Welcome to The Rotation! This is a weekly column, written by yours truly, that talks about the wonderful blended worlds of baseball and music. These two have been staples of Americana for centuries, and are as big a part of our culture as apple pie and Chevrolet. My goal is to pick a different topic between the beautiful, unified world of baseball and music and write about it each week.
Additionally, each week will also feature a segment detailing a personal favorite walk-up song, either historical or current. I’ll try to do one hitter and one pitcher walk-up each week. Nothing is more fun than a player with a unique, punny, or just outright rocking walk-up tune.
Today’s column talks about five bands with baseball-themed names, how they got those names, and why you should (or shouldn’t) go check out their music.
The Five Best Baseball-Themed Band Names
I struggled to figure out how exactly to rank these. Do I rank by most successful band? If so, the order is almost the exact reverse. Do I rank by creativity, origin story, how baseball-ey the name is? I just ended up picking my favorite names, although all are about baseball so none of them can go wrong.
Note: Two other bands, The Baseball Project and Isotopes Punk Rock Baseball Club, were considered but will ultimately get their own post down the road. They sing entirely about baseball, but I didn’t find their actual band names all that compelling.
I also omitted MC Hammer, but he’ll get his own column as well
Fastball is pretty clearly a baseball-themed name, although there isn’t a very exciting story behind the name of the 1990s alt-rock band based out of Texas, which is why I placed them at the bottom of this list.
When the band first got together they tried out a handful of names, including Star 69, Magneto, Magneto USA, and Ed Clark’s Business Bible and Starchy (for real), before (wisely) deciding to adopt the name Fastball.
They became famous in the 1990s for the Grammy-winning song “The Way” and their other single, “Out of My Head.”
Even though their sound is distinctly ’90s alt rock, the band is still active.
Their latest album, Step Into Light, was released in 2017. They announced a new album in January of this year, and have released three singles from it so far.
No. 4: The Outfield
The Outfield has perhaps the most well-known song of any of the bands on this list. Their one-hit wonder “Your Love” still blares out of radio speakers and in baseball stadiums to this day (more on that later).
Originally called “The Baseball Boys” after a teen gang called “The Baseball Furies” from the cult movie The Warriors, the British band changed their name to The Outfield after moving to the United States at the suggestion of guitarist and songwriter John Spinks.
Spinks claimed to be a baseball fan, although he admitted that neither he nor any of his bandmates knew what an outfield was until they came to the states in the 1980s.
“We’re just learning about baseball,” Spinks told the LA Times in 1986. “It’s an acquired taste and we’re trying to acquire a taste for it.”
They even named their first album, which went triple platinum, Play Deep, another baseball pun for a band full of them.
Whether they got a taste for baseball or not, they have one of the most iconic baseball band names in history, and their song Your Love has been a walk-up song staple for decades.
No. 3: Yo La Tengo
Although Yo La Tengo doesn’t immediately invoke thoughts of baseball, certainly not like the rest of the band names on this list, the story behind the name is without a doubt the funniest and most compelling—and arguably the most ‘baseball-ey’.
Yo La Tengo is Spanish and translates roughly to “I have It.” The story for the band’s name comes from a baseball anecdote from the infamous 1962 Mets.
Center fielder Richie Ashburn and shortstop Elio Chacon, who is Venezuelan, frequently collided with each other in the outfield thanks to communication issues. Ashburn would yell “I got it!” while coming in on a ball, but Chacon—who only spoke spanish—would run into him. Ashburn eventually learned to yell “Yo la tengo!” instead.
The team had a meeting where they proposed using “yo la tengo” to avoid any more outfield collisions. Left fielder Frank Thomas (a different Frank Thomas) apparently missed that meeting, and collided with Chacon a few days later, despite Chacon calling him off.
A frustrated Thomas got up and asked Ashburn, “what the hell is a yellow tango?”
While this is the most quintessential “lolMets” story of all-time, it’s also a pretty fantastic band name origin story. Yo La Tengo has been around since 1986 (another infamous Mets year) and released their 15th studio album in 2018.
No. 2: Vida Blue
What do you get when you combine the keyboardist from Phish, the bassist from the Allman Brothers Band, and a drummer who used to play with Harry Connick Jr.?
Apparently, you get six-time All-Star and 1971 AL MVP Vida Blue. Or at least, an electronic funk band named after him.
Page McConnell from Phish sought out Oteil Burbridge and Russell Batiste to form what he was calling the Vida Blue Project. They had to buy the rights to the name Vida Blue—not from Blue himself but rather from a screamo band based in Iowa who had the same name.
