The Eight Best Baseball Songs (Not Really About Baseball)
John Mellencamp, ‘Song of Authority’
Have you ever thought about the role of baseball (and if so, why are you alone)? While choppy football seems rebellious, and basketball seems too squeaky to transcend corporate overtones, baseball falls somewhere in the middle. Sure, it’s a multi-billion dollar business, but mostly it has retained a certain sensibility at home since its inception. This is why “Authority Song” by John Mellencamp seems like an excellent choice: it is about a man stuck between doing what makes him good (fighting, arousing the scum) and what is right (growing up, continue his life), and it is as if the best analogy for this sport. Maybe baseball leans more one way than the other these days, but that serious spirit still permeates the game. That, and $ 5 beers, of course.
Wheatus, ‘Teenage Dirtbag’
Anyone who has heard “Teenage Dirtbag” – it has been played an estimated 4 trillion times since its release in June 2000 – knows that Wheatus has captured something essential. Our teenage protagonist struggles to find each other and fall in love, learning a powerful lesson about the real power of self-acceptance. And baseball could certainly do the same. Even though it is technically America’s pastime, baseball is often overshadowed by football, and sometimes even basketball. Yet like the song’s titular “dust bag”, baseball does its best when it sticks to those key elements that all fans love: patriotism, honest competition, and drinking galore. That’s how you baseball fans get the girl – uh, grab some big notes and pack your bags.
Rise Against, ‘Hero Of War’
Baseball is America’s star-studded sports extravaganza. There is a certain manifest patriotism which colors the sport; spectators know to expect small American flag lapels on uniforms or an extravagant rendition of the “national anthem.” This is exactly why Rise Against’s “Hero Of War” seems like the perfect song to capture the true meaning of baseball patriotism. He ticks all the main boxes: 1. a curious mixture of anti- and pro-war feelings; 2. Acoustic grooves with robust alt rock energy; and 3. just enough sentimentality to make it suitable for crying in public. God bless America and rock n roll.
Rob Zombie, ‘Dragula’
Most American sports lack the awareness or the courage to make the tough choices in music selections. Call it corporate influence, or call it BMX a monopoly on all things dope, but baseball seeks a more universal appeal. So if the game wanted to get weird while still satisfying those corporate overlords, they could feature Rob Zombie’s “Dragula”. The song has appeared in sports before and it needs to make more appearances. What other track is totally weird and intense, but in a way that doesn’t sound really offensive (like the game itself). Even crowds of people shouting “dig through the ditches” would be both fun and still okay (like in baseball). And who doesn’t want to hear that song while skipping work on a Tuesday afternoon?
Christina Aguilera, “Fighter”
Few years ago, Phoenix New Times spoke to Arizona Diamondbacks players about their walk-in songs. One lesson seemed immediately clear: players put little work into their choices. They seem to choose songs less for an overt sound or message and more for what they feel when they sound through the speakers. This is why Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” should be released at full volume in more parks. Is this song really about personal empowerment and returning from utter love loss? Of course. But could a team then reclaim it in this Jock jams-esque song about overcoming obstacles and fighting with the heart of a champion? Yes! If years of listening to baseball songs have taught us anything, it’s the best choices that stink of irony.
Rush, ‘Tom Sawyer’
A lot has already been said about baseball as a whole. Like, how does that have real carny vibes. Or that it’s not as popular as other sports. But let’s not forget, it’s also deeply cheesy. It’s something about the focus on stats, uniforms, and maybe helmets that scream “dweeb energy”. But that’s why Rush’s flagship hit “Tom Sawyer” is the perfect song to address the soul of baseball. It’s that shameless cheesy progressive jam rock about presenting yourself as your own person. It rocks not only because of Neil Peart’s drums (although that helps), but because the band easily embraces what makes this song so weird and left-centered. Baseball is at its best doing the same, maintaining its authenticity despite all the pinstripe uniforms in the world.
Shakira, ‘When, anywhere’
This choice makes it seem like it ticks a lot of the same boxes as some of the other songs. It’s a totally weird appropriation of a song about the wonders of finding true love. It’s also a little cheesy to admit that you still love him all the way into 2021. And he has that sense of straightforwardness and simplicity that makes him great baseball anthems. Yet this song speaks of a larger truth about the game: if you play it, people will come to have a little fun. This song, like baseball itself, transcends any rules or observations and captures people’s attention because it’s too fun to really deny. Maybe it’s not a perfect fit like some of the other songs, but it would kill for almost any seventh inning stretch – especially as an entire stadium shakes their hips in collective glee.