The Baseball Project: For Love Of The Game The supergroup, which includes members of R.E.M. and The Dream Syndicate, takes fandom seriously on its second disc of songs about the national pastime.


Music Reviews

The Baseball Project: For Love Of The Game

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And we've got some baseball music for you to end the hour. Our critic, Robert Christgau, reviews the second album from a group of musicians that calls itself the Baseball Project.

ROBERT CHRISTGAU: Think of the Baseball Project less as an indie-rock all-star team than as a bunch of aging veterans proving they still have the stuff. Led by Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn, best-known for 20th-century stints in the Young Fresh Fellows and the Dream Syndicate, they share more than a musical history.

As devout baseball fans, they share an American mythology. Wynn's "1976," which opens their new "Volume 2: High and Inside," was inspired by the 2009 death of colorful 1976 Rookie of the Year Mark Fidrych, who soon succumbed to injuries but was never forgotten by the faithful.

(Soundbite of song, "1976")

THE BASEBALL PROJECT (Music Group): (Singing) Saw your picture in the paper today, and I couldn't believe my eyes. Dead before your time, but (unintelligible). Looking something like a memory from when I was a kid, golden hair flowing down on your (unintelligible). And it's always 1976. The camera lights and (unintelligible). So many things that (unintelligible), always 1976, always 1976.

CHRISTGAU: The Baseball Project write topical songs that honor cultural memory. Their music is tuneful rather than forward-looking. They still follow the game. Two of McCaughey's songs celebrate San Francisco phenoms Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum and sure-shot Seattle Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki. But as they age they have more to mull over.

One of the truest fan songs here is a litany of what-ifs that catalogues all the other mishaps that also cost the Red Sox the 1986 World Series, remembered solely for Bill Buckner's muff of Mookie Wilson's bouncer.

(Soundbite of song, "Buckner's Bolero")

THE BASEBALL PROJECT: (Singing) If Bobby O'Hayda(ph) hadn't raged at Sullivan and (unintelligible), then hadn't been traded to the Mets for Calvin Shiraldi(ph), if "Oil-can" Boyd(ph) hadn't been such a nutcase, and Jim (unintelligible) taken an easy extra base.

CHRISTGAU: "Buckner's Bolero" is tragicomic. Scott McCoughey burnishes Buckner's reputation while understanding how pathetic those what-ifs are.

Elsewhere come surprisingly serious meditations on mortality, including a finale that examines the 1920 beaning of Ray Chapman, the only MLB player ever killed by an in-game injury.

These guys think baseball is fun, for sure. But they're not fair-weather fans, drummer Linda Pitmon included.

(Soundbite of music)

THE BASEBALL PROJECT: (Singing) (Unintelligible) Fair-weather fan, it's not what I am.

NORRIS: That was critic Robert Christgau. He was reviewing The Baseball Project, "Volume 2: High and Inside."

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