The news of the Baseball Project – a group led by Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn – and its forthcoming album couldn’t have landed in my inbox at a more shockingly coincidental time.
I left The Arizona Republic after five-plus years to take a job with MLB.com as an editorial producer, which I started last week (in New York). So for the past week I’ve been buried in baseball (not a bad thing) as I acclimate to the new gig.
And here comes McCaughey with another quirky side project (see also The Minus 5), mining the national pastime’s history for an entire album’s worth of material. The references throughout are so rich – Oscar Gamble’s afro, Pete Rose barreling into Ray Fosse, etc. – they could only come from seamheads.
It’s such a great idea I can’t understand why it hasn’t been done before. But here’s the catch (ha! get it?): The album clearly holds the game in high regard but in a sarcastic, grounded way – it’s the view from the hardened fan too far gone to give up on it. Yeah, we hate millionaire athletes and steroids and scandal. But you can’t quit the game. Not at this point.
Instead, McCaughey and Wynn show their love and appreciation for the characters and legends of baseball. They write a song devoted to Curt Flood, the pioneer of free agency, on Gratitude (For Curt Flood). Pay attention, young wealthy stars, and respect your elders: “I’m the one who paved the way / I laid my body in the road so you can walk on it today.”
Even on the lead single, Past Time, there seems to be a cynic’s touch at work: “So long ago / so long, pastime / are you past your prime?”
Jackie’s Lament is more social commentary than baseball fandom. (And if I have to tell you who Jackie is, well, you probably need to buy this album more than you think.)
And what would be the name of the last song on the album? The Closer, of course – a raw, fuzzy ode to the (underappreciated?) one-inning specialists of our day: “MVP / Strike 3 / my work is done again.”
Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails is due out July 8 on Yep Roc. If you pre-order from Yep Roc, you get a download of Blood Diamond, “a song about a Dodgers fan shooting a Giants fan.”