They Took All The Walkup Music, Made It Seem Really Exclusive, And They Charged The People Ninety-Nine Cents Just To Rehear It

The other night I came across this article "What's Up With Former Baseball Player Royce Clayton?" and clicked on it because I actually was really interested in what was up with former baseball player Royce Clayton.

I suppose it says something when you have to specify "former baseball player." I didn't need the clarification, though — I totally remembered Royce Clayton. Clayton was one of the Giants' top prospects in the early 1990s. He came through Phoenix on the way up to the big leagues, back when Phoenix was San Francisco's AAA affiliate. He played there the summer I worked at Scottsdale Stadium selling programs. I remember watching Chris Berman call him "Royce-A-Roni The San Francisco Treat Clayton" when Clayton was called up and made some sort of big play.

Part of the fun of watching minor league baseball — for me, at least — is the possibility that you'll see "Tomorrow's Stars Today" (which was a Phoenix Firebirds slogan, if memory serves). I don't know that I saw many stars of tomorrow in the Giants organization — Clayton was probably the biggest — but I did see Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez when they played for the Albuquerque Dukes.

If you click through to the article and read between the lines you'll glean that Clayton had a mediocre career:

I don't look back with any regrets. I played my ass off. I never cheated anybody. People can say whatever; I know I'm not going to the Hall of Fame. But a lot of guys did a lot of different things and I never had to do that, and I stayed in the league 17 years. I can tell my kids that's what I did and that's what matters to me.

I guess you don't really have to even read between the lines.

Anyway, besides acting in the recent adaptation of Michael Lewis' Moneyball, Clayton has been involved with something called Balltunes, which sounds like the sort of enterprise stoned characters in Judd Apatow films might come up with. Clayton explains how it works:

We create original content for walkup songs. We get input from the player and coordinate with the artists and the producers. It will be the players' original song. Like Xavier Nady has come up to (songs by rapper) DMX his whole career, so we have interest in getting those two together. They're both very excited. We're finishing up a deal with Derek Jeter, and we've talked to a lot of other players: Mike Napoli, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard. We're talking to some of the top players in the top markets.

Talk about commodifying just about everything! At the risk of sounding like an old frump, walkup music was one of the last remaining "authentic" things about watching baseball. Think about it — the messaging tends to be so tightly controlled and/or disciplined that you never get a sense of what players are actually like. It's the reason post-game interviews and newspaper quotes are so boring, and why unscripted Twitter moments are so interesting.

The only other way you see through to a player's core is his walkup music. You get a real feel for Jayson Werth, and that filthy flavor-savoring facial hair, when pivotal bars of Kings of Leon's "Sex On Fire" blast through the ballpark. Eric Byrnes' "Your Love" by The Outfield (get it?) showed how much of a goof he was. It's important stuff.

Some folks talk about what they would request if they were entitled to walkup music — and that's fun to ponder — but it just doesn't work that way. Walkup music seems thrust upon a player. It's cool because no player seems to overthink it. In this way, Chase Utley's "Kashmir" is as natural as it gets.

Maybe you want to believe Chase Utley sits up at night making walkup music mixtapes for himself, carefully choosing the exact right song for how he feels when he needs to hit something out to the alley in right field. But that's absurd. Chase has better things to do than worry about his walkup music. Plus, "Kashmir," while a nice groove, isn't really a unique song. It just fits.

Here's a list — from a few years back — of different walkup music. It's pretty funny.

But back to the point. Having your own original walkup music just ruins something. When Tino Martinez plays Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song," you get a sense for what kind of man Tino Martinez is. Your own walkup music? That's just too slick.

And I don't like the sponsorship opportunities. Would Derek Jeter get a cut of the money from iTunes downloads of his own walkup music? After a point it seems a little unsavory.

Let walkup music be. It's one of the few ways fans get a sense of players as individuals and not gladiators. Because how can you really hate a guy who is that big a 3 Doors Down fan?

Posted: January 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Jukebox, M+/MR, Shiftless When Idle | Tags: , , , , ,

Eric Byrnes Continues To Invade My Mental Space

One thing we can thank the current highest-paid beer-league softball player for is playing a key role in rehabilitating The Outfield's "Your Love."

After we attend a wedding and the wedding band pulls out the number at some point in its final set, I want to argue that former Major League Baseball player Eric Byrnes is singlehandedly responsible for this, but Brother Michael vehemently disagrees, and provides the Wikipedia proof. Yes, Michael, maybe Katy Perry did cover the song in 2007, but that was well before "I Kissed a Girl" catapulted her into the mainstream. And sure, the Decemberists have been covering it since 2005, but who is really paying attention to Decemberists covers? I mean, to the extent that we're hearing "Your Love" at a wedding — and not just a DJ's pick, but a song that a five- or six-piece band actually took the effort to learn — I blame Eric Byrnes.

