Label: Yep Roc Records
Released: July 8, 2008
Baseball is a slow game with a level of intensity and athleticism that is generally below that of many other sports. Yet there’s nothing quite like sitting in the bleachers on a warm summer evening. There’s nothing like the 7th inning stretch, nothing like a double play. Even in the days when a roid-ridden bum wears a crown that many years ago belonged to the storied Babe Ruth, baseball still draws us in. The story of baseball, America’s pastime, is as beautiful and checkered as the story of America itself with an up for every down and vice versa. Its stories aren’t just statistics for the record books. They tell us something about ourselves.
The Baseball Project, made up of Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate/Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows/Minus 5), Linda Pitmon (Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3) and Peter Buck (REM), is not simply a group of accomplished musicians who happen to like baseball, but rather a group as well-versed in baseball’s deep human history as they are in America’s musical tradition. This thoroughly American collection of songs about baseball, like the sport itself, is about so much more, because the band sees beyond the superficial.
They tackle the thankless good fight in “Gratitude (for Curt Flood)” (Flood sacrificed his career to fight against baseball’s reserve clause) and life’s tragic unfairness in “Harvey Haddix” (Haddix took a perfect game 12 innings and gave up a run in the 13th that kept him off a list of pitchers who only threw 9 perfect innings). “Fernando” shows the disparity between the displacement of Mexican-Americans at Chavez Ravine to build Dodgers Stadium and the LA fans’ later embracing of Fernando Valenzuela. “Satchel Paige Said” is a tale of achievement in the face of adversity and “The Closer” is an analogy for moments of stress.
For music fans, the songs here are simply great and memorable. For baseball fans, the stories are a reminder of what still makes baseball important. For everyone, there is real humanity to which we can all relate. From start to finish, Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails uses baseball and song to tell us about life and few records ring as pure and true.
If you’re curious about my rating categories, read the description.