Why Almost Every Song About Baseball Is Terrible
Flickr user Max and Dee Stark How are you screwing up this subject matter so horribly??
Baseball fans will wear their favorite player's name across their back, as adults, before and after Halloween. They will fill their bookshelves with histories and biographies and fantasy guides the size of the yellow pages, and they will keep them long after the actual yellow pages have been recycled or stacked up in hoarders' living rooms.
They will almost always avoid baseball music, though. Because baseball music is almost always terrible.
Baseball and music get along very well in the abstract; before it was a really good way for drunks to embarrass each other "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was a novelty tune about a baseball fan who tells her boyfriend to drop the date stuff and escort her to the ballpark, so she can yell at the umpire.
All the standing around between innings allows for the kind of musical interlude that in faster sports is limited to people slapping their knees for 15 seconds while "Cotton Eye Joe" plays during a TV time-out.
But "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" aside, the baseball-song canon has remained remarkably thin. It's not for lack of trying--in fact, it's mostly because of all the trying.
No national metaphor could survive unmolested from Walt Whitman to Bruce Springsteen, and baseball is no exception; in the 130 years since Whitman connected "base-ball" to our divine guts it's been drained of blood, sweat and specificity by generations of greeting-card caricatures of the sport as innocence lost or a pretty good way to spend Father's Day.
Baseball the sport is filled with enough characters to populate the combined discographies of Tom Waits and The Hold Steady, which leaves all the players who weren't shambling Christ-figure derelicts to be divided up among a bunch of other bands. Baseball's first professional, Jim Creighton, took money under the table, invented the fastball by sneakily flicking his wrist, and died swinging the bat so hard he ruptured an internal organ. Ed Delahanty, the finest hitter at the turn of the 20th century, wandered out of a train and fell over Niagara Falls, and nobody knows why.
"We're born again / there's new grass on the field." Oh, because it's spring, I bet. Thank you, John.