I have to say that I really do like Eric Byrnes. Maybe you want to dislike Eric Byrnes, but it's not Eric Byrnes' fault that the management under Josh Byrnes (no relation) gave him so much money to play softball (think about that, Wilpons!) (Alright, so maybe it wasn't all Josh Byrnes' fault, but it's difficult to resist a gratuitous dig at the Mets' ownership).

There's a long list of loopy stuff Byrnes did during his career that might get tiresome but which in the rigidly conformist world of baseball seemed relatively endearing: Sliding headfirst into bases when there's no play; Flossing and surfing; Mustaches. He even blithely rode his bike through the clubhouse after forgetting to bunt during a suicide squeeze — of course he was released only a few days later; a "free spirit" is a cool thing — until he starts to suck. And after Eric Byrnes started to suck, he quickly became the highest-paid player in the history of beer-league softball.

One of the funnier things about Byrnes was his walk-up music. Circling back to the original point, Byrnes began the 2008 season by using The Outfield's "Your Love" as his walk-up music (though when he hit a slump, his teammates took matters into their own hands). And the clip he used wasn't the four measures of Summer of '69-ish fart guitar that opens the first 30 seconds of the song but rather that distinctive Alan and The Chipmunks-like first line: "Josie's on a vacation far away . . ."

I know, corny — "The Outfield," get it? Probably even cornier than "Disco Inferno," one of Byrne's previous picks: "Burn, baby burn," get it? But in a milieu where stuff like "Crazy Train" and "Big Pimpin'" is the normal fare, Eric Byrnes' walk-up music was kind of funny. (I'll admit that there are some other goofy songs on this list — did the Reds' Ryan Freel really walk up to "Tom's Diner"? Inexplicable! — but over and over it's stuff like "Slow Ride" or "Sweet Child o' Mine" or "Low Rider" . . . and I hope I go my whole life never again having to think about "Machine Head" — thank god Jeff Cirillo has retired.)

It sounds one of those half-baked arguments that I like to double down on — and it is! — but I'm actually curious: Were we hearing "Your Love" at a wedding because Eric Byrnes started playing it as his walk-up music in 2008? As far as I can tell, "Your Love" had no particular big boost in the way that, say, Trio's "Da Da Da" got a reprieve from the cutout bin of musical history from that VW ad. Even seven straight weekends of I Love the 80s marathons couldn't totally explain why a wedding band would choose to include "Your Love" in its set list.

I admit, it could be that it is a purely organic cultural zeitgeist — part Decemberists, part VH1, part aging demographic and part Byrnes — but if success has a thousand fathers, then rehabilitating "Your Love" should probably be pinned to one asshat. If so, then at least that's something for Byrnes' legacy.

The song itself is an odd choice for a wedding. Sure, it's "fun" to "dance" to, but once you take the lyrics into account, it's hard to justify its inclusion, since it seems to be about a creepy ne'er-do-well having an affair with an underage girl (we caught Adventureland the other night on cable, and without giving too much away, I'll report that "Your Love" is used more appropriately). (The wedding band, by the way, was awesome — the drummer was the lead singer, just like Peter Prescott . . . or Phil Collins.)

One thing I didn't realize was that not only were The Outfield baseball fans but they were actually English, as well. I guess it makes sense — English people seem to love to write creepy sexual subtexts into their pop songs. Their bio page is pretty great for the pictures alone. I don't think even East Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone subletters could bring themselves to wear those high-heeled boots lead singer Tony Lewis is showing off in the top photo there (the pair of shoes that figure so prominently and inexplicably in the foreground of the bottom photo, on the other hand, I feel like I've seen on the B62).

I do hope that Byrnes eventually returns as a commentator or something — he's actually fun to root for — when your team isn't paying him $11 million to play softball that is.

Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Half-Baked Theory, Jukebox | Tags: , , ,

Watching Game 6 On Staten Island

Normally we'd be home watching stuff like Game Sixes, if there are Game Sixes to be watched, but it was a mixture of prior commitment and hubris that took us to Staten Island to participate in the latest Staten Island Pub Crawl during Game 6 of the NLCS. "Commitment" because we hadn't done a pub crawl in some time and "hubris" because, well, who would have thought this thing would have gone six games? Turns out that the Giants are on a major league streak right now . . .

I guess it could have been worse — had the Yankees beat the Rangers on Friday night, I think Game 6 of the NLCS would have aired in the late afternoon, which would have meant that we would have been on subways, ferries and trains for much of the game. As it turned out, Game 6 started at 7:57 (I never understood the :57 of MLB playoff start times), so we were able to monitor the progress of the game during stops along the crawl.

Cucina Di Napoli, Tottenville

Cucina Di Napoli, 7324 Amboy Road, Tottenville, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 7:23 p.m.

Things started out pretty well — we were carb-loading at Cucina Di Napoli in Tottenville when the Phillies scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and Jen was excited as we walked to Atlantic Station to get to our next stop. Our friend Bates, a Red Sox fan who (at least for one night) was sympathetic toward the Phillies, cautioned that the offense still looked weak, which of course was true but which also didn't mean much if Oswalt could hold back the Giants.

So it was a tiny bit worrying that some sort of error (Jen saw it on her phone during the train ride to Great Kills) lead to at least one San Francisco run as the Giants tied the game in the top of the third, but it was still early in the game.

Talk of the Town, Great Kills

We got to Talk of the Town in Great Kills in time to catch the bottom of the third inning, including that bench-clearing flareup. I was a little bit surprised to see two apparent Giants fans sitting at the bar. Things still looked good even after the Giants pulled starting pitcher Jonathon Sanchez and Ryan Howard was up to bat with no one out and runners at first and second. Of course Howard struck out; this would stick out in my mind later on.

Talk of the Town, 24 Giffords Lane, Great Kills, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 9:29 p.m.

I continued to watch the game out of the corner of my eye while we tried to overtake "Larry" and "Larry Who" on Erotic Photo Hunt (note: the Penthouse version of the game is much more difficult than the generic version — too many dumb subtle differences between the two photos). Still 2-2 when we left Talk of the Town and still 2-2 when we rolled into Night Gallery in New Dorp.

Megamasters Photo Hunt Penthouse Top Scores, Talk of the Town, 24 Giffords Lane, Great Kills, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 9:40 p.m.

Night Gallery, New Dorp

Now Night Gallery is a little bit different than the rest of the places we usually stop at on the crawl. The place has a little bit of a dodgy history, and on this particular night, it felt like we came in a little too much like gangbusters. It's not always so low key, to be sure — we've had good nights when whoever is the bartender there is friendly and whatever patrons are around don't seem to mind a bunch of yahoos invading their space, but there was something a little off about the "vibe" there on this night — to me at least. I was feeling like we were clogging up the path between the door and the back, then feeling like we were too loud as I chatted with some folks we were with. Or it could have just been that I was too preoccupied with watching Ryan Madson pitch the seventh and eighth innings. The conversation was veering off into politics when I noticed that overused camera angle that Fox employs when a runner crosses home — you know which one, the low angle looking up at some slugger's mammoth legs as he's reaching out to high five whoever is on deck. That was when I silently took in the fact that Juan Uribe just homered to put the Giants up 3-2.

Night Gallery, 36 New Dorp Plaza, New Dorp, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 11:20 p.m.

I still thought there was hope when we left Night Gallery until I realized that it was already the top of the ninth inning. Jen kept following the game on her phone and we saw there were two relatively quick outs. Then Rollins walked . . . and Utley walked . . . and Howard was up to bat again . . .

Northbound Staten Island Railway Train, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 11:32 p.m.

Lee's Tavern, Dongan Hills

We got off the train at Dongan Hills and entered Lee's Tavern to find the patrons gathered around the front following the game on the television above the bar. They — I'm assuming they were Mets fans — were clapping loudly as Howard swung at another strike. 2-2 count, bottom of the ninth, and another ball makes it a full count.

Lee's Tavern, 60 Hancock Street, Dongan Hills, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 11:36 p.m.

"One more strike and the Phillies are going down!" the guy next to us yelled out. I guess Mets fans have to get inspiration from somewhere, and it would come down to Brian Wilson and that freaky-ass Just For Men Black Bart beard versus Ryan Howard.

Lee's Tavern, 60 Hancock Street, Dongan Hills, Staten Island, October 23, 2010, 11:37 p.m.

No matter how good your team is, there's a sickening feeling about your chances in this position. As Jen put it, the Phillies fans in the stands looked like they were going to barf. I think you watch that kind of situation and know that it probably won't turn out well — which also makes that feeling all the more awesome when it actually happens to go well. Of course Brian Wilson got Howard to look at a sinker just in the zone for strike three. Those are how those situations usually work out.

"Yes! Yes!" the guy next to us yelled as he pumped his fists. I think he quickly realized from our lack of shared enthusiasm that we might have been rooting for the Phillies so he thought to add that Howard had to at least swing at that pitch, that it was too close. He was obviously correct — and Mets fans should know — it sucks a whole lot harder to take a called third strike than to at least take a swing at something (spin it however you want from here). (Part of me wants to remind the guy that the number two candidate for the Mets vacant GM position is the same person who ran the Diamondbacks into the ground.) (Part of me also wants to remind Giants fans — if we knew any, that is — that Cody Ross is a free agent after this year.)

It serves us right I suppose, rootless as I guess our lives are, to have to watch the Phillies lose among a bunch of frustrated Mets fans in a Staten Island bar, but, jeez — ouch — that was rough.

They seat our group in the annex room on the other side of the bar where chairs are stacked on tables. I was zoning out watching #11 Missouri closing out an upset of #1 Oklahoma, which I guessed was good for Boise State, but it was hard to get excited about anything sports related right then. Meanwhile, Cooley baits Bates about the various Red Sox-Yankees series this past year. Cooley's feeling less stung 24 hours after the Yankees own Game 6 loss. Bates recounts all the injuries the Red Sox had in 2010. I ask Cooley about whether Girardi will come back, if Posada will be eased out of an everyday role and if she really thinks they can get Cliff Lee. We scarf pizza (Lee's is still good, no matter how crazed their Mets clientele is) and make it out in under an hour.

On the way over to the train Bates recounts all the greatest disappointments in his personal Red Sox history. For him, the "best" series he ever saw wasn't the epic 2004 Red Sox-Yankees ALDS but rather the 2003 Red Sox-Yankees ALCS. I have a hard time abiding this contrarianism, but Bates made an interesting case: Of course the Red Sox lost that series, but the way they lost it really stands out — Tim Wakefield giving up that home run to Aaron Boone, Rivera praying on the mound, etc. In Bates' view, 2004 was not possible without 2003, and having Tim Wakefield lose it in 2003 was OK with him, Wakefield being his favorite player of all time.

Knuckleball pitchers really are cool, and to me there's this awesome mystery in how and why a knuckleballer will have his fingers work one day and not the other — Wakefield's knuckleball obviously was not working in Game 7. Bates adds that he loved that Joe Torre said something along the lines of how Wakefield was the best player he never got to coach and that it was classy that he called out Wakefield during the post-game press conference. (I'm amazed at how well Bates remembers baseball stuff — looking up stuff today, it seems he's remembering everything 100 percent accurately — I wonder if this is a Red Sox thing or something.)

The point being, according to Bates, is that it's much better to lose in seven games (or five games) than to lose in six games. There's something especially horrible about losing in six for some reason . . . this is true.

The train to St. George was delayed by some mechanical glitch — Bates joked that it sounded like they were riding on square wheels — and we lost a few more from our group as they ran for the 2 a.m. ferry. We circled back to the last stop, a new place, Karl's Klipper in St. George (The Real McCoy has since been replaced by a new pizza place that seemed a little too Belmar for our speed).

There are some girls in Karl's Klipper yelling out the lyrics to "Sex on Fire," which was Jayson Werth's walk-up music in 2009. My mind drifts toward Jayson Werth and his contract year . . . and I'm still thinking about Howard looking at that last strike. Meanwhile, Jen goes into a bit about Morgan Freeman, which probably doesn't merit an explanation beyond which to say that I think she was somehow trying to take her mind off of the loss.

It's 2:15 or so and most of us are tired and hinting that it would be nice to get on the 3 a.m. ferry. We finish the last of our drinks and start to get our stuff together. By this point, Bates has donned some sort of Halloween wig and is joining in with the girls at the bar: "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn! Well that's alright because I like the way it hurts!" We finally get him to ditch the wig and leave the sing-a-long behind. We make the 3 a.m. ferry back to Manhattan in plenty of time — fortunately we can still buy 16-ounce tall boys, and that really is the best deal in town.

Staten Island Ferry, New York City, October 24, 2010, 3:01 a.m.

We leave everyone behind at Water Street with their cabs home and Jen and I head over to the Bowling Green station. It's not until we get to the subway platform that she admits that she's sad. I agree. Then the thing that first bothered me about Howard striking out in the third inning finally comes into focus.

The other day ESPN's Jim Rome "burned on" the fact that Jimmy Rollins wasn't bunting the runner over in Game 4, the game where the Giants went up 3-1 in the series. What really bothered me about that third inning Howard strikeout wasn't that he struck out — we had seen Howard strike out that way many times over the course of the season — but rather that he struck out with runners on first and second and no one out. Now I know it's not the kind of thing that cleanup hitters "do," but in a must-win Game 6, why the fuck can't Ryan Howard bunt? I know it's lame or whatever to have your big slugger bunt like he's some weakling shortstop or pitcher or whatever, but wouldn't you rather have Ryan Howard swallow his pride and help manufacture a run than have the team end its season? I don't get it. And it doesn't make sense when Charlie Manuel already went "unorthodox" by pitching Roy Oswalt in relief in Game 4 before some of his other relievers. Ryan Howard should have sucked it up and bunted. I'm convinced this is a big reason they lost this game.

On the subway platform at 4 a.m. Jen thinks Charlie should be fired, but reconsiders the next morning — there's only so much a manager can do, and besides, they had their chances last night — a few of which just went the wrong way because of dumb luck. Neither of us have read any of the Philly sports sites yet. It's still a little too raw. Maybe tomorrow.

Posted: October 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Thrill Of Victory And The Agony Of Defeat! | Tags: , , , ,