Does a baseball song — even a really good baseball song — qualify as athletics aesthetics?
Gun to my head, I’d probably say no. But there aren’t any guns here at Uni Watch HQ (at least not since Tucker and Caitlin traded my sizable munitions depot for a catnip farm and three cans of tuna while I wasn’t looking), so for today we’re gonna examine a really sensational baseball song from 1964 — a song that has somehow flown under everyone’s radar for the past four-plus decades despite being utterly infectious.
The song is a calypso number by a guy named the Duke of Iron. The title is simply “New York Mets,” but it is not just for Mets fans. It should really be called “We Want a Hit” (that’s the chorus), and the lyrics could easily be tweaked to fit any team, or to create an all-purpose baseball anthem.
The song was discovered by Mets by the Numbers webmaster Jon Springer, who brought it to my attention last week. He made a fun little video to go along with the song, but don’t worry so much about the video, especially if you’re not a Mets fan — just dig the tune (if you’re at work and can’t have music playing on your computer, borrow some earphones, because you really need to hear this):
Man, does that have seventh-inning stretch written all over it or what? It’s catchy, it’s bouncy, and it practically invites the whole stadium to chant along on the chorus.
How had this song eluded my notice for all these years? I asked Springer for the full story, and here’s what he told me:
The other day on Rdio.com I was making a playlist of songs by artists who are also Mets fans, when another Rdio user saw the list and added Duke of Iron’s “New York Mets” to it. I wasn’t familiar with it, which was baffling — how could I not have heard this before? I shared it with some Mets fans I know and they hadn’t heard it either. But what a great song! It’s a classic baseball song and a classic calypso song at once.
I was so stoked and eager to share it I downloaded a copy of the mp3 and put together a video on it as fast as I could from the photos I had on hand.
I’d never heard of the artist, the Duke of Iron, but it turns out he was born Cecil Anderson in Trinidad. He’s credited as a pioneer of the authentic calypso sound and was a longtime fixture in NYC nightclubs beginning in the ’40s until his death in 1968. As for the song, it originally appeared on the Duke’s album Limbo! Limbo! Limbo! on the jazz label Status/Prestige (which was recorded by famed Blue Note genius Rudy Van Gelder!) and is currently available on a compilation of Duke’s music called Calypso Masters.
Faaaascinating. I’ve shared the song with a bunch of other fans over the past week or so, and we’ve all had the same reaction that Jon had: How had we not been aware of this? How had such a sensational tune languished in obscurity for nearly half a century?
I want to change that. Basically, I want a full-on media campaign to bring “We Want a Hit” (which is what I’ll be calling it from now on) to the attention of as many baseball fans as possible. It deserves to be — it has to be — the soundtrack to the 2011 MLB season and beyond. I want it played at stadiums, I want it featured on ESPN and the MLB Network, I want to see fans singing along with it and players dancing in the dugout when they hear it. Here’s how you can help make that happen:
• Please copy this link (or, if you prefer, the link for today’s blog entry) and send it to every baseball fan you know. E-mail it, Twitter it, Facebook it, the works. Stress to people that they can ignore the video and that the tune should not necessarily be viewed as a Mets song but rather as a classic baseball anthem.
• If someone could please volunteer to set up a Facebook page to promote the song, that’d be swell. Update: David Polakoff has hooked us up. Thanks, David!
• If you’d like to try your hand at revising to the lyrics to fit your favorite team, or to make it an all-purpose baseball song that doesn’t mention any team at all, please do so and send me the results.
If you have other ideas, I’m all ears. Like the song says, we want a hit — on the field and on the airwaves.
And speaking of baseball and music, here’s a contest: Those of you with discriminating tastes in recorded sound may be familiar with the Baseball Project, an indie-rock supergroup featuring Scott McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon, and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. Their second album, High and Inside, has just been released (you can hear two of its best songs — “Panda and the Freak” and “Ichiro Goes to the Moon” — on this page), and now band manager Tony Margherita is offering Uni Watch readers a chance to design the band’s logo.
Here’s the deal: Whip up your best Baseball Project logo and send it to me by Opening Day (that’s March 31). We will then have a two-stage review process, as follows:
1) The best submission, as chosen by Tony and the band, will receive copies of the Baseball Project’s two CDs.
