The first thing we notice walking into the ballpark for Game One of the World Series? The music, of course. “Friend of the Devil” is playing over the PA, which isn’t surprising, considering the Grateful Dead are still revered in San Francisco and Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery is a huge deadhead. Here he is singing the national anthem with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh in the NLCS—you gotta love that fist-pump by Lesh—but even in the offseason, Flannery plays with his band, the Lunatic Fringe, sometimes in benefit appearances for Bryan Stow and sometimes just for the hell of it. Flannery’s been a musician since a young age. “When I was young,” he says, “I thought I was John Denver.” I love Flannery for his gutsiness and smarts when it comes to, say, sending Buster Posey home against all apparent odds, but you gotta love him for his laid-back life off the field too.
Pomp and regalia are in full bloom at the ballpark, with bunting draped over every level’s banister and, after batting practice, old-time organ music: “Good Day Sunshine,” “Wait ‘Til the Sun Shines, Nellie,” and others played in that inimitable ballpark style. We thought it might be Dave “Baby” Cortez and his Happy Organ, who made a comeback last year, but nope—here’s a shout out Steve Hogan, the Giants organist who sits up there near the huge Coke bottle in left field and waits for instructions from the sound manager over whether to play “Charge” or “Jaws.” Watch this dry little video about his day-to-day task of tickling the Hammond, and try to tell me it isn’t the best job in baseball.
In the lead-up to the game, the PA represents both teams: “Sing a Simple Song” by Sly and the Family Stone, from San Francisco, and “White Trash Party” by Eminem, from Detroit. (Neutral parties are given “Intro” by the xx, among the best manifestations of bland neutrality since the “chillout” craze.) The way that Sly Stone has crashed and burned in recent
years decades, this might not be the best talisman of hope for the Giants, but not exactly to the Tigers’ benefit, either, since the Eminem song celebrates, uh, tramp stamps.
If you hate corporate branding, you’re sure to hate the decisions made about who sings the national anthem in the World Series. Of all the worthy Bay Area musicians to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” to kick off Game One, we’re treated to some schmoe from American Idol whose name is not worth remembering. This is Fox’s doing—their broadcast rights of the World Series include picking people from their own television shows to inflict on the fans. (The next night, Game Two, it would be someone from Glee; Game Three, Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), and Game Four, Demi Lovato (The X Factor).) This criminally lousy setup only runs through four games, and so if the World Series reaches Game Five, the corporate claws shall be retracted, and Aretha Franklin will do the honors. As this appropriately angry editorial notes, “Who else but Fox could relegate the Queen of Soul to an if-necessary Game 5 scenario?”
More PA songs blare before the game: there’s that inescapable song “Hall of Fame” by the Script, who are from Ireland, and who enjoyed the top spot on the Irish charts for four weeks. (They like comic books and late-night hosts; not sure if they’re that into baseball.) Then, like a breath of fresh air, the acapella intro to “Some Nights” by Fun rocks the stadium, and I’m reminded of listening to the whole album on an airplane recently, and reassessing its accessible Queen-like tendencies. Hell, it’s the World Series. Aren’t we supposed to have huge, bombastic anthems? Of all the songs played before the game, this one gets me pumped up the most, weirdly.
The game starts. Much has already been written about the Giants’ players and their walk-up music, and there’s a near-comprehensive page on the Giants’ own site that lists each player’s pick. Sergio Romo, he of the excitable tongue, goes with “El Mechon” by Banda MS, which may or may not be about an erection. Pablo Sandoval rolls with Drake’s “The Motto,” which became a Bay Area favorite after Drake shot a video for the song in the Bay starring E-40, Mistah F.A.B. and Mac Dre‘s mom, Wanda Salvatto. (Side note: the Mac Dre mural in Langton Alley has apparently been painted over, shit.) (Another side note: I’m still stumped at why E-40 abandoned the Oakland A’s.) (Another side note: former A’s bat boy MC Hammer is in the stands here at Game One, sitting next to Joe Montana.)
So the Giants are pummeling the Tigers, and Sandoval’s hit three homers, and Verlander was yanked innings ago when hooray, Tim Lincecum comes to the mound to “Young Blood” by the Naked and Famous, who sound a hell of a lot like Passion Pit. He’s dominant. Between innings, the usual get-pumped songs are played: “Shout” by the Isley Brothers, “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles, and the defining pop-music cultural moment of 2012, “Gangnam Style” by Psy. In the eighth inning, it’s “Lights” by Journey, and just as in the 2010 World Series, Steve Perry‘s there in the stands, singing into the camera, causing pandemonium when his face fills the jumbotron and reveling in public adoration while his former band members tour without him.
I will never tire of hearing “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” by Tony Bennett after a Giants win, even though Herb Caen, rest his soul, hated the song, calling it “a travel poster, and just as two-dimensional.” (The two guys who wrote it, partners George C. Cory, Jr. and Douglass Cross, apparently shunned the song as well and moved to Mendocino.) After the game, it plays over the PA as flushed faces congeal in a slow stampede along the walk-down ramps. Everyone’s cheering and hollering, reveling in the improbable win. I walk out to Willie Mays Plaza and see a guy in a World Series shirt and a Deadmau5 mask—EDM, thy shadow is everywhere.
And, of course, there’s the old guy propped up against the ballpark wall on Townsend, just like he is after every game. With his beat-up saxophone, case wide open, he’s playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the four hundredth time, hoping for the last scraps of change from a baseball season that’s been exceptionally good to this city by the Bay.