The Baseball Project, Vol. 2, High & Inside

Posted on April 20, 2011 by

Artist: The Baseball Project
Title: Vol. 2: High & Inside
Label: Yep Roc 2219
Released: March 1, 2011

I’m writing this on April 20th, 2011. The previous night, my hometown Twins were shut out by the Baltimore Orioles, 11-0. Joe Nathan, once an All-Star caliber closer has been relegated to mop up duty, allowing three runs in the eighth, raising his ERA to 11.37. The Twins fall to 6-11, owning the fourth worst record in Major League Baseball.

And as I write, it is thirty-four degrees outside and snowing. In regard to baseball, there hasn’t been much to cheer about here in St. Paul.

But the beautiful aspect of the game of baseball is that it is a constant. From the immediacy of today’s win we can put yesterday’s loss away. Twenty-four hours ago is already part of baseball’s rich legacy. Maybe we’ll only remember Denard Span’s first inning running catch from the 11-0 loss, and not focus on Vladimir Guerrero’s three-run homer off of Joe Nathan. Heck, even Mariano Rivera can’t escape a bad night. He gave up two runs on four hits last night, blowing a save for the Yanks as the Jays rallied and won it in ten, 6-5.

Everyday there’s another story in baseball that may become part of its lore. And the Baseball Project recognizes this, immortalizing the game in fine rock fashion.

The title indicates that this is the second effort from the group that consists of Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Gutterball), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus 5), Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Linda Pitmon (Zuzu’s Petals). There are no hints of a sophomore slump. Again the band displays their love for the game with pop hooks and history lessons. It’s like the Schoolhouse Rock of Baseball.

References to the Minnesota nine occur three times on the disc. (Four if you count the song about Carl Mays. Former Twins pitcher Joe Mays was a distant cousin.) Former Twin City dweller, Craig Finn, once of Lifter Puller and now fronting the Hold Steady contributed the track, “Don’t Call Them Twinkies,” recounting the success of the Twins. With their success in developing talent and winning two out of three World Series they participated in, Finn sings, “Grab yourself a 3.2 beer / And raise a toast to Gardy / These are the Minnesota Twins / Please don’t call them Twinkies.”

In “Fair Weather Fans” Linda Pitmon owns a verse about growing up outside of Minneapolis, glued to the radio in the ‘70s, listening to the Twins games. Now she lives in New York, confesses to having an affinity for the pinstripes, but still cheers on the Twins when they play the Yanks.

But my favorite of the three is the song, “Look Out Mom,” that opens with; “Denard Span seems a fine young man / Doesn’t curse, abuse or litter / When the Twin City Twins are racking up wins / It all starts with the lead-off hitter.” The song goes on to claim that Span is a good son, getting his mom great seats by the dugout, but “Look Out Mom!” The track is in reference to the pre-season game that Denard hit a foul ball into the stands and it struck his mother.

The Project relays a similar story about Bob Feller’s mom attending on Mother’s Day and getting hit by a foul ball that was pitched to a batter by Feller. It also recants the sad story of Manny Mota hitting a foul ball and killing Alan Fish, a fan in the stands. There is no mention though of the time when Richie Ashburn hit the same woman in the stands, twice, during the same at bat.

Besides the Twins, the band sings about Mark Fidrych, Tony Conigliaro, Roger Clemens, Billy Buckner, Carl Mays, Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson among others. The Reggie track is “The Straw That Stirs The Drink.” It recalls quote from Jackson while he was wearing pinstripes. He told reporters of all the other high-level personalities on the team, but he was “the straw that stirs the drink.” The Project sings of Jackson’s boasts, “I’m a card carrying member of Mensa / I’ve got MVP trophies on my credenza.”

“Chin Music” incorporates the title, “High and Inside” in it’s chorus. It’s a tribute to the pitchers that successfully could shave the hitters, like Sam “The Barber” Maglie, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson and Ryne Duren. (Cub great Ryne Sandberg was named after Duren.)With his Coke-bottle glasses, Duren was a showman, purposely throwing wild pitches during his warm-ups to excite the crowd and scare the hitters. The Baseball Project romanticizes this era of baseball, criticizing today’s game with the verse, “Pitch count, set-up men, five-man rotations / Whirlpool, Tommy John, pinpoint location / And they still can’t do what the old guys did / Ah chin music / A little chin music / Separate the men from the kids.”

But on the other side of that pitch the band sings a ballad about a pitcher with the reputation of being a headhunter, Carl Mays. Mays threw the submarine ball, roughed up the cowhide and splattered it with spit. He also threw the pitch that killed Cleveland Indian, Ray Chapman. After the death of Chapman, the rules changed in baseball; roughed up balls were tossed out of the game and the spitball became illegal.

“The Panda & The Freak” celebrates the great nicknames of the game, like Mudcat, Catfish, the Spaceman, Goose, Bird, Rooster, Penguin and Turkey Mike. But the song is built around two of the San Francisco Giants, the Panda (Pablo Sandoval) and the Freak, (Tim Lincecum.) So when the baseball season gives you little to celebrate, play the Baseball Project disc. Vol. 2 and its predecessor are both worth buying but their second release has more of a hometown twist for Twins fans.

Grade:

2 Responses to “The Baseball Project, Vol. 2, High & Inside”

  1. Mike Elias says:

    The disc deserves an A+ if you’re a baseball fan. But if you’re in it just for the music, it is still a solid release.

  2. Chuck Anderson says:

    My favorite high and inside story is: Don Drysdale, when told to intentionally walk a certain batter, hit him with a pitch rather than wasting three more pitches to walk him.

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