2) If the band chooses to use the winning entry on merchandise, on future recordings, etc., the winning designer will also receive $150, free admission to all Baseball Project shows for one year, and a plug on the band’s web site and Facebook page.
If you want to get more familiar with the band’s sensibilities, check out this interview with them.
Sound good? Now get crackin’.
March Madness reminder: Last chance to enter our annual NCAA bracket pool. Details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: In keeping with the spirit of today’s lead entry, here’s a bunch of sports-related LPs. ”¦ Congrats to longtime photo contributor BSmile, who’s been given his own baseball photography forum on the Baseball Fever site. ”¦ Chris Ruebel spotted a cap that should be perfect for rain delays in Arizona. ”¦ I suspect the folks in Japan have bigger things to worry about at the moment, but here are the guidelines for logo placement on Japanese baseball gloves (with thanks to Jeremy Brahm). ”¦ Here’s some news about soccer kits in Egypt. “It appears that they will just be wearing black socks to make their uniforms match the Egyptian flag,” says Gabriel Luis Manga. “I’m surprised Nike hasn’t jumped all over them to make them wear ‘Revolutionary Combat’ uniforms (joking).” ”¦ How the hell did Reebok manage to get such a massive logo on that jersey? “That’s from women’s hockey in the Olympics a few years back,” says Nick Mozley. Hmmm — is that right? Anyone know more? ”¦ The great Steve Rushin has written a wonderful piece about Bob Huggins and his track suit (with thanks to David Cline). ”¦ New lacrosse helmets for the U. of Denver (with thanks to Jeff Brunelle). ”¦ Seems like everyone’s compiling lists of misspelled jerseys these days. ”¦ Greg Brown reports that when his son Kirk takes the field, “we make sure he’s dressed correctly.” Well done. ”¦ Several weeks ago I passed along the news that Justin Morneau would be wearing the S100 helmet when he returned to action. He’s been playing in Grapefruit League games for about a week now, and sure enough, he’s the new Gazoo. With Francisco Cervelli currently on the DL, I believe Morneau is the only MLBer currently wearing the S100. ”¦ There’s some chatter that the new Tucson Padres uniforms could be a foreshadowing of what’s in store for the parent club (with thanks to the “other” Mike Hersh. ”¦ Three very nice pairs of striped stirrups available here (good find by Kenny Crookston). ”¦ The Sacramento Kings — the same franchise that used to be the Rochester Royals — are apparently contemplating going back to being the Royals again. ”¦ George Mason’s hoops team is apparently having some issues with some new sneakers from Nike (with thanks to Steve Brookman). ”¦ Here’s an interesting note about how the earliest baseball teams may have worn colored ribbons instead of formal uniforms (as noted by Jem Finch). ”¦ Is nothing sacred? Apparently not, at least judging by Brazil’s new BFBS soccer kit (horrifying contribution from Kenny Loo). ”¦ Paul Wiederecht was poking around on Flickr and found a guy who has some absolutely dynamite program covers from the AFL, CHL, and AAGPBL. And that’s just for starters. You can see the guy’s full breakdown of program covers here. ”¦ Aaron Klett has been active on the DIY front. “The first one is a Minnesota Twins sweatshirt I made out of a blank Old Navy sweatshirt, some felt, and a patch. The second is a Sonny Sixkiller UW jersey I made out of felt and a T-shirt. On that one, I researched all the Sixkiller pictures I could find, and quizzed my dad, who attended UW back in the day, to get it as accurate as possible.” ”¦ The Brevard County Manatees are having a contest to design the team’s catcher’s masks (with thanks to Mike Rich). ”¦ Also from Mike: How did Andruw and Chipper end up with non-matching stirrups?
Erin Go Braless, or whatever: Uni Watch would like to wish a very happy National Act Like an Idiot Day to one and all. Whether you’ll be wearing an unfortunate jersey or drinking an unfortunate beverage, knock yourself out.
As for me, it’s the third Thursday of the month, which means I’ll be doing my usual show-and-tell event at the City Reliquary (yes, I’ll be wearing some item of green apparel, but that’s usually the case for me anyway). NYCers should feel free to join us. And of course Seattle-area readers should go check out Scott Turner’s band, RebelMart, which is playing at the Mix.