Diamond tunes: the 12 best songs about baseball

We ramp up the anticipation for MLB's return to London with 12 of the best songs about baseball

We’re just 100 days out from MLB’s return to the UK, when the Mets and the Phillies will go head to head at London Stadium. But how to get the first strains of ball-park fever running through your veins? Our playlist of songs inspired by the hallowed diamond will help you out. Give it a spin and you’ll swear you can smell the hot dogs.

The Baseball Project – ‘Monument Park’

Featuring The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Mike Mills of R.E.M., Filthy Friends’ Linda Pitmon and Scott McCaughey of The Minus Five, The Baseball Project is wall-to-wall baseball tunes. We could have stacked our entire roster with their work but in the interests of diplomacy we settled for this absolute corker that pays tribute to the open-air museum at Wynn’s beloved Yankee Stadium.

Belle & Sebastian – ‘Piazza, New York Catcher’

Mike Piazza made quite the impact on Stuart Murdoch. The Belle & Sebastian frontman found the New York Mets catcher so magnetically charismatic that he became the defining image in this song off Dear Catastrophe Waitress, which weaves the hall of famer into a globetrotting love song about Murdoch’s early courtship of his future wife.

Ben Gibbard – ‘Ichiro’s Theme’

Ben Gibbard - Ichiro's Theme

The Death Cab For Cutie frontman (and lifelong Seattle Mariners fan) honours Mariners hero Ichiro Suzuki with this buoyant cut from his excellent Former Lives solo album. Gibbard had sat on the song for a few years before finally releasing it in 2012 when Suzuki was traded to the Yankees, breaking hearts all over the Pacific Northwest.

Billy Bragg & Wilco – ‘Joe DiMaggio Done It Again’

Taken from Billy Bragg and Wilco’s second volume of Woody Guthrie songs, this ode to Joltin’ Joe is a hoot and a holler, Jeff Tweedy extolling the great man’s many virtues over a runaway banjo.

Bob Dylan – ‘Catfish’

Dylan’s haunting tune is an ode to tragic Athletics/Yankees five-time World Series winner Catfish Hunter, one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball. Catfish died in 1999 of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Bruce Springsteen – ‘Glory Days’

Springsteen doesn’t pay tribute to any specific player or team (he’s a Yankees fan) on this bittersweet party starter. Instead, it’s a homage to youthful promise, perfectly summed up in that one kid who seemed destined for the big leagues and just ended up another guy in a bar, ruminating on glory days.

Eddie Vedder – ‘All The Way’

All the Way - Eddie Vedder Cubs Song [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Eddie Vedder might be more closely associated with Seattle, but the Pearl Jam leader is a Illinois native at heart and a diehard Chicago Cubs fan. Vedder wrote ‘All The Way’ at the behest of Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks, paying tribute to the team’s run to the playoffs in 2008 and their 100-year wait for a World Series. Though the LA Dodgers ruined the party, the song was resurrected when the Cubs finally went all the way in 2016.

John Fogerty – ‘Centerfield’

When Fogerty was growing up in California, there wasn’t a single Major League side on the West Coast. He adopted the Yankees as his team (mainly due to their San Franciscan superstar Jo DiMaggio) and Yankee Stadium became a mystical structure in his young imagination. The song has become a central part of baseball lore itself, played regularly on game days at fields around the country and played on a continuous loop at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Mountain Goats – ‘Cubs In Five’

John Darnielle is a Cubs fan and clearly wrote this slice of bitterness during the team’s lengthy barren spell. ‘Cubs In Five’ is a list of things that are very unlikely to happen, such as Bill Gates spearheading a Heaven 17 revival, the Cubs winning the World Series and his waning love in a relationship being renewed. Only one of those things actually happened.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – ‘Cardinal Rules’

This is the only example we could find of a baseball song about a team outside of the major leagues. Massively underrated Missouri indie poppers SSLYBY are devotees of their local minor league side, the Springfield Cardinals. If there was a World Series of baseball songs, this would win it in four.

Yo La Tengo – ‘Baseball Altamont’

Yo La Tengo - Baseball Altamont

This was originally by Mets fans The Nightmares but the Yo La Tengo cover is notable because it’s a double baseball reference. The New Jersey trio (also Mets fans) named themselves after a baseball incident from the early 60s involving the Mets’ Venezuelan second baseman Elio Chacón and centre fielder Richie Ashburn. Chacón, who spoke no English, would regularly collide with Ashburn when fielding so Ashburn learned a single phrase in Spanish: “Yo la tengo” (“I’ve got it”). Later that season, Ashburn yelled the phrase when chasing down a ball, only to be steamrollered by another player who spoke no Spanish and had no idea what a “yellow tango” was.

Warren Zevon – ‘Bill Lee’

Some people choose not to play by the rules, others seem utterly incapable of even trying. Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee is the king of those people; a talented player famous for antics that included threatening to bite an umpire’s ear off, claiming marijuana made him impervious to exhaust fumes, and supporting a wide range of eclectic causes from Maoism to Greenpeace. A huge Zevon fan, Lee used to drop lyrics from his songs into press conferences, so Zevon wrote this gorgeous piano ballad in return. “You’re supposed to sit on your ass and nod at stupid things,” Zevon croons, “Man, that’s hard to do.” Lee never even tried.

Get tickets to see the New York Mets take on the Philadelphia Phillies at the MLB World Tour London Series at London Stadium on 8 and 9 June

Main image: Jim McIsaac/Getty Sport