Baseball was the United States’ favorite sport for a long time. As a result, there is a significant number of songs about either baseball or baseball-related topics. Most of these songs aren’t particularly notable, meaning they see little use outside of specific contexts. In contrast, others stand head and shoulders over the rest, thus making them worth remembering.
Here are 20 of the best baseball songs ever released:
Soundgarden was one of the bands that popularized grunge. Originally, “Ty Cobb” was “Hot Rod Death Toll.” However, there was a rename because the song’s lyrics reminded the band’s bassist, Ben Shepherd, of the famous baseball player.
We know this was unintended because the songwriter, Chris Cornell, stated he knew nothing about Cobb. Instead, he wrote the song about people he liked and people he disliked, meaning the resemblance is a lucky coincidence.
19. “Cubs in Five” – The Mountain Goats
The Chicago Cubs have inspired a lot of enthusiasm. As such, people have penned more than one baseball song about them. “Cubs in Five” can sound rather strange in modern times. After all, we are on the other side of the Curse of the Billy Goat.
Still, it is very entertaining to hear John Darnielle singing about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series along with other impossibilities such as the discovery of intelligent aliens on the moon and The Canterbury Tales hitting the top of the best sellers list.
18. “Look, It’s Baseball” – Guided By Voices
It is easier for indie bands to reach interested individuals than ever before. However, indie bands aren’t a new thing. For proof, look no further than Guided By Voices, which has been around in one form or another since the early 1980s.
The song “Look, It’s Baseball” describes a night out at a baseball game. As for why Guided By Voices made it, well, it seems safe to say that Guided By Voices’ core member, Robert Pollard is a baseball fan because he was once a baseball pitcher at the college level.
17. “Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)” – The Treniers
The Treniers were named thus because of Cliff and Claude Trenier. They were a pair of identical twins at the head of a jump blues and R&B group active from the 1940s to the 2000s. In 1955, the Treniers released “Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song),” which refers to the center fielder’s nickname as the Say Hey Kid. Some people might recognize it because of its inclusion in the Ken Burns documentary Baseball.
16. “Ode to the Mets” – The Strokes
Sometimes, unimpressive teams are capable of inspiring fervent fandoms. To name an example, consider the New York Mets. The Strokes’ singer-songwriter, Julian Casablancas, came up with the initial idea for “Ode to the Mets” after watching the team get knocked out of the post-season in 2016.
He was going to change the name at a later point. The Strokes’ drummer, Fabrizio Moretti, convinced him to keep it because “Ode to the Mets” captured the message perfectly. For those curious, that message would be loving a continuous disappointment.
15. “Dream of Mickey Mantle” – Bleachers
Bleachers are an indie pop band, though that label might be a bit misleading because Jack Antonoff is the one band member. Regardless, the band released “Dream of Mickey Mantle” on Gone Now, which is a studio album all about the challenges that come from growing old. “Dream of Mickey Mantle” is very much in line with that theme.
14. “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio” – Les Brown Orchestra
Les Brown was a very successful jazz musician, so much so that he led a big band for almost seven decades. As such, his career intersected with those of a huge number of celebrities in various ways. One example would be how Brown discovered “Tony Bennett.”
Another example would be how Brown did “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio,” which paid homage to the New York Yankees legend. The song concludes with a mention of how his 56-game hitting streak ended while playing the team that was still called the Cleveland Indians in those days.
13. “Joe DiMaggio Done It Again” – Billy Bragg and Wilco
Speaking of which, “Joe DiMaggio Done It Again” is another song about the New York Yankees legend. The funny thing is that it came out in 2000, though to be fair, that becomes more understandable when interested individuals learn what happened.
In short, Billy Bragg and the band Wilco teamed up to release a studio album containing previously unrecorded lyrics by Woody Guthrie, who was active from the 1930s to the mid-1950s. In other words, “Joe DiMaggio Done It Again” makes perfect sense because it comes from a much earlier period.
12. “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball” – Woodrow Buddy Johnson
Buddy Johnson was a jump blues bandleader active from the 1930s to the 1960s. Of course, “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball” refers to the famous African-American baseball player, whose hiring by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 signaled the end of professional baseball.
That isn’t mentioning the man’s other major achievements. For example, he was a one-time World Series champion and a six-time All-Star. Similarly, he was the first black TV analyst for the MLB plus the first black vice-president of a major American company. As such, it is no exaggeration to say that Robinson repeatedly broke the boundaries of what people considered possible.
11. “Talkin’ Baseball” – Terry Cashman
Terry Cashman released “Talkin’ Baseball” during the MLB strike in 1981. It is a short history of baseball from the 1950s to the start of the 1980s. Indeed, the song’s other name, “Willie, Mick, & the Duke,” refers to a famous picture of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Duke Snider.
Interested individuals might be able to find other versions of “Talkin’ Baseball.” That is because Cashman started making team-specific versions when the song took off. Some of those versions have even received updates over time.
There are two versions of “Tessie.” Both have an important place in the Boston Red Sox’s history. Supposedly, Boston fans used the original version to terrific effect in the 1903 World Series, so much so that it made a meaningful contribution to their team’s eventual victory.
Decades later, the Dropkick Murphys did a cover recalling the spirit of the original, promising that it would lead Boston to a new victory in 2004. Despite the odds, Boston did go on to win the 2004 World Series, so it isn’t hard to see why Boston fans harbor a lasting fondness for both versions of “Tessie.”
9. “All the Way” – Eddie Vedder
Interested individuals might recognize Eddie Vedder as the singer-songwriter for Pearl Jam. He grew up in a Chicago suburb, so chances are good that interested individuals can guess he is a long-time Chicago baseball fan. Specifically, he likes the Chicago Cubs, meaning his “All the Way” is another song honoring that particular franchise.
Lyrics-wise, the song is far from being blindly optimistic. Still, it holds out hope that the Chicago Cubs would one day break the Curse of the Billy Goat. On the whole, “All the Way” is a great reminder of the spirit of perseverance that suffused Chicago fans for so long.
8. “Catfish” – Bob Dylan
“Catfish” isn’t referring to the animal. Instead, it refers to Catfish Hunter, who played for the Oakland Athletics but moved to the New York Yankees in 1975. Bob Dylan wouldn’t release the slow, brooding song until 1991. Funny enough, it had already received a cover by Joe Cocker.
7. “Night Game” – Paul Simon
“Night Game” comes from Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years. It is a sad song, so much so that some people have straight-up compared it to a dirge. That makes sense because its lyrics describe a pitcher dropping dead during a baseball game. It isn’t clear why “Night Game” is the way it is. Some people think the incident is supposed to be a metaphor, with proposed explanations ranging from religious symbolism to the triviality of sports in the face of death.
6. “Right Field” – Peter, Paul, and Mary
It is very understandable why so many baseball songs focus on the MLB. Even so, it is important to remember that baseball is so much bigger than that, meaning baseball songs don’t need to limit themselves to that. In any case, “Right Field” is about kids playing baseball.
Its lyrics should be quite nostalgic to anyone who has ever participated in a pick-up game. Fortunately, “Right Field” is kind to its narrator, who experiences a moment of triumph at the end rather than anything more embarrassing.
5. “The Greatest” – Kenny Rogers
“The Greatest” is about a boy trying to hit a baseball that he tosses up himself. He doesn’t have much luck in this regard. Instead, he misses three times, meaning he manages to strike himself out. The neat part is that the boy says that he is still the greatest because he managed to strike himself out. It isn’t clear how serious he is about this. Either way, it is a hilarious way for the song to go. As such, Kenny Rogers’ “The Greatest” is more than deserving of its position on this list.
4. “The Cheap Seats” – Alabama
In 1994, Alabama released “The Cheap Seats” as the third single for the studio album of the same name. It is all about the joys of watching Minor League Baseball. Fans being fans, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that they used hints embedded in the lyrics to guess where the mentioned team might be. Generally speaking, that guess is Des Moines, IA, which does have a Minor League baseball team called the Iowa Cubs.
3. “Centerfield” – John Fogerty
“Centerfield” was the title track from John Fogerty’s third studio album in 1985. This is a very upbeat, very enthusiastic sort of song. Moreover, it is the kind of music that makes people want to start playing themselves, which judging by the lyrics, was very much intentional on Fogerty’s part. Regardless, “Centerfield” has become a true baseball classic, as shown by how it sees so much play alongside baseball games.
“Glory Days” lives up to its name by reminiscing about better times in the past. A high school baseball player is one of the characters mentioned in the song. However, a couple of others also see the same kind of mention.
One is a divorced woman who once turned heads in high school. Another is the narrator’s father who struggles to find a new job after being let go by his long-time employer. Bruce Springsteen could have gone any number of ways with this song. He decided to sing something both rowdy and jocular, which gives it a more interesting flavor than what people might expect.
1. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” – Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer
Unsurprisingly, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” claims the top position on this list. Simply put, Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote it in 1908. Since then, it has become so popular and so widespread that just about every baseball fan can sing along with the chorus.
Norworth’s then-wife Nora Bayes was the first one to sing it, but she was far from being the last. Amusingly, neither Norworth nor Von Tilzer had seen a Major League baseball game when they wrote the song. They wouldn’t do so until 32 and 20 years later respectively.