Balks and Bands

Pearl Jam and the best semi-official bands of baseball

August 28, 2018
New York Mets v Chicago Cubs
Jonathan Daniel

FULL DISCLOSURE: Your humble author has attended three of five Pearl Jam shows at Wrigley Field and wept openly at four of them. This generally occurs when Eddie Vedder performs “All the Way,” the monolithically earnest acoustic sea chantey he wrote in 2016 when the Cubs won their first World Series since 1774, the year that they validated all our hopes, the year that I got to call my 93-year-old grandmother and tell her the Cubs won it all, the year that FAITH IN THE UNIVERSE WAS RESTORED for about 20 minutes until the election.

Anyway, “All the Way” is the culmination of years of Cubs fanship from the north-side native Vedder, who is seen on the 2016 concert film “Let’s Play Two” wandering outside his Wrigley cathedral in his 1992 skater-shorts-and-four-shirts grunge years and sobbing on the Progressive Field concrete in Cubs GM Theo Epstein’s VIP box when the Cubs won it all in Cleveland. Also he’s (checks papers): sung “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” 400 times, brought to the stage Ernie Banks, Jose Cardenal and the family of Ron Santo, sang to the Cubs when they won the NLCS, performed karaoke with Kerry Wood and basically rivals Bill Murray as the Cubs’ most hopeless fan. (The band is always tight with the Seattle Mariners, obviously, and guitarist Mike McCready stops in to play the anthem on a semi-regular basis. But, come on. JOSE CARDENAL.)

Pearl Jam may offer one of the most visible connections to baseball and music — especially if the Cubs hang onto the best record in the NL — but there are plenty of others:

Metallica and the San Francisco Giants

This summer marked the sixth— sixth!— consecutive Metallica night at AT&T Park, in which the startingly enduring rock band basically took over the park for the night, performing the National Anthem, throwing out the first pitch, hanging around for mid-inning shenanigans and generally doing a bunch of stuff you would not have predicted when you think of the kids wearing “Kill ‘Em All” shirts in your high school. (As a rule, such kids did not like baseball, or detergent.)

Jason Isbell and the Atlanta Braves

Isbell and his bands, wife, and friends are all responsible for making incredible music pretty much all the time. But he’s also developed into one of MLB’s most reliably awesome Twitterers, as evidenced by this, the internet’s single best response to Jose Urena’s first-pitch plunking of Ronald Acuna Jr. He and the Braves share a mutual love: He and his 400 Unit play postgame concerts in Atlanta, and the Braves tweet support of his records. Good news all around.

Billy Joel and the New York Mets

In 2015, en route to their eventual drubbing at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, the New York Mets began playing “Piano Man” in the middle of games. It’s a curious choice because of how it’s about (checks notes) a semi-pathetic bar rat who’s stuck playing bad songs for drunks, but people still make out to “Better Man,” so whatever. Anyway, it stuck, partly because your dad is right and “Piano Man” is a REALLY GOOD SONG to sing with a crowd of 50,000 other half-sauced bandwagon jumpers, and because Billy Joel is a bona-fide New York guy who still isn’t done with the Madison Square Garden residency he’s performed since 1947. Also, the Mets are terrible, and if this song helps them get through their day, good for them.

Nelly and the St. Louis Cardinals

Sure, whatever.

Wiz Khalifa and the Pittsburgh Pirates

“Black and Yellow” wasn’t about the Pirates until everybody decided it was about the Pirates, so now it’s about the Pirates! Sure, why not. Safe to assume Wiz is MLB’s most consistently baked fan, although he wouldn’t even be in like the top 2/3 of NBA players. You know that, we know that, but evidently the Pirates did not know that, because they invited him to throw out the first pitch late last year and then got mad when he did a weed thing. Because, you know, when you want your music mascots to be clean and sober, you go with someone like Billy Joel.

Chance the Rapper and the Chicago White Sox

The White Sox have been Chicago baseball’s forgotten, largely unemployed half-brother for so long that even ESPN forgets that they’ve won a World Series, repeatedly. We at The Loop haven’t been to Guaranteed Rate Bail Bonds Checks Cashed Ballpark and Swap Meet since the days of Jack McDowell, but the Sox do have two pretty great celebrity fans. The first is Chance the Rapper, who is apparently from Chicago and a fixture at Sox games. The other is Barack Obama, current president of the United States.

Scott Stapp and the … Marlins, I guess?

At this point, making a Marlins/Stapp joke qualifies as cruel and unusual. But, Scott knows Marlins don’t fly, right? IDK, maybe fish can fly in heaven.

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