Perhaps you’ve noticed the many connections between the worlds of baseball and music. Countless professional musicians are huge baseball fans and a large majority of baseball players would like nothing more than to be rock stars… speaking literally, not figuratively.
I’ve been hooked on both baseball and music since I was very young. I was given a glove and ball at a very young age, lied my way into little league at age 6, and was taken to Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field that same year. The previous year, my sister had brought home the 78rpm record of Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” and I’ve been addicted to music ever since. Those 78rpm records, by the way, were about as wide as dinner plates, and almost as thick and heavy.
I attended my first concert at age 12, The Four Seasons at Freedomland, a New York amusement park. Since then, I have been to hundreds, perhaps thousands of live shows, and I continue to catch live music every chance I get. I’ve seen Springsteen at least 15 times, and have also seen Barenaked Ladies and Tom Petty at least 10 times each. Jimmy Lafave, an Austin singer-songwriter who passed away this year, is another artist I saw every chance I got.
Daphne Willis is an emerging young star who I’ve become friendly with, after being introduced to her music by Clint Hurdle when he was our hitting coach in 2010. Daphne has a poignant song, “Somebody’s Someone”, which has over 16 million views on her Facebook page and has touched people around the world. Check it out on Facebook or YouTube and be sure to read some of the comments. And when you get a chance to see her perform, don’t miss it.
There’s nothing I like more than introducing people to my favorite musical artists. In 2015, I had the opportunity to take Daphne and Rhett Miller of the Old 97s to Cuba to perform a few concerts there, in front of 40 of their American fans and hundreds of Cubans. The success of that trip led me to arrange a similar group trip to Havana with Ruthie Foster and Seth Walker, but our timing turned out to be ill-fated: Fidel Castro died just a couple of days before our trip and the Cuban government prohibited live musical performances during a nine-day period of mourning. Fortunately that period ended with one day left in our trip, so Ruthie and Seth did get to perform an invitation only concert in a small venue before we headed for home.
The connection between baseball and music is personified by stars like Rhett Miller, a Dallas native who is a lifelong Rangers fan. Rhett and several other musicians started an email chain a few years ago in which they exchange opinions about baseball and very occasionally about music. The group includes members of REM, the Hold Steady, Centromatic, The Dream Syndicate and numerous other well known musical acts. A couple of years ago, I was invited to join the group and it has been an eye opening experience for me to witness people who I consider to be creative geniuses expending vast mental and emotional resources on the doings of their favorite baseball teams.
Several of the musicians in this chain created a sometimes band called The Baseball Project, which has 3 CDs, with all of their songs about baseball. Go to Spotify or iTunes and give them a listen. They don’t perform live that often, but one of my goals is to get them to Texas sometime soon.
Getting my favorite bands to perform here has become one of my passions. For two years I had the privilege of booking the bands at The Vagabond, a club on Greenville Avenue in Dallas. That experience helped me acquaint myself with the vast treasure chest of local talent as well as touring musicians who are always looking for new places to play.
Since the Vagabond closed, my involvement has revolved around the benefit concerts that I promote. For the last six years, I have celebrated my birthday in May with a benefit concert at the Kessler Theater in Dallas for Focus on Teens, an amazing non-profit that supports the needs of homeless teens who attend middle schools and high schools in DISD and FWISD. On January 25, I will present my second Fort Worth benefit for Focus on Teens, featuring Luke Wade and Grady Spencer, at Hyena’s in Sundance Square. Tickets are already on sale at prekindle.com. The birthday show will be May 10 at The Kessler, with the performers to be announced on January 24 and tickets going on sale that day.
I am most excited about a new concert series I am presenting at Cafe Momentum, the incredible Dallas non-profit gourmet restaurant that hires and trains juvenile offenders in all aspects of the restaurant business. Their founder-CEO Chad Hauser is a huge music fan and asked me if I would present an artist once a month as part of a Sunday supper concert series that would include a family style meal, beer, wine and champagne , followed by an acoustic concert. Cafe Momentum only holds 100 people so these shows will be very intimate and special. The first one was November 26 with Daphne Willis. The next one, January 28, will star Griffin House, an Ohio-based singer-songwriter who is one of my favorites. Future Sunday concerts will include performances by Chely Wright, Emily Elbert and The Sweet Remains, to name just a few. Tickets for these shows are on sale at eventbrite.com or on the Cafe Momentum Facebook page.
This off-season has been filled with wonderful concerts… Wