The perfect combination of great music and excellent baseball knowledge is really hard to find. Sure, there have been some great songs about baseball. But how many people have put together three albums of historically accurate and socially conscious songs about baseball?
Last Thursday I had the pleasure of seeing The Baseball Project perform live in Washington, D.C. Most folks might think that what makes them a great band is that they are a supergroup made up of members of famous bands, including R.E.M., the Minus 5, the Young Fresh Fellows, and the Dream Syndicate. (The band members are Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, and Linda Pitmon.) However, what makes The Baseball Project so amazing is that they really know their baseball.
For example, included on their most recent album, 3rd, is a song called “The Day That Dock Went Hunting Heads.” The song is about a game on May 1, 1974, between the Dock Ellis’ Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds. It was the first game of the season between the two teams. As The Baseball Project says, the box score tells it all. To fire up his team that day, Ellis hit the first three batters in the Reds’ lineup – Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen. Ellis claimed that he tried to hit the next two batters, Tony Perez and Johnny Bench, as well. (As the song goes, “Yeah, it really happened that way.”) After that, Ellis was taken out of the game. Supposedly, Ellis’ plan worked anyway. According to the Baseball Reliquary, “the Pirates snapped out of their lethargy to win a division title in 1974, while the Reds failed to win their division for the first time in three years.” (Or, according to the song, “That was the turning point in the Buccos’ year.”)
Perhaps my favorite song on 3rd, is “Hola America,” which is about one of my favorite topics, Cuban defector baseball players:
Other songs addressing my favorite baseball social concerns include, “Gratitude (For Curt Flood),” “Jackie’s Lament,” and “They Don’t Know Henry.” And despite the fact that they have no songs specifically about the Orioles, these guys definitely make the list of my favorite teams – or, bands!