Even When April Had Baseball, Much of The Talk Was About Music
Chicago Broadcaster Steve Stone Knows Ball Yard But Not Soungarden
Week two of the 2019 regular season served as kind of an omen, in that the Red Sox and the Cubs were both in last place. Even though each team would climb out of the basement later, neither powerhouse was able to reach the playoffs. When Chicago dropped a 4-2 game to Milwaukee on April 9, the Cubs had won just two of its first nine games.
Joe Madden and his group did manage to pick up its third win a few days later, when they beat the Los Angeles Angels. The big story of the game, aside from the fact that the Angels had to play without perennial Most Valuable Player Mike Trout, had nothing to do with baseball.
For some reason that entire week featured a lot of musical references by the broadcasters, highlighted by the Chicago announcers during that April 12 win against the Angels. Analyst Jim Deshaies mentioned that his favorite song was "Piano Man" by Billy Joel, which prompted his partner to recall his mother's obsession with Paul McCartney.
Across town a few nights earlier White Sox announcer Steve Stone admitted to having never heard of the rock band Soundgarden, whose lead singer Chris Cornell had attended high school with one of the players. His partner had found Stone's lack of musical knowledge nearly unbelievable, citing several titles of the group's biggest hits, one of which played as the station broke for a commercial.
The White Sox went on to lose that game to Ian Snell and the Tampa Rays, but their announcers had certainly kept pace with their colleagues on other teams with their music allusions. They could not quite reach the top slot, however, which was assumed by the announcing crew of the Angels the Saturday before.
Because it was Saturday, the commentators naturally mentioned the Seventies rock band Bay City Rollers. The chorus of their biggest hit spelled out the seventh day of the week, but the musical discussion did not stop there.
When starter Drew Smyly reached a pitch count of 55, the announcers brought up Sammy Hagar's greatest hit "I Can't Drive 55." Music references were revisited in the fourth inning, when the subject of walk-up songs was mentioned.
"Careless Whisper" by George Michael and "YMCA" by the Village People" were identified by the analyst, while his partner offered "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone. The latter ended the conversation by opining, "Or anything by the Carpenters."
A few days later veteran NESN analyst Jerry Remy, as the Red Sox hosted the Orioles, admitted a preference for classic rock. He recalled having enjoyed a front row seat during a concert of the Who, while also mentioning having seen Patriots wide receiver Rob Gronkowski earlier that year at a Paul McCartney show. Remy told us that Gronk had actually gotten on the stage during a rendition of the rowdy track "Helter Skelter" from the White Album.
Unlike this year, plenty of baseball was being played last April, accompanied by numerous musical references. Not every game included discussions of popular artists, but you can bet that at least song played at every stadium. Oh, what would I give to be in a stadium right now singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."