied" by the Replacements, the first few bars of "The Guns of Brixton" by the Clash, or "Bitch" by the Rolling Stones.
It has to be hard to find the right mix of elements in a walk-up song. The song must be inspiring, something you can hear at every home game without getting sick of it, and doesn't contain expletives. Some players -- Mike Lowell for example -- have a strong history of good picks (in his case, "Bombtrack" by Rage Against the Machine and "London Calling"), thereby standing out in a field where most choose songs by Nickelback, Creed, and Puddle of Mudd, all bands whose fanbases seems to be comprised solely of athletes.
When Michael Morse picked "Take On Me," I don't think he envisioned it becoming the anthem of "Natitude" last season, but the volume at which the refrain was belted during the playoffs was deafening. I don't think Gordon Beckham ever imagined a similar reaction when he made the obscure choice of "Your Love" by the Outfield in 2009. I mean, I guess the Outfield seems fitting since that's a baseball term, but the catchy pop tune from 1983 has turned into some sort of hipster baseball anthem; several players including Mark Kotsay, Kelly Johnson, Eric Byrnes, and more have used since 2009. My favorite part of the story is that at least initially, Beckham held the MLB rights to that song, so players like Johnson had to ask if they could use it. While I don't fully understand the phenomenon, the song has grown on me.
- Bawitdaba (Kid Rock) -- Addison Reed
- Mother (Danzig) -- Keith Foulke
- Enter Sandman (Metallica) -- Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner
- Shipping Up to Boston (The Dropkick Murphys) -- Jonathan Papelbon
- I Wanna Rock (Twisted Sister) -- John Rocker
- Who Knows (Jimi Hendrix) -- Doug Slaten
Pitchers, relievers especially, do a lot of things to establish their badassery and there's no easier way than picking the right entrance music. As with the other categories here, there are some good entrance songs and some awful ones -- Addison Reed's commitment to Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" is puzzling and painful to endure, but if that's what fuels his 24.4 percentage career strikeout rate, then who am I to judge?
Jonathan Papelbon ditched "Shipping Up to Boston" when he shipped out to Philadelphia, but it still registers high in the annals of closer entrance music, though Mariano Rivera's use of "Enter Sandman" has to top any list of iconic closer-song pairings. I have also included "I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister on the playlist... even though the band asked John Rocker to stop using the song after making disparaging comments about gays and minorities in 2000.
To see the full playlist and to add your own songs, click here. Oh, and you might want to wear your headphones. Much like an actual day at the ballpark, you never know when something embarrassing like "Call Me Maybe" will come blaring through your speakers.