From walk-up songs to seventh-inning stretches, music and baseball are inextricably interwoven. The Spin Rate is a weekly look at the stories behind the bands and artists who share a love for the sport, and the songs that draw inspiration from the annals of baseball lore.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – “Cardinal Rules”
This song is about the Cardinals — the Springfield Cardinals, for clarity’s sake — but Philip Dickey’s (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin) first and lifelong baseball allegiance belongs to the Reds.
“I was obsessed with baseball as a kid,” Dickey recalled. “I saw Doc Gooden pitch a game in Cincinnati, and I saw Pete Rose play when I was like five years old.”
Of course, watching his hometown Reds take the 1990 World Series wire-to-wire over Oakland goes a long way, too: Dickey was in attendance at Riverfront Stadium when the home side outlasted 27 game-winner Bob Welch for a 5-4 win in extra innings.
And when Dickey moved to Missouri in third grade, he gave his new regional squad a fair shake — a fairer shot than they may have deserved as an NL Central division rival. When the Cardinals caravan rolled into town, Dickey got to meet St. Louis luminaries like José Oquendo and Joe Torre, but the convenience of geography couldn’t overtake his childhood loyalty.
“I tried,” Dickey said. “But it didn’t take.”
Nonetheless, it was Cardinals (of the Double-A variety) that inspired “Cardinal Rules,” an anthemic ode to minor league baseball and the city of Springfield. In 2005, the affiliate’s inaugural campaign, Dickey found a classified ad in the newspaper for a temp job as a postgame janitor at the ballpark.
“You could usually get there a little early and catch the last few innings,” Dickey said. “The cleanup crew’s shift would usually end around 2 or 3 a.m.”
The spring of 2005 was also, in its own right, an inaugural season for Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin: The band’s first release was a split EP with duo Gwyn and Grace the year prior, but March ushered in their self-released, full-length debut, Broom. (The record was reissued by Polyvinyl in October of 2006.)
Dickey started out with the bleacher crew, but bathroom duty at the stadium afforded him the opportunity to go down to the dugouts, where he collected a few left-behind relics: Lineup cards, mostly, but also a broken bat that belonged to slugger Mike Napoli.
The idea for “Cardinal Rules” came from a sense of nostalgia a few years after Dickey’s season-long tenure as a janitor.
“I thought a lot about stadium songs I’ve heard, Tom Petty, stuff like that,” Dickey said. “I knew it needed big guitars and an organ. I wanted to write a song that’d sound good blasting from the speakers.”
That song became “Cardinal Rules,” an exuberant B-side that’s just as much a love letter to the titular team as it is to the band’s home base — “Springfield, all right!” Dickey’s lyrics pay tribute to figures who might be a little more arcane to listeners outside of southern Missouri, but stand tall in Springfield. The Jackie on Dickey’s mind is Missouri State hoops standout Jackie Stiles; the Payne in his heart is late PGA Tour favorite Payne Stewart.
The following couplet shouts out Melody Howard, another basketball star with MSU (whose jersey hangs up in the rafters with Stiles’), and Ned Reynolds, a local sports broadcasting celebrity.
“Cardinal Rules” found its shelf life as a bonus track on 2010 LP Let It Sway, and again on 2011’s Tape Club, a compilation of rarities and B-sides. Just as notably, the song also found a home over the airwaves at Hammons Field — the band knew the DJ who soundtracked Springfield home games, and “Rules” picked up some plays at the ballpark.
It’s a tune Dickey has “thought of as a deep cut,” but “Rules” has been a staple of setlists at hometown shows, and remained in rotation during a Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin tour in Japan, where it was often requested.
Despite penning an anthem for a ballclub in a rival organization, Dickey’s heart still beats for the Reds. He went to Cooperstown when Barry Larkin was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2012 — an experience he recommends all baseball fans try.
“It’s the only place where you can see, like, Rollie Fingers just hanging out and sitting on a bench while you’re walking around,” Dickey said.
And, until he’s likely enshrined in Cooperstown too, Dickey is looking forward to watching Cincy stalwart Joey Votto play out the twilight of his career.
“I love Votto; he’s like the Beatles to me,” Dickey said. “I want every game from him that we can get.”
Photos by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire & Dorien Monnens on Unsplash | Adapted by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter and Instagram.)