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.
For this week, I made a batting lineup consisting of players who have been referenced in popular songs. Enjoy!
The All-Time Player References in Songs Lineup
Catcher – Thurman Munson
Song: Two Brothers With Checks
Artist: Ultramagnetic MCs
Lyric: “Thurman like Munson, left while I swing right”
Thoughts: This song actually has three references to MLB catchers, and many other obscure baseball references sprinkled sporadically throughout.
First Base – Lou Gehrig
Song: Augie Nieto
Artist: Five For Fighting
Lyric: “He caught Lou Gehrig rounding third one day, now he’s happy as he’ll ever be”
Thoughts: I should have guessed a band named after a hockey penalty would use sports references in their songs. Known as a one-hit wonder, Five For Fighting also dropped a nice Gehrig reference in this 2009 song about an old man on his way out.
Second Base – Rod Carew
Song: Sure Shot
Artist: Beastie Boys
Lyric: “I’ve got more action than my man John Woo, and I’ve got mad hits like I was Rod Carew.”
Thoughts: Who doesn’t love the Beastie Boys? Sure Shot is a classic track from the rap group, and a nice reference to Hall of Fame infielder Rod Carew is a nice touch.
Third Base – Cal Ripken
Song: Make It Home
Artist: Hoodie Allen
Lyric: “And I be playing poker with a blind man, throwing all my chips in/Working till I’m breaking every record like I’m Ripken”
Thoughts: This song is chock-full of great sports references, but “breaking every record like I’m Ripken” is one of my favorites.
Shortstop – Ozzie Smith
Song: Jang a Lang
Artist: St. Lunatics (ft. Nelly)
Lyric: “Now y’all know me, I like an old school Ozzie Smith jersey, old-school Jordans, headband that says Murphy”
Thoughts: Murphy Lee drops this gem of a line in St. Lunatics’ jam Jang a Lang, which also features former baseball player and St. Louis icon Nelly. Both Nelly and Murphy Lee are from St. Louis, so an Ozzie jersey makes a lot of sense.
Left Field – Barry Bonds
Song: Barry Bonds
Artist: Kanye West
Lyric: “Here’s another hit, Barry Bonds”
Thoughts: Most of the baseball references I found in lyrics involved referencing a music hit like a baseball hit, like this song does. Still, Kanye naming a song after Bonds is a classic, even if the actual lyric is fairly unoriginal.
Center Field – Joe DiMaggio
Song: Mrs. Robinson
Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Lyric: “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you/What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson, Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away?”
Thoughts: In quite possibly the most famous baseball-player reference in a song, Simon and Garfunkel reference Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio in their late-1960s classic, Mrs. Robinson. A reference to the simpler times that DiMaggio represented, this song is about a changing era.
Right Field – Hank Aaron
Song: In My Heaven
Artist: Blake Shelton
Lyric: “In my heaven I can sing like Elvis, play guitar like B.B. King/Slide a fastball past Hank Aaron, batter, batter, batter swing”
Thoughts: I figured I had to get some country in here at some point, as it tends to have quite a few baseball references—although usually country songs reference baseball in general, not specific players like this Shelton track does.
Designated Hitter – Edgar Martinez
Song: My Oh My
Lyric: “1995, the division series/Edgar’s up to bat, bottom of the 11th inning/Got the whole town listening/’Swung on and belted’, the words distorted/Joey Cora rounds third/Here comes Griffey, the throw to the plate’s not in time/My oh my, the Mariners win it/Yes, fireworks they lit up that ceiling in the Kingdome/We had just made history”
Thoughts: A beautiful song that pays tribute to legendary Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, this Macklemore track not only paraphrases Niehaus’ iconic call of “The Double,” but it also plays the audio of Niehaus signaling Seattle’s unlikely defeat of the New York Yankees in the 1995 ALDS. Macklemore is a huge Mariners fan, and this song is a wonderful tribute to Niehaus and this era of Mariners baseball.
Starting Pitcher – Dock Ellis
Song: Too Late to Fixate
Artist: Conor Oberst
Lyric: “Where the hell was Dock Ellis, when I gave up that hit?”
Thoughts: There are lyrics about tons of better pitchers than Dock, including Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, etc. However, this lyric seemed perfect for this depressing song about a man cheating on his wife and regretting it. Ellis famously threw a no-hitter while under the heavy influence of LSD.
Others Given Consideration
5th Gear – Andre Nickatina (Gary Pettis)
It took me so long to find this track, but I remember listening to this in high school and recognizing the name Gary Pettis because of all the early-1990s baseball cards that I had. What a random reference.
American Dreamin – Jay-Z (Tony La Russa)
All The Way – Eddie Vedder (Ernie Banks)
Johnny Bench – Dom Kennedy
Reunion – Hoodie Allen (Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens)
Duck Seazon – Wu-Tang Clan (Nolan Ryan)
All I Know – The Game (Roy Halladay)
Olde English – Defari (Fernando Valenzuela)
Don’t Be Scared – Styles P (Clayton Kershaw)
Trip Around the Sun – Kenny Chesney (Babe Ruth)
I Rock, Therefore I Am – Prince (Kirby Puckett)
New Flame – Usher (Jeter/Ruth/Berra)
All Around the World – Jay-Z (Ichiro)
Campaign Speech – Eminem (Prince Fielder)
The Reaper – Virtuoso (Gary Carter and Tim McCarver)
Walk-Up Songs of the Week
Hitter: Dan Vogelbach – Chain Hang Low (Jibbs)
I was at a Mariners game earlier this week and spent the game trying to find my next walk-up song to profile. I already cover Ryon Healy‘s use of DMX’s banger, Up in Here, but it didn’t take long for me to find my next target. When hulking DH Dan Vogelbach stepped up to the plate, Jibbs’ classic Chain Hang Low blared through the speakers.
I can’t honestly believe that Vogelbach, or anyone really, thinks that Chain Hang Low is a cool walk-up song, but this is the timeline we apparently live in.
Vogelbach, as is tradition, went yard on a screaming line drive into the right field bleachers in his first at-bat.
Pitcher: Fernando Rodney – Animals (Martin Garrix)
The Fernando Rodney experience made a quick stop in Seattle in 2014 and 2015, bringing his trademark arrow celebration and his similarly trademarked brand of inconsistency and nail-biting outings. All told, he pitched to a 4.08 ERA while with the Mariners, earning 64 saves.
While the product on the field was so-so, the product coming onto the field was a freaking blast, as Rodney came out to techno club jam Animals by DJ Martin Garrix.
The Mariners had just installed their state-of-the-art LED lights around this time, and Rodney entering the game allowed the stadium to blink like a strobe light while Animals blasted and the crowd partied like they were at the Marquee in Las Vegas—that is, until the music stopped and everyone realized that Rodney was pitching in the ninth inning a close game.
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)