The Baseball Project – 3rd

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

This project just keeps evolving and I think that’s great, right up until the day we have Bernie Williams and Peter Gammons guesting on guitar. For now, it’s just the organist for the Boston Red Sox and the more permanent and very welcome addition of REM bassist Mike Mills. I don’t know how much longer they can keep doing this, but baseball is a pretty deep mine and the band is bursting with talented songwriters. I saw them live after McCaughey recovered from his stroke and it was heartwarming to see him back in action, clearly having a good time (and also to witness Buck’s obvious concern for his friend, keeping a watchful eye on him the entire show).

What I Think of This Album

As usual, the album is mostly focused on heroes, villains, the overlooked, and the ridiculous. By now you are familiar with the allegiances and it informs the songs – you can appreciate Scott McCaughey’s loyalty when listening to “They Are the Oakland A’s” or Steve Wynn’s Yankee fandom in his touching “Monument Park.” And when they sing of box scores and baseball cards, you know they mean it.

This album is a bit more positive and lighthearted than the others. While there are still indictments of heels, such as “From Nails to Thumbtacks,” a survey of Lenny Dykstra’s ambitions and setbacks, and “13,” a dark polemic against Alex Rodriguez (which sounds a bit like “If You Believe in Cleveland,” from McCaughey’s Young Fresh Fellows), there is not nearly as much tragedy and sadness this time. Instead, “Hola America!” celebrates the bravery and sacrifices of Cuban players who escape to the US, and “The Day Dock Went Hunting Heads” memorializes Dock Ellis’s firing spree against the Reds’ batting order.

Mike Mills flashes his credentials – musical and fan – with his passionate, power-poppy plea “To the Veterans Committee” in advocacy of Dale Murphy. This is followed-up by the John Fogarty-quoting “Monument Park,” itself a request for Bernie Williams to be given due recognition. Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth gets their songs (the former’s much better than the latter’s), as does the flustered Pascual Perez (with Linda Pitmon taking lead vocal duty, both sounding and drumming like Moe Tucker) and poor Larry Yount, whose little-known story is the subject of a lovely, sympathetic folk ballad.

At 18 songs, this is verging on double-album territory; in the band’s defense, while some songs could’ve been cut (the country “The Baseball Card Song” and icky “Extra Inning of Love,” as well as the silly Johnny Cash/Shel Silverstein parody “A Boy Named Cy”), this is another winning collection.

Some trivia – former Sugar bassist David Barbe did some of the recording, and Mitch Easter did some of the mixing.

The Best Thing About This Album

Mills takes the prize this time – the garagey “Veterans Committee” is pure fun, and slightly evocative of his vocal turn on REM’s memorable cover of “Superman.”

Release Date

March, 2014

The Cover Art

This is some weird cross of a Dali piece, a Pink Floyd album cover, and of course, baseball. The integration of the 3 in the art as the album title is obvious and probably unavoidable. But it still could have been done in a more appealing fashion.

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