GRAND RAPIDS — I remember coaching boys basketball in the early-to-mid-90’s and every player had the CD “Jock Jams, Volume 1.”

Someone in the locker room always had a boom box and before and after practice, songs from that collection would be pounding out through the chintzy boom box speakers.

I believe the first track was boxing announcer Michael Buffer shouting “Let’s Get Ready to RUMBLE!”

Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll” was perhaps the most popular song on the CD and was played in stadiums all over the country; even today I hear it once in a while.

“Pump up the Volume,” C&C and the Music Factory’s “Gonna Make you Sweat, Everybody Dance Now,” Tag Team’s “Whoomp! There It Is,” and “Tootsie Roll” seemed to be the favorites at that time. From 1995 to 1999, ESPN had a series of these Jock Jams CD’s that featured the biggest sports anthems of the 80’s and 90’s.

Music has always played a part in sport. Sometimes maybe it goes overboard. When I attended a Timberwolves game last year I just couldn’t take it; the music was non-stop. It wasn’t just played pre-game and at half time and during time outs; it was on non-stop the entire game.

Maybe I’m out of the NBA fan demographic, I don’t know, but it would take a whole lot of bribing to get me to attend another game. It was music (if one could call it that) overload!

Music at baseball games isn’t as obnoxious. There are walk-up songs for the batters and there’s music inbetween innings when fans aren’t watching the famous racing sausages or other giant mascots running around the field or laughing at some guy kissing the guy next to him when the “Kiss-Cam” puts love birds on the big screen.

Music can fire up the fans. I have to admit, the organist playing that short six-note tune followed by the crowd yelling “CHARGE” may have worn out its welcome. It’s like “the Wave,” – great in its day, but getting a little old. Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” is a classic with its familiar “na na, na na na na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye” – a great song to sing as the hometown crowd bids a nasty goodbye to the losing visitors.

I remember when the White Sox pitcher Black Jack McDowell was chased from a game against the Twins at the Dome in the fourth or fifth inning. As he was walking off the mound after being pulled, the Twins PA guy played “Hit the Road Jack, and don’t you come back no more, no more.” Fantastic. Perfect song, perfect occasion. Everyone sang along. Black Jack wasn’t too happy.

Who doesn’t equate “Sweet Georgia Brown” with the Globetrotters and Meadow Lark Lemon and laughs? When Bill Musselman’s Gophers warmed up to “Sweet Georgia Brown’ in the early 1970’s, Williams Arena absolutely rocked.

“We are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You” by Queen are classic sports tunes. A song that makes me think about baseball is “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” the song from the movie “Dirty Dancing” – not because it refers to the game; it was the song played in the Twins World Series videos.

I used to announce Hibbing Legion games from the Dick Varichak Press Box at Hibbing’s Bennett Park. Current Mesabi Community College baseball coach Chris Vito would sit up with me and keep stats. Vito was always in charge of the music. For some reason he always played Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” (I have no idea why) and Canned Heat’s “Going Up the Country.”

Music and Sports – they were meant for each other.

There have also been a number of songs about sports heroes.

I don’t believe any athlete has been immortalized in song more often than Joe Dimaggio.

The most popular line about Joe was from Paul Simon’s “Mrs. Robinson.” “Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. What’s that you say Mrs. Robinson, Joltin’Joe has left and gone away?”

“Centerfield” by John Fogerty features Dimaggio as does Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” One of the first songs mentioning Joe and maybe the song most associated with him was Les Brown’s Orchestra’s “Joltin Joe Diamaggio,” which came out in the early 1940’s.

In 2016, Vulfpeck released a song called” 1 for 1 Dimaggio”; the chorus repeating “swing batter batter swing batter batter uh, swing batter batter swing batter batter swing…”

Jenifer Lopez’s “I Am Gonna Be Allright” states “like Ginger from ‘casino’and now you a pro, we was like Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.”

Willie Mays is right up there as well. Jimmy Reed’s “Crazy About Oklahoma” and Dan Bern’s “Oh Sister” mention Willie. Wu-Tang Chung mentions Mays in “For Heaven’s Sake” while Run DMC featured him in “What’s Next.”

Probably the most well-known song about Mays is “Say Hey,” a song that came out in 1954, and may be one of the greatest baseball songs of all time.

In the mid-1970’s “Float Like a Butterfly Sting Like a Bee” was released, one of a half dozen songs about Muhammad Ali.

Magic Johnson, Mickey Mantle, Sugar Ray Robinson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Sonny Liston, and Ric Flair have all been immortalized in song as has Rod Carew, who was sung about in the Beastie Boys “Sure Shot, Rod Carew” and Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah song.

I’m seriously thinking about writing a song about Miguel Sano. I’m having some difficulty however, finding a word that rhymes with “whiff.” Seriously, I hope I get to see the big guy step in the batter’s box soon. Both Florida’s and Arizona’s governors have put out the welcome mat for Major League Baseball to begin play in their respective states and barring unforeseen circumstances we may see some ball played starting July 1. I can’t wait. I want to hear one of my favorite sports songs – “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”- again.


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