As of this column’s publication, we are less than a week from Opening Day. For real this time. I know last year’s Opening Day came in the mid-summer, but I really think it’s gonna happen this time.
I will, of course, not be there. For the first time in over a decade I’m skipping going to the Coliseum to see my beloved Oakland Athletics play on Opening Day. The thing is I’m only one shot in to my vaccine and the last thing I want to do is get cocky and fumble just before the goal line because I celebrated too early.
Regardless, it’s Christmas in Spring once again, so let’s listen to some baseball songs to get ourselves hyped up for the occasion.
John Fogerty — “Centerfield”
We have to start here. I’m pretty disappointed in myself that I didn’t include it last time we had a proper Opening Day. El Cerrito’s own John Fogerty wrote and performed one of the greatest baseball songs of all time and it needs to be celebrated.
Plus, and perhaps most importantly, clapping along to the crack-of-the-bat-as-percussion is always a good time. The “Friends” theme needs to take notes, this is how it’s done.
Billy Bragg — “Joe DiMaggio’s Done It Again”
There are, of course, local angles to this. Joe DiMaggio was born in Martinez and went to high school in San Francisco. He spent four years playing for the San Francisco Seals, and in 1968 he became an Executive Vice President of the A’s. Billy Bragg is also one of the torch-bearers for the great protest folk of the early to mid-20th century.
The big selling point, though? The lyrics to this song were written by none other than the legendary Woody Guthrie. As far as I can tell, he never recorded it, or if he did it’s lost to time, but Bragg added music and recorded it with Wilco, so I’ll take it.
Bob Dylan — “Catfish”
I didn’t go into this intending for all these songs to have an East Bay connection, and it’s not going to last for the whole list, but I guess sometimes it’s inevitable when you’re a massive homer and a regional elitist.
Anyway, this song is about Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter, such a legend in Oakland baseball lore that his number was the first the A’s ever retired. Like pretty much all the great A’s players, he ended up on the Yankees, but we can’t blame him for that. Until the A’s get an owner willing to actually spend real money, it’s gonna happen.
There’s also an interesting story about the song itself but I used up all the space for this entry waxing poetic about Catfish Hunter.
Chuck Berry — “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”
“Wait,” you may say. “This isn’t a baseball song.”
With all due respect: You are wrong.
The last verse goes as follows: “Two-three the count with nobody on/ He hit a high fly into the stand/ Roundin’ third, he was headed for home/ It was a brown-eyed handsome man/ That won the game, it was a brown-eyed handsome man.”
Who’s he talking about? Is it Willie Mays? Hank Aaron? Jackie Robinson? A hypothetical pastiche of all of the above? Don’t care. It’s Chuck Berry singing a racially defiant song about a baseball player. If you don’t like it, get your own column.
Terry Cashman — “Talkin’ Softball”
Terry Cashman released a song in 1981 called “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey & The Duke)” where he mostly just says stuff about baseball. He namedrops players a few times and it’s a generally pleasant, if slightly generic, song tapping into nostalgia without actually saying anything.
It’s OK. It didn’t make the list.
In 1992 he recorded a parody of his own song for the end credits of legendary “Simpsons episode” “Homer at the Bat,” one of the greatest of the series. It’s way, way better. Sure it doesn’t make sense if you haven’t seen the episode, but if you haven’t seen the episode you need to watch it literally right now. Literally. Right now. Do it.
I’m not even going to keep writing to give you more time to watch the episode.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.