More than any other sport, baseball is intimately intertwined into American popular culture. Something about the game lends itself to poetic waxing or, in the case of The Baseball Project, musical musing.
If you aren’t familiar with The Baseball Project, they are kind of an indie rock super group composed of Mike Mills (of REM fame), Scott McCaughey (Minus 5), Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), and Linda Pitmon (Minus 5, Steve Wynn, Zuzu’s Petals). They write and play Songs about baseball. If this sounds like the ultimate combination of indie rock geekiness and baseball nerdom, it is, and it’s delightful.
The Baseball Project did a special show Thursday night at the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention in Chicago. As lead songwriter Wynn said at the top of the show, they’d wanted to play at a SABR convention turn for a while because “this is the only audience that will get all of the references.” The band is currently on tour for their third CD (appropriately titled “3rd,”).
The delightful thing about The Baseball Project is that it’s damn fine rock and roll. What differentiates them from other bands is that you get danceable little ditties with titles like “To the Veterans Committee” and “Ted Fucking Williams.” They know their stuff (despite a decided preference for East Coast teams as far as subject matter).
I’ve been a fan of the band since they formed, although when I first heard of them, Mills was the only member I was familiar with. REM will always be the sound of college radio for me. If you were in Cleveland during the 80s and listened to WRUW, the station at Case Western Reserve University, you probably heard them a lot. I will admit I had a major Fan Girl moment when Mike Mills and the rest of the band walked by me. Having them play at the SABR convention was not the typical concert experience. They hung out for a few minutes before the show, went up and played a killer two-hour set, and then hung out by the merchandise table, signing autographs and chatting with people about baseball. in the end, we’re all just fans of the same game.