The Rotation: A History of the Vedder Cup, Baseball’s Strangest Rivalry
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.
Here’s a fun little story about how the Mariners and Padres started a 20-year rivalry that centers around a diehard Cubs fan.
A Brief History of the Vedder Cup
In 1997, MLB finally integrated—allowing National League and American League teams to play each other in the regular season. Then-commissioner Bud Selig announced that teams were going to have natural rivals, like the A’s and Giants, Dodgers and Angels, Mets and Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies, etc.
It made sense, as it gave fans a chance to see local teams square off, matchups that wouldn’t otherwise happen unless both teams found themselves in the World Series.
However, not every team had a “natural rival.” That meant some teams got paired together for seemingly no reason, like the Padres and Mariners. Obviously without a team in Portland and with the California teams all paired with each other, San Diego and Seattle were mushed together simply by being the two remaining West Coast teams, even though they could not be farther away from each other on a map.
Still, Seattle and San Diego had to figure out how to make this a rivalry. Craft beer, seafood, and beaches were set aside to focus on the true rivalry between the two cities: Who gets to claim Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder?
See, Vedder went to high school in San Diego and played in multiple bands before he moved to Seattle and perfected the art of grunge music, first with Temple of the Dog and eventually with Pearl Jam. Vedder helped popularize this new genre of music, which along with Nirvana and Soundgarden was as Seattle-sounding as it can be. San Diego wanted a piece of that, and thus the “Vedder Cup” (which isn’t a real, physical item) was born.
Eddie Vedder loves baseball, so creating a rivalry that centers around the idea of claiming him as their own makes complete sense. Except for one small detail—Vedder is a huge, and I mean huge, Cubs fan. In fact, Vedder has thrown out the first pitch at multiple Cubs games, has sung the national anthem, and even wrote a song dedicated to the Cubs at the suggestion of Ernie Banks, called All The Way.
So, the Mariners and Padres were desperate to market a made-up rivalry between the two clubs that they picked a lifelong Cubs fan to fight over. Baseball, as they say, is weird.
(The Mariners are up in the overall series, 55-53, for those curious)
Walk-Up Songs of the Week
Hitter: Todd Frazier – Fly Me To The Moon (Frank Sinatra)
I love that last week featured a walk-up song by Jibbs, and this week we are talking about Frank Sinatra. If Ol’ Blue Eyes knew we talked about a rapper named Jibbs before we talked about him, he’d be rolling over in his grave.
Right after I graduated from college in 2013, my dad and I took an amazing weeklong vacation to the Midwest. We had pizza in Chicago, went on the Miller Brewery tour in Milwaukee and saw the F-150 plant in Detroit. Oh, and we went to some baseball games. Five of them to be exact, at Wrigley Field, Miller Park, Great American Ball Park and two at Comerica Park.
There are too many lifelong memories to count from that trip, but probably my favorite game was actually the Reds-Rockies game at GABP. The Rockies won handily, thanks to a whopping six round-trippers. Three of them were hit by the recently DFA’d Carlos Gonzalez, while Troy Tulowitzki chimed in a pair of his own, and future Hall of Famer Todd Helton hit one more for good measure.
It was an epic display of power, and while the home crowd didn’t like it, my dad and I had a blast.
However, this is about walk-up songs, and during the 2013 season the Reds’ third baseman, Todd Frazier, walked up to Sinatra’s crooning classic, Fly Me To The Moon. It was quite the change of pace from everyone else’s walk-up songs, and I really enjoyed it. Plus, Frazier is (was?) good at putting baseballs into orbit, making the song’s title that much more applicable.
Pitcher: Eric Gagne – Welcome to the Jungle (Guns ‘N Roses)
Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have the two most iconic pitcher entrance songs of all time, but it could be argued that Gagne’s is third. Pitching in L.A. (The Jungle that Guns ‘N Roses is referring to) made picking this metal classic all the more perfect.
It also didn’t hurt that Gagne, for three magical seasons from 2002 to 2004, was utterly dominant. Gagne appeared in 224 games across those three seasons, earning 152 saves and posting a ridiculous 1.79 ERA with a 13.3 K/9 and a 223 ERA+.
It was a jungle indeed when opposing hitters had to face Gagne, and Axl Rose’s screeching vocals set the tone for one of the most dominant three-season stretches in relief pitching history.
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)