Images by Nicole Teitel 

Baseball!

Joan Jett, Ben Gibbard, Kevin Morby, and more give their thoughts on America's Pastime.

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24 April 2018, 8:16am

Images by Nicole Teitel 

The 2018 Major League Baseball season officially kicked off on March 29, which like Tax Day and the music festival lineup announcements, is one of the surest signs that summer is almost here. Because of the inherent optimism that comes from the first few weeks of baseball, the words “Opening Day” can feel like Christmas to the most diehard sports fans. It’s a month of endless possibilities like maybe winning the World Series or at the very least drinking several overpriced beers and eating lots of hot dogs outside.

In a lot of ways, music and baseball are pretty similar. They’re both great uniting forces, able to facilitate cross-generational bonding: your first baseball game can be just as formative as the first record you bought. They’re both also surprisingly meditative: There’s something about the pace and sounds of the game that evokes the same nostalgia as hearing one of your favorite songs. On top of that, obsessive record collecting hits the same parts of the brain that filling out a score card or memorising old baseball stats. While that might seem like a stretch, it’s not off-base to say that baseball and music are extremely good.

It’s no surprise then that a ton of musicians are also big-time baseball fans. These are the artists who schedule tours so they can catch games on the road, who watch games on their tour buses and vans, and hold their favorite teams in the same regard as the music that inspired them to make their own. Some, like Ben Gibbard, even wrote walk-up songs for players on their favorite team like Ichiro Suzuki while others like Chris Thile, even named some of his first albums after his love for the sport.

As Thile said in our interview, "One of the great things about baseball is that there’s this massive mosaic of memories that comes from just thinking about the game. For baseball fans, the beginning of the season is that time for these memories.” He couldn’t be more right. Though it’s not a totally comprehensive list (for some reason no one who supports the New York teams were available to talk and because this author is a former season ticket holder for the Chicago Cubs, he subconsciously asked a ton of North siders to be a part of this roundup), each artist has their own unique perspective on the game with stories about their favorite baseball memories to boot.

Joe Casey of Protomartyr

Favorite team: Detroit Tigers
"My Dad was always into baseball. He used to sit in his chair and listen to it on the radio and keep score with stacks of scorecards he’d keep around the house. I played a little bit when I was kid. I was terrible at it but I stayed at it in little league. I played outfield because there wasn’t too much skill involved. I fell off from baseball when I was a teen but got really back into the team when Jim Leyland became manager in 2006. I’ve been a fan ever since.

When they won in ’84, it was pretty cool. I remember there were some riots afterwards which was a little bit frightening but there is something to be said about the fever that takes over a whole city on a run like that. There’s so much excitement with the Tigers winning. You’d go to a gas station and they’d be selling t-shirts and 8 by 11 pictures of the team. I remember I had a pennant that I really liked after the Tigers won the World Series and I brought it to school and they hung it up on the hallway but then some kid school it. That’s one of my funny memories from that year.

I miss Tiger Stadium. [The new ballpark] Comerica Park is a piece of shit. I guess it’s kind of nice. It’s too clean. The one thing I really hate about it is that they’ve reduced the smoking area to one little outside area. Hanging out with the smokers at a Tigers game, you’re going to run into the best of humanity, especially when you’re all crammed into this outside hallway area. The feeling I have from when I was a kid was that Tigers Stadium was dark and dank and it smelled like beer and full of people yelling. While it was family entertainment then, it’s much more so now."

Favorite player: Lance Parrish.
"When I was young, I liked him because he was a catcher and had a funny mustache. But when the ’84 Tigers won the World Series, you liked all of the players like Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, etc. All of them were great guys for little kids. I pick Lance out of all of them because he was a little fatter and I was a chubby kid."

Favorite baseball memory:
"I do remember going with some friends to the second to last game at Tiger Stadium. We drank the whole way down except for the driver and we were just up in the bleachers. It was such a nice sendoff. I hadn’t been to a baseball game in a while. I don’t even remember if they won it was just nice to say goodbye to the Stadium. It just reminded me of how much fun going to a baseball game could be."

Jack Dolan of Twin Peaks

Favorite team: Chicago Cubs
"I got into baseball like most kids just playing little league when I was 10 years old. My bandmates Clay [Frankel] and Connor [Brodner] in the same league together and so many of my friends came up through that Welles Park little league. It helped because back then, the league would pick you for a “major league” named team. My first one was the Cubs which was a huge thing for me since I was born a Cubs fan."

Favorite player: Derrek Lee
Just out of nostalgia, Derrek Lee was absolutely incredible to me. He was just the best all-around. All those guys like Moises Alou, Sammy Sosa, Corey Patterson, and Michael Barrett, those were my guys. But Derrek Lee was one of those dudes where I thought he could do no wrong. Those were good times but out of all those dudes Lee was number one.

Favorite baseball memory:
"Probably the craziest days of my whole life was coming back from our Europe tour the night of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians. It still feels like it was a destiny thing. There had to have been so many things to lock in together for us to have been able to see Game 7 in Chicago, like the scheduling of the games and the scheduling of our tour. It just worked out perfectly. When we left, we thought it’d be impossible for us to come home in time. I would love to have seen the probabilities of us being able to come home and see Game 7 before the series. That whole experience too of just being in Europe, watching every game starting at 2:00 a.m. and not going to bed until 5 or 6:00 a.m. getting no sleep because I had to watch every game. I will never forget it. It was such a ride. Everyone has their own story about it and it’s been two years now and it still doesn’t feel real."

Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs

Favorite team: Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers
"My family were all into baseball. My Dad turned me on to the game and my grandma was a huge Reds fan. She was sort of the one who I sat around with and listened to games with. I always went to games every year for as long as I can remember. It’s been since I was at least three or four years old. I grew up in Hamilton, Ohio 20 miles away from Cincinnati in the heyday of the Big Red Machine (1970-1979)."

Favorite player: Joe Morgan.
"It was always hard to have a favorite player from that era. I wore #8 my entire time of playing baseball because of Joe Morgan. He was probably my favorite Red."

Favorite baseball memory:
"I have several baseball memories but I’m going to tell you this one. In 1990, I saw the Reds clinch the pennant against the Pirates and then of course they went to the World Series but it was also the first time the Afghan Whigs went to Europe. We were sitting on the runway to go to Amsterdam during Game 1 of the World Series vs. the Oakland Athletics, who were heavily favored to win. Eric Davis hit a home run off Dave Stewart in the first inning and I remember thinking we were going to win the World Series and they did. I watch the whole World Series on USO television overseas. I remember celebrating in Holland somewhere. It was like five in the morning."

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie

Favorite team: Seattle Mariners
"Just growing up in the outskirts of Seattle, I played little league and the Mariners were just our team. That’s unfortunate because they have been terrible for the vast majority of my life. They currently have the longest playoff drought of any professional sports team. But whatever, I was born into this team and I love them. You can’t pick your team. Your team chooses you."

Favorite player: Alvin Davis
"He was my favorite. I played first base and he was a first basemen. At the time he was the Rookie of the Year in 1984, and the Mariners didn’t really have many landmark players. When I was a kid I grew up a ferry ride away from Seattle in Bremerton, Washington and my dad had taken me to Kingdome to see the Mariners play. That day, Alvin Davis was actually on the ferry ride back. I don’t quite know why he was going to Bremerton but my dad pointed him out. I was maybe nine years old. My dad said I should go get his autograph, so I pulled out my game programme, and got his autograph. I was unbelievably nervous but he was very nice and signed it. I actually still have it all these years later. For that reason, he’s forever my favorite player."

Favorite baseball memory:
"As a Mariners fan, we don’t have a lot of really special moments. If you go to a Mariners game in 2018 we are quite literally still celebrating Edgar Martinez’s double in 1995 to beat the Yankees in a Division series where we’d go on to get beat by the Indians in the ALCS. That is an indicator of how truly pathetic the Mariners franchise is. I don’t have a World Series memory or a championship memory the way a lot of other sports fans do.

For me, my fondest memories really have a lot to do with going to games with my dad as a kid in the Kingdome. The Kingdome was brutal. It was a terrible. Even as a kid, you’d realize the place was a dump. In the ‘80s a bleacher seat was like $3.50—which by the decade’s standards was really cheap. But even so, I have so many fond memories of my not telling me where we were going, hopping on his motorcycle, and seeing the Seattle skyline and realizing we were going to a Mariners game."

Joan Jett

Favorite team: Baltimore Orioles.
"I’ve been a fan for 48 years."

Favorite player:
"From back in the day: Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, and Jim Palmer. From the ‘80s and '90s: Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray. Now: Manny Machado and Adam Jones."

Favorite Baseball Memory:
"There are so many! There was the first live game I ever saw with my Dad and brother at Memorial Stadium - Aug. 13, 1969. Jim Palmer threw a no hitter. I was 13 rows behind home plate! There’s also doing Fantasy Week with the Orioles in 1992, singing the national anthem for Cal Ripken’s record breaking game, and just going to random games on the road with The Blackhearts."

Lydia Loveless

Favorite team: Chicago Cubs.
"I was always into baseball ever since I was a kid but it was more because my brother would play on a traveling team and I’d go to AAA games and stuff since they were closer to me than any major league team. I didn’t really start following the majors until I was older because I thought that sports on TV was boring and the players were too good. I like the mistakes in lower league baseball. I chose the Cubs in 2016, which everyone hates because they’re so good now. I might just be a good luck charm for sports."

Favorite player:
"Kris Bryant. I love him. There was such an incredible moment when he was smiling as he threw the last out during Game 7 of the World Series. It was adorable and basically summed up my love for the team in one moment."

Favorite baseball memory:
"In 2016, I decided I had to get into a major league team because if I didn’t, I would be miserable on tour. I was in Chicago, which is where my label is, and I decided to go by myself to Wrigley Field and see a Cubs game. All of the baseball games I had attended until that point were all minor league games. I go super into it and I didn’t realize that it was going to be their year. I felt enamored by that whole team the day I saw them. It felt so meditative and cool to see that whole game by myself. I had enough cash for one $12 beer but it was so great."

Kevin Morby

Favorite team: Kansas City Royals and the Atlanta Braves
"I grew up on baseball. It was always my Dad’s favorite sport so it was very much a part of my life. We would go to games together and I played T-ball as a kid until about seventh or eighth grade when I very valiantly quit and decided to pursue music instead. My Dad had gone to college in Nebraska and for some reason could pick up the Atlanta radio station so I grew up being a Braves fan. I got into the Royals when we moved to Kansas City when I was like 10 years old.

But back then the Royals were so bad it was almost like having a minor league team. No one took them seriously but they created this really cool environment and the games were so cheap. It was like a private viewing party for baseball. We’d sit right up front because no one would come. That’s what I love most about baseball. It doesn’t even matter if they win or lose. It’s like the song, “root, root, root for the home team, if they don’t win it’s a shame!” but there’s just something to that. It’s an underdog sport and there’s something beautiful about liking a team that doesn’t win. It’s meditative and it’s a good pastime."

Favorite player: Ken Griffey Jr., Kenny Lofton, and Greg Maddux.
"It’s funny to think about all these names again after all these times it’s like remembering old friends you went to grade school with. I remember I used to have a subscription to Sports Illustrated when I was a kid. Actually, Greg Maddux was also absolutely my favorite player because the Braves were my team growing up."

Favorite baseball memory:
"When the Royals won it all in 2015 was huge. They kind of came out of nowhere. They had won that Wild Card game in 2014 and that was incredible for Kansas City. I wasn’t living there at the time like I am now because I was still in New York but it was really cool to see the city put on the map in that way. It was also really cool to see them field a team that was a traditional baseball team in the sense that there weren’t any superstars. Instead everyone contributed to the whole and it made me so proud. I still talk about it.

When the won against the Mets, even if you were a Mets fan you could get behind the Royals because they were such a fun team and were such lovable underdogs. I remember listening to the game when they were playing the Astros in Game 4 of the 2015 ALDS. We almost turned off the radio because we thought there was no way we were going to win but sure enough they came back from a 6-2 deficit in the eighth inning.

I had just finished recording City Music at the time with my band, Meg Duffy who’s still playing with me, and Justin Sullivan. We were listening to the game and driving. While Meg didn’t really have any interest in baseball prior to that game by the end of it she was converted. She was so into it. It was such a good game. The way they came back was such a sneak attack and you’d blink and you’d miss that they had the bases loaded with no outs in the eighth. It’s amazing that by the ninth they’d have the game in the palm of their hand.

It’s a bummer that they lost the World Series in 2014 but I’m almost happy that they lost in that way, taking it to Game 7 and playing their hearts out. I didn’t want them to win or lose it in an easy way."

Steve Sladkowski of PUP

Favorite team: Toronto Blue Jays
"Like a lot of people I got into baseball because I played little league. My dad played too while he was growing up and was actually scouted by the Detroit Tigers when he was young. I got into it through him and started playing competitively from tee ball to when I was 18-years-old and decided to stop playing in order to go to music school. I knew that I would only be able to commit to one or the other."

Favorite player: John Olerud
"He was the first baseman from the ‘92 and ‘93 World Series teams. I had played first base and he became sort of the model for me. By the time I had grown into the position, I had fit his profile. I was never really a power first baseman, but I got on base and hit leadoff and was a contact guy. In ‘93 he hit almost .400 during that run."

Favorite baseball memory:
"When the Blue Jays won, I was only 4 or 5 years old so in terms of things that I’ll clearly remember for the rest of my life I’ll have to say Jose Bautista’s bat-flip after his home run in Game 5 of the ALDS versus the Texas Rangers. We were in the studio making The Dream Is Over during that game and that series. We all stopped recording to watch the 7th inning of that game. Even though my bandmates don’t really like baseball the same way I do, we were all gathered around this laptop in this little studio in Toronto. We all freaked out. It was the most insane thing. That was really cool. Baseball is pretty unique because the pacing of the sport has way to draw people in and really heighten the drama, especially during the postseason. It was so special to be in the studio with my bandmates while it was happening."

Chris Thile

Favorite team: Chicago Cubs.

Favorite player: Greg Maddux, Ryne Sandberg, and Tony Gwynn.
"Maddux is just one of those players where I’d obsessively buy the hometown newspaper, the Riverside Press Enterprise, knowing he was pitching. I bought it almost every day if I could and I’d lie flat on my bed and just pore over the stats. Kids have so much brain power, where there’s nothing else competing for so much information, that I could just rattle off so many stats. Now that it’s baseball season I have this same urge to buy a newspaper and look over stats. With Maddux, I would look at the box score, check the pitch count, and see how long the game would take. I loved the concept of a Maddux, where he could throw a complete game shutout in under 100 pitches.

He was just incredible. These days I’m looking at pitchers throwing 20 pitches an inning and it’s just not the same. The closest I get to how I feel about Maddux currently is Clayton Kershaw. No offense to any Angelinos but I hate the Dodgers but I love Clayton Kershaw so much. I obsessively follow him too. He’s potentially the greatest pitcher of my lifetime which is hard to say being a Maddux fan.

I love Sandberg too. He had such a great work ethic. Another one hanging right there for me is Tony Gwynn. I grew up as a Southern California kid so he was the one hometown guy for me."

Favorite baseball memory:
"There are so many incredible memories about baseball where I would learn how to be a person through this game so it’s tough to just think of one. But let me give you one specific instance since you’re calling from Chicago and live close to Wrigley Field. Whenever I’m on tour with the Punch Brothers we try to catch as many games as possible and try to schedule dates around the Cubs, but one time we went to see them play at Wrigley early in the band’s career.

As a baseball fan, you get these moments of clairvoyance that I can’t really explain. Todd Walker steps up to the plate with a runner on. I forget what the count was but I just saw as plain as day that the next pitch he’d hit a home run to right center field. He was just going to crank it. I said, “Fellas, he’s going to hit it right there and if he does, I’ll buy everyone a steak dinner.” I don’t know why I said it, I thought it’d maybe sweeten the deal with the universe if I added the prospect of a steak dinner. Sure enough, that’s what happened. I’m obviously not psychic but that’s just baseball. I love that about this game."

Josh Terry likes baseball a lot. Follow him on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Noisey US.