Cubs

Presented By Cubs Insiders
Cubs

There have been hundreds of songs written about America's pastime. Here are 25 of the best, in chronological order.

"Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio" —  Les Brown & His Orchestra featuring Betty Bonney (Single, 1941)

The Les Brown Orchestra was one of the most popular jazz bands of the late 30’s and early 40’s. This song was inspired by Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. It was written by Alan Courtney and Ben Homer and features Betty Bonney on vocals. DiMaggio won the MVP in 1941 and the Yankees won the World Series.

"Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" — Count Basie & His Orchestra (Single, 1949)

This one’s probably one of the most popular baseball songs of all-time. Originally written and recorded by Buddy Johnson in 1949, Count Basie re-recorded the tune that same year, and his version became the standard. The song was incredibly timely, as Jackie Robinson won his only MVP award in 1949.

"Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)" — Willie Mays with The Treniers (Single, 1954)

When Willie Mays returned from the Army in 1954, he was approached by a New York PR man named Ted Worner about having a song written about him. Worner got writer and columnist Dick Kleiner to write the lyrics and Jane Douglass to write the music and chorus.

Epic records gave the song to the Treniers, but insisted Mays be featured on the recording. Mays agreed and added some dialogue. Chicago’s own Quincy Jones produced the song.

 

"I Love Mickey" — Mickey Mantle & Teresa Brewer (Single, 1956)

Mickey Mantle teamed up with singer Teresa Brewer for the song “I Love Mickey,” released on Coral records in 1956. That same summer proved to be a great one for Mantle as he won the Triple Crown, batting .353 with 52 home runs and 130 RBIs.

"Brown Eyed Handsome Man" — Chuck Berry (Single, 1956)

Although it’s not a baseball song in and of itself, it bears mentioning here. Forgive Chuck Berry when he said, “Two-three the count, with nobody on. He hit a high fly into the stand.” Berry probably meant “Three-two” and we’ll cut him some slack.

The rest of the famous lyric, “Roundin’ third, he was headin’ for home, it was a brown eyed handsome man that won the game. It was a brown eyed handsome man,” was used in part by John Fogerty on his 1985 single, “Centerfield.”

"Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox" — Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers (Single, 1959)

“Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox” was written by former White Sox minor leaguer (and Chicago native) Al Trace and his friend Walter Jagiello. The title is a reference to the “Go-Go” White Sox team that made it to the 1959 World Series. The songwriting duo gave the song to Tom Fouts, leader of Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers, a popular local country band at the time.

"It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game" — The Harry Simeone Songsters (Single, 1960)

This song can still be heard at major league ballparks across the country. WGN AM-720 would frequently use it during their pregame shows leading up to Cubs broadcasts.

"D-O-D-G-E-R-S Song (Oh, Really? No. O’Malley)" — Danny Kaye (Single, 1962)

This song was a huge hit during the Dodgers' pennant chase of 1962 and describes a bottom-of-the-ninth rally against the Giants. It was written by Herbert Baker and Sylva Fine. Danny Kaye was one of the original owners of the Seattle Mariners. He and his business partner, Lester Smith, owned the team until 1981.

"Knock It Out of the Park" — Sam & Dave (Single, 1970)

Soul duo Sam & Dave were a few years past the height of their popularity by 1970, and this song was sort of the beginning of the end for the group. It failed to chart and the duo split up by June 1970, only to get back together less than a year later.

While the song is not actually about baseball at all, it features enough lyrical metaphors to qualify. Besides, songwriters Dave Crawford and Willie Martin might have been ahead of their time with some of the lyrical philosophies, as the current trends of the game favor the home run ball above all else.

“When you swing, swing for the fences,

"Hitting in a double play just don’t make no sense.”

"Catfish" — Bob Dylan (Unreleased, 1972)

Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy wrote this song as a tribute to Hall of Fame pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter. It was originally intended to be on Dylan’s 1972 album Desire, but did not see official release until 1991. The Dylan version is not on Youtube, so we’ve linked to Joe Cocker’s version, which was actually released first.

 

"Bill Lee" — Warren Zevon (Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School, 1980)

When “Excitable Boy” came out in 1978, Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill “The Spaceman” Lee became a huge fan of the album. He would even drop lyrics from Warren Zevon songs into his postgame interviews. Zevon took notice and by 1980 had written and released a short song (1:37 to be exact) about Bill Lee.

“And I’m standing in the middle of the diamond all alone 

"I always play to win when it comes to skin and bone”

The song features Glenn Frey singing harmony vocals.

"Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey & The Duke)" — Terry Cashman (Single, 1981)

Terry Cashman describes the history of baseball from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. The original picture sleeve for the Lifesong records single features Duke Snyder, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. The song shouts out 30 baseball players by name. The sheet music for the song is in Cooperstown, and Cashman was honored at Hall of Fame Weekend in 2011. 

"A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request" — Steve Goodman (Single, 1981)

Growing up in Albany Park, Steve Goodman was a lifelong Cubs fan. When he wrote the song in 1981 the Cubs had not been to the playoffs in 36 years and had lost at least 90 games 13 times. The song calls the Cubs the “doormat of the National League” and describes Wrigley Field as an “ivy-covered burial ground.” 

“I’d forsake my teachers
"To go sit in the bleachers
"In flagrant truancy”

Cubs general manager Dallas Green thought the song was too depressing and supposedly banned the song from being played at the ballpark.

"I Love L.A." — Randy Newman (Single, 1983)

OK, OK, so we’re bending the rules a bit here. The lyrics in this synthesizer-laden hit were more of a backhanded compliment, of sorts, to the city of Los Angeles — not baseball. However, the song gained newfound fame when it was used during a montage during the 1988 film, “The Naked Gun,” where umpire Frank Drebbin (Leslie Nielsen) tried to foil a silly assassination attempt by Reggie Jackson on Queen Elizabeth II.

The scene was filmed at Dodger Stadium and is still used when the real-life Dodgers win a game. Fun fact: The scene also features 20-year MLB veteran Jay Johnstone and current MLB umpire Joe West. 

“You can’t throw an umpire out of the game!”

"Go Cubs Go" — Steve Goodman (Single, 1984)

Steve Goodman wrote “Go Cubs Go” at the request of WGN AM-720, and supposedly to spite Cubs general manager Dallas Green, who was not a fan of Goodman’s 1981 song “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.” “Go Cubs Go” was recorded with several members of the 1984 roster helping out on the chorus. Sadly, Goodman died of leukemia on Sept. 20, 1984, just four days before the Cubs clinched the NL East.

 

"Glory Days" — Bruce Springsteen (Single, 1985)

The music video for this top-five smash, part of Springsteen’s epic Born in the USA album, featured The Boss pitching to a plywood strike zone at Miller Park in West New York, N.J. The performance itself was done at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J. The lyrics ooze baseball and Americana:

“I had a friend, was a big baseball player back in high school
"He could throw that speedball by you
"Make you look like a fool, boy.”

How did Springsteen fare in his imaginary pitching matchup? Not well. Padres slugger Graig Nettles got him — “bottom of the ninth.”

"Centerfield" — John Fogerty (Centerfield, 1985)

Fogerty actually came up with the title of his comeback album Centerfield before he even wrote the hit single (which was originally a b-side to the album’s second single “Rock and Roll Girls.”) Fogerty based the song around center field at Yankee Stadium. A native of San Francisco, there were no baseball teams on the west coast when Fogerty was growing up, so the Yankees were the closest thing he had to a team.

The song shouts out Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays and Ty Cobb (all center fielders.) The third verse of the song mentions the Mudville Nine from from the Ernest Thayer poem “Casey at the Bat,” and the third verse borrows broadcaster Lon Simmons home run call of “Tell it goodbye.”

"Right Field" — Peter, Paul & Mary (No Easy Way to Freedom, 1986)

This song deals with the pains of being picked last and playing the least desirable defensive position on the field. It became a favorite during live shows, and the clever lyrics were written by Willie Welch.

"Van Lingle Mungo" — Dave Frishberg (Dave Frishberg Classics, 1991)

This jazzy tune from Dave Frishberg is basically just a list of funny/entertaining names from baseball’s history. Think of it as a precursor to Key and Peele’s “East/West College Bowl” sketch.

"Talkin’ Softball" — Terry Cashman (The Simpsons, S3E17, 1992)

Terry Cashman became famous for his 1981 song “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey and The Duke).” The creators of The Simpsons called on Cashman to re-write the song for a Season 3 episode of the show entitled "Homer at the Bat."

Mr. Burns brings in a group of MLB players as ringers in order to win a softball championship against the Shelbyville nuclear power plant. Each player (with the exception of Darryl Strawberry) subsequently suffers a series of mishaps that prevent them from playing.

“Ken Griffey’s grotesquely swollen jaw
"Steve Sax and his run-in with the law
"We’re talkin’ Homer…
Ozzie, and the Straw”

"The Cheap Seats" — Alabama (Cheap Seats, 1993)

 

Country band Alabama released this homage to sitting far away from the field in 1993. The song reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1994. The teams featured in the music video are the Carolina Mudcats and the Chattanooga Lookouts.

"The Greatest" — Kenny Rogers (Single, 1999)

The late great Kenny Rogers released this tribute to youth and optimism in 1999. The music video features a little boy playing baseball by himself, tossing the ball up in the air. He swings and misses three times, striking himself out. It reached as high as No. 26 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

"Batter Up" — Nelly ft. Murphy Lee & Ali (Country Grammar, 2000)

One of the few hip-hop songs ever to feature a baseball theme, Nelly’s “Batter Up” was hugely popular thanks to its music video, which saw heavy rotation on MTV. If MLB is contemplating rule changes, “Batter Up” has some ideas. Bring your dog to the plate with you? Sure. How about letting the hitter round the bases in a convertible? Why not?

The song’s chorus is based on “Movin’ on Up,” the theme song to The Jeffersons, and Sherman Hemsley shows up in the music video. Nelly (born Cornell Haynes) is a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan and was named MVP of the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association All-Star game in high school. He was also scouted by the Cardinals and Pirates.

"Hardball" — Lil’ Bow Wow, Lil’ Zane, Sammie & Lil’ Wayne (Hardball OST, 2001)

Back when Bow Wow was still Lil’, he contributed a song to the soundtrack for Hardball. The movie takes place in Chicago and features a cameo from Sammy Sosa. The song features a shout out to Sosa as well.

“So many back-to-back hits they call me Sammy Sosa,
"Bubble gum, cards and all the posters.”

The music video is pretty straight forward with the rappers playing in a sandlot game spliced with a few clips from the movie. But it ends with Weezy hitting a ball into orbit and lays down a pretty impressive bat flip. The early 2000s were apparently the golden age of baseball/hip-hop collaborations.

All the Way - Eddie Vedder (Single, 2008)

Eddie Vedder attended several Cubs fantasy camps, and it was at one of these camps in 2007, with the encouragement of Ernie Banks, that “All the Way” was written. Vedder and Pearl Jam first performed the song at The Vic Theatre on Aug. 2, 2007, a concert attended by Kerry Wood and other Cubs players.

The version of the song that was released as a single in September 2008 was actually mixed from two different recordings. Vedder played the song on Aug. 21, and Aug. 22, 2008 during solo performances at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.

While “someday” proved to be elusive for the Cubs yet again in 2008, the song enjoyed another round of popularity following the Cubs' World Series championship in 2016.