Game on! 6 cool baseball songs you’ve probably never heard before

Baseball season's benched, but the game lives on in pop culture

A’s three 20 game winners, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Vida Blue and Ken Holtzman.Photo Ron Riesterer
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Baseball has a long and storied history with the arts, from theater and film to the visual arts and, yes, music.

Or maybe you’ve never heard “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”? Of course, you have — as well as a lot of the other best-known songs about America’s pastime.

So, in honor of what would have been Opening Day, we’ve come up with a list of cool baseball tunes that you’ve probably never heard before. Grab some hotdogs to go (here are some suggestions for that) and check out these tunes and videos.

We’ll kick off the list with a pair of tunes about legendary players from our own Green and Gold:

“Vida Blue,” Albert Jones (1971)

It’s a funky, soulful ode to the Oakland A’s young phenom from the early ’70s, who helped the team win three consecutive World Series titles (1972-1974) and become a true dynasty without the help of electronic sign stealing. (Take that Houston Astros!)

Indiana soul man Jones recorded this song in 1971, Blue’s remarkable first full-season in the majors, when he went 24–8 on his way to collecting both MVP and Cy Young honors.

Best lyric:

“All the kids and their parents too

Are rooting hard for Vida Blue

They’ve heard of Feller and Koufax and all the rest

But this kid from Oakland could be the best

That’s Vida Blue”

“Catfish,” Bob Dylan (1991)

The master songwriter reportedly crafted this ode to the Oakland A’s ace in the mid-’70s, yet it wouldn’t get released until the early ’90s. Of course, some (including, apparently, the person who made the video) seem to remember Jim “Catfish” Hunter best for playing for some other team (which shall remain nameless) a bit later in his career. Of course, the fashion conscious knows that all baseball players like better in white shoes than they do pinstripes. And that definitely was true of Catfish.

Best lyric:

Even Billy Martin grins

When the Fish is in the game

Every season twenty wins

Gonna make the Hall of Fame

“Chavez Ravine,” Ry Cooder (2005)

We’re cheating here a bit and recommending that you listen to all of the concept album “Chavez Ravine,” which tells the story of the Los Angeles neighborhood that was torn down in the 1950s and eventually became the home of the West Coast’s greatest ballpark — Dodger Stadium.

“Chavez Ravine” was nominated for best contemporary folk album at the 48th annual Grammy Awards in 2006, but the trophy went to John Prine’s terrific 15th studio effort, “Fair & Square.”

Best lyric (from the song “3rd Base, Dodger Stadium”): 

“Second base, right over there. I see grandma in her rocking chair

Watching linens flapping in the breeze, and all the fellows choosing up their teams

Hand over hand on that Louisville. Crowning the top, king of the hill

Mound to home, sixty feet. Baseball been very good to me”

 

“Negro Baseball League,” Jean Grae/Natural Resource (1996)

If you’re not familiar with this South African-born, Brooklyn-raised rapper Jean Grae, we’re predicting that you’ll want to correct that situation as soon as possible after hearing her rock the mic on this cool song.

Grae throws nothing but heat in this amazing examination of both baseball and the music business, which also features stellar work from her fellow artists in the hip-hop group Natural Resource.

Grae, by the way, is the daughter of famed jazz artists Sathima Bea Benjamin and Abdullah Ibrahim. She was born Tsidi Ibrahim, but took the stage name Jean Grae reportedly in reference to the X-Men’s Jean Grey. And, yes, that only makes us like her more.

Best lyric:

“But when loot is involved, all problems get solved

Umm, maybe because you supply they cocaine fetish

To finish this, this business ain’t nothin’ but corrupt

Forget all this garbage—I’d rather play tennis”

“The Cheap Seats,” Alabama (1994)

This one is certainly better-known than the others and actually reached the Top 20 on the country charts. But it’s also one that many people have probably forgotten about it and so we’re pleased to be able to bring it up to the plate once more.

This ode to minor league ball was the title track to Alabama’s 15th studio album. It was also the band’s first single to not make it into the top 10 on the country charts since “My Home’s in Alabama” in 1980.

Best lyric:

“We don’t worry about the pennant much

We just like to see the boys hit it deep

There’s nothing like the view from the cheap seats”

 

“They Are the Oakland A’s,” the Baseball Project (2014)

Fans of the greatest American rock band of all time — aka, R.E.M. — certainly know about this baseball-themed supergroup, featuring two of the band’s founding members, Peter Buck and Mike Mills, as well as longtime sideman Scott McCaughey and the Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn.

Basically any song from the band’s three-album catalog would fit this list, since they are all about baseball. But we’ll end this list in the same fashion it began, by picking one about the Green and Gold. (Note to Giants fans: Baseball Project also has some San Francisco-related tunes, such as “Panda and The Freak.)

Best lyric:

“Beyond logic or all reason

They keep going to the postseason

Who are these guys?

The are the Oakland A’s”

 

 

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