The National Playlist: Baseball Edition
Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel
I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t this song about something, like, fuck I don’t know, having sex with older women?” Yes, maybe. But a passing reference is made to Joe DiMaggio, who I understand to be a professional baseball player. Game, set, match.
Talkin’ Softball from The Simpsons
The first-ever professional baseball game I ever attended was a minor league (and I mean, MINOR) game at home for the Allentown Ambassadors. In one of the first at-bats of the game, the batter took a huge swing and lost his grip on the bat, which subsequently flew 90 feet down the base line to nail the first baseman in the head. That was far and away the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen happen at a baseball game.1
The most interesting fictional baseball game I’ve seen, though, is the one in The Simpsons episode “Homer at the Bat.” This is the TV episode that taught athletes how to be funny as guest stars without being the butt of the joke. Key and Peele’s Metta World News is a direct descendant of “Homer at the Bat.” Also, Wade Boggs was totally right, Pitt the Elder was Britain’s greatest Prime Minister.
Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox by Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers
Listen, this is a stupid novelty song. This isn’t a power ballad or a club banger, so to speak, like the other songs on this list. But it’s an important song to me.
The year was 2005. The most important thing in my life, the Chicago White Sox, exceeded all expectations and won the World Series. I spent about thirty nights that year in the upper deck of U.S Cellular Field having a religious experience. I became a man in that stadium. I learned more about heartbreak and disappointment (and triumph) in that year than any woman could teach me. The soundtrack to all these emotions was “Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox.” It may be a dumb song, but considering it was seemingly the only song that the White Sox PA system had, I needed to love it. And anytime I hear it, I remember the happiest days of my life in a relatively shitty baseball stadium wishing I could get a girlfriend.2
There’s Nothing I Love More Than Baseball by You Blew It!
When asked, “What is it about baseball?” John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats offered, “The way that the still scene on the field at any given moment contains a finite but vast number of possibilities[…]. In this way, baseball mirrors literally every waking moment of one’s life, except that in baseball, the compulsion to act is permanent and ongoing, so there’s never a point in any 3-2 count where the whole team just loses sight of its goals and gets a crummy job it hates and ends up wasting a whole year there instead of just the summer.”
This track from You Blew It!, a constituent of the past decade’s emo revival, bookends a driving and emotional album. Grow Up, Dude starts with the anthemic, “when will I see that superstitions mean everything?” and ends on “There’s Nothing That I Love More Than Baseball” with, “when will I see that superstitions won’t do anything?” John Darnielle’s accounts for why superstition takes such a strong hold in the sport of baseball—the hope that in all of its near infinite possibilities the shirt that you’re wearing will affect the outcome of the next play. You Blew It! shows this parallel in life, the hopelessness in trying to sway the myriad of forces that affect us.
Your Love by The Outfield
Apparently there’s just something about baseball and making intimate love with older women. I can’t even fathom the chain of events that led a British New Wave rock band to name themselves ‘The Outfield’ and then release a song about a man trying to convince a female friend to sleep with him while his girlfriend is away on vacation with the line “You know I like my girls a little bit older,” but I am so so so glad that they did. Especially because 24 years later, “Your Love” would become the single greatest MLB walk-up song in the history of ever when White Sox rookie Gordon Beckham took the field to the strains of the song’s reverberating guitar opener. I have seen a lot in this world, but nothing might ever surpass the image of middle-aged men and their sons singing in high-pitched perfect harmony, “Josie’s on a vacation faaaar aaaaaway!!!” Also, this:
Centerfield by John Fogerty
Besides the ‘hey’ song and the seventh inning stretch, Fogerty’s “Centerfield” may be the most ubiquitous song played in baseball stadiums across the country. Those opening claps and the line “put me in coach, I’m ready to play” is just about as American as drinking MGD and watching overweight men run around a diamond. Sure, “Centerfield” being among George Bush’s favorite songs is a pretty big strike (hahahahahaha) against it, but the song name-checks Chuck Berry, Casey at the Bat, and nostalgia all in under four minutes. If your song plays continuously on loop in Cooperstown, then it makes the grade on the National Playlist.