That’s right, they paid $10,000 to a screamo band in Iowa in order to name their band after a baseball player who had retired 20 years previously. These are the kind of tidbits I set out to discover when I took on this weekly column.
Vida Blue (the band) sadly only released two albums, along with a DVD set of one of their live shows at The Fillmore in San Francisco, where they were joined on stage by the actual pitcher Vida Blue.
A report from February of 2018 indicated they are working on a new album, although there has yet to be any word on the album’s release. Perhaps they’ll rebrand themselves with another long-retired All-Star pitcher. Tom Glavine? Chuck and the Finley’s? The Mark Prior experience?
No. 1: Puig Destroyer
Okay this is fantastic. It’s a combination of metal band “Pig Destroyer” and of course Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig.
Two members of the rock band Thrice, bassist Ian Miller and drummer Riley Breckenridge, run a blog, twitter account, and podcast called Productive Outs, which like “The Rotation” is all about baseball and music.
Back in 2014, around the time Puig debuted with the Dodgers and lit the entire baseball world on fire, the two of them chuckled about the idea of naming a metal band “Puig Destroyer” as a play on words between the Puig and the metal band Pig Destroyer.
After they got off the podcast, they decided they should be the ones to do it.
That night, they came up with a drumbeat for their first song. A week later they had an EP, and two weeks after that Puig himself heard their music at the MLB Fan Cave in New York.
And my dad told me making dumb baseball puns won’t get me anywhere in life.
The band isn’t really a band as much as they are a project, with the four members all living in different areas and never performing live. They did release 20 “grindcore” songs however, each with a different baseball theme to them.
Song titles include “Batflip” and the particularly deflating “No One Cares About Your Fantasy Team.” Hard to top that.
Walk-up Songs of the Week
Hitter: Charlie Blackmon – Your Love (The Outfield)
It’s only fair we feature what is probably the most well-known song from any of the above bands as this week’s walk-up song. Blackmon is not the first hitter to use this song, as former Rangers infielder Frank Catalanotto made it a ballpark staple in the early 2000s.
It’s easy to see why this song is still so popular as a walk-up song as it has an immediately recognizable start: a simple guitar riff with the song’s famous opening lines:
“Josie’s on a vacation far away
Come around to talk it over
So many things that I want to say
You know I like my girls a little bit older
I just wanna use your love tonight.
I don’t wanna lose your love tonight”
Then, the drums take over and the song is on its way, with the entire crowd already singing in unison.
If you can get past the song’s very obvious Mrs. Robinson theme, then it’s an absolute joy to hear at the ballpark whenever it blares through the speakers—which is about four times a game for those at Coors Field thanks to Mr. Blackmon.
Pitcher: Yoervis Medina – Funky Cold Medina (Tone-Loc)
If we are going to forgive “The Outfield” and Charlie Blackmon for using a song with adulterous undertones, then surely we can forgive the OG Tone-Loc for Funky Cold Medina—which at best is suggesting giving women a ‘love potion’ at a bar. At best.
Yoervis Medina was a surprisingly efficient middle reliever for the Mariners from 2013–2015. He never really stood out, but you always knew when he was entering the game thanks to the funky beat of Tone-Loc’s 1989 classic.
I’m not going to pretend that the intern who decided to play a song with the word Medina in it for a reliever named Medina was a genius or anything, but damn it was fun when the crowd started bumping during his mound entrance.
Perhaps Medina, who had a 2.82 ERA with the Mariners despite high walk totals and a 3.74 FIP, was using a little Funky Cold Medina to get lucky on the mound for those few years.
I am creating a spotify playlist of all the walk-up songs that I discuss over the course of the season. It is called “Pitcher List Walk Up Jams” and is shared for anyone who wants it.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)
Damn Yankees , anyone?
But I think you got the Richie Ashburn story wrong. According to Roger Angell (in his splendid book ‘Five Seasons’), it was Ashburn, positioning himself under a flyball, who shouted out ‘Yo la tengo’ — only to be flattened by Frank Thomas! Links here [ https://bit.ly/2Z45nlH ] and here [ https://nyti.ms/2X9ty0i ]
An interesting note about The Outfield. The original name for this London-based band was the Baseball Boys — their bizarre tribute to the Baseball Furies who were, of course, one of the gangs from the awesome 1979 movie ‘The Warriors.’
I like this column — keep up the good work!