The Baseball Project on their latest musical ode to the sport, 'Grand Salami Time!'
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Texas Rangers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks last night, Game 1 of the World Series - what a time to talk baseball music. Play ball.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRAND SALAMI TIME")
THE BASEBALL PROJECT: (Singing) Now the sacks are drunk, and so am I. So am I. Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma. It's grand salami time.
SIMON: "Grand Salami Time," the song and namesake for the latest album from The Baseball Project, a supergroup of musicians who dedicate their music to the love of baseball. Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon and Scott McCaughey are part of The Baseball Project, and they join us now. Thank you so much for being with us.
STEVE WYNN: Yeah. Thank you.
LINDA PITMON: Yeah, thanks for having us, Scott.
SCOTT MCCAUGHEY: Great to be here.
SIMON: So I'm supposed to be baseball conversant. I did not know the phrase grand salami time. Does one of you want to step into the batter's box and explain it to me?
MCCAUGHEY: When I lived in Seattle for 25 years, I became a Mariners fan after my fandom of the Giants and the A's, which is still strong. But Dave Niehaus was their long-time broadcaster. He's not with us anymore, but he would get really, really, really excited when anyone hit a grand slam, and he'd say, get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma. It's grand salami time. He would shout it at the top of his voice. And so I just always remembered it. And it's kind of a catchphrase in Seattle too, you know? But that's where that came from. And so the whole rest of the song is made up of a lot of phrases from other nutty broadcasters, too.
SIMON: Like the sacks are drunk. I hadn't heard that one.
MCCAUGHEY: Yeah, yeah.
SIMON: Like, I bet that's bases loaded, I imagine, right?
MCCAUGHEY: Yeah. Yes.
SIMON: Oh, I get it now. I get it now. The sacks are - oh, OK. All right.
PITMON: Pretty good, right?
MCCAUGHEY: The sacks are drunk, and so am I, which was often the case.
SIMON: Linda Pitmon, let me ask you about the song about the yips. Baseball players don't want to get them. A lot of great players have had the yips. This is just - well, how do we explain the yips?
PITMON: The yips is when something that you have found very automatic in the past, something that you've done, you know, repeatedly, and it is not a problem, and suddenly one day you just have a problem, and you stumble over whatever it is you might be doing.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE YIPS")
THE BASEBALL PROJECT: (Singing) But one day overnight, something just didn't feel right. Like some medieval curse, I couldn't throw the ball to first. Everything that came so easily before, why can't I do it again? I've got the yips. I've got the yips.
SIMON: One of my favorite players in the game, Jon Lester, the great pitcher...
PITMON: Oh, yeah.
SIMON: ...Couldn't throw the ball to first.
PITMON: And Chuck Knoblauch, famously...
SIMON: Chuck Knoblauch.
PITMON: ...One of the very famous ones, ex-Twin.
PITMON: Yeah, well, as a drummer, you can imagine that that could happen. And I hate to say it, but it does, and it has happened to me.
PITMON: Interestingly, that can happen to me on that song.
PITMON: Yeah. It's kind of a funny little beat, and I kind of knew it when I was coming up with it. I was like, well, this is bound to happen at some point. And, yeah, I have to really watch it.
WYNN: And if we get the yips in that song, we can say, yeah, we meant to do that. That was part of the process.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE BASEBALL PROJECT SONG, "THE YIPS")
SIMON: All this high-minded ribaldry notwithstanding, it's - baseball brought you together as a group.
MCCAUGHEY: Music, really.
MCCAUGHEY: I mean, music, but we knew each other because we love each other's music. But when we discovered that baseball was a common thread, we kind of said, hey, let's write some songs about it, you know? It was a sort of a drunken idea that Steve and I had one night, and everybody kind of went along with it.
WYNN: I mean, it really - it's funny 'cause, you know, we could be a band that sings about anything. We just chose this one subject that allows for so many metaphors for life itself, you know? I mean, baseball - even more than if we were, say, The Football or Basketball or Badminton Project. You know, we - you know, it's a game where everything's one on one. You've got the man on the mound, the man at the plate, and it's like, you know, it's high noon. It's Gary Cooper out there, you know, against the bad guy.
WYNN: And that really lends itself to all kinds of songs.
SIMON: I want to ask you about another song that is a painful memory for those of us from Chicago. Steve Dahl, Chicago DJ, came up with a stunt. He despised disco. This was 1979. The White Sox against the Tigers - he invited people to come to the game with a disco record that would be blown up on the field.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DISCO DEMOLITION")
THE BASEBALL PROJECT: (Singing) There's a guy on the radio saying disco sucks. Doesn't matter to me, but I know what makes bucks. Let's bring out the fans to blow up records that they hate in the break between the doublehead against the Tigers - great. Win or lose, there's one thing that I've said. It's better to be flash than boring instead. They left the field in a terrible condition. Disco Demolition.
SIMON: It was a terrible night. They had to call the second game. Bill Veeck, who then owned the White Sox - one of the great people, I think, in sports - was mortified, and I will never forget the scene of him. He had one leg, ambling around trying to beg people to go back to their seats. It was just terrible.
MCCAUGHEY: Oh, man.
SIMON: Do you feel any sense of identity, though, with the people whose records were blown up that night?
WYNN: At the time, I think we - those of us who, you know, were music fans or baseball fans just thought, well, that was a wacky thing. That was crazy that they did this and blew up the field. But over time, you kind of looked back on the event - and not everybody feels this way, but in the song, I try to make the point that the dog whistle there, blowing up disco records, and what that meant and how people looked at that - there was definitely a kind of an ugly undertone, you know? It was kind of a racial undertone to the whole thing. That was not a pleasant day, you know, then or in hindsight. And the thing is, on top of all that, we like those records. And that's why we put the song to a disco beat.
SIMON: Oh, I'm just getting that now. Of course.
WYNN: Thank you, Linda.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DISCO DEMOLITION")
THE BASEBALL PROJECT: (Singing) Four on the floor was the sound of sedition. Disco Demolition.
WYNN: But, you know, I mean, that song is, like, what we - kind of shows what we try to do with the band. You know, when we write these songs for the records, sometimes we have a whole lot of a story to tell in a four-minute song.
WYNN: You want to say what happened, why it mattered, what - how we feel about it in three verses and a chorus, you know, and get out by the fade-out. And that's a lot to do. It's a challenge of this band that we might not have in some of our other bands where you can leave a lot of holes in the story and say you figure out the rest. We actually are rock 'n' roll baseball journalists.
SIMON: You don't need another suggestion, but I'm going to throw one your way anyway, OK?
PITMON: All right. Here we go.
SIMON: With the pitch clock in baseball...
SIMON: ...Fifteen-second song. What do you think?
MCCAUGHEY: That's a pretty good challenge. That's a pretty good challenge.
MCCAUGHEY: I like it. I like where we're going with this.
SIMON: Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon and Scott McCaughey - all part of the baseball supergroup The Baseball Project. Their latest production, "Grand Salami Time!" - out now. Thanks very much for being with us.
MCCAUGHEY: Thanks for having us, Scott. Yeah.
PITMON: Thank you so much, Scott. Thank you.
WYNN: Pleasure. Great talking to you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JOURNEYMAN")
THE BASEBALL PROJECT: (Singing) Always keep my bags packed, never get too close to anyone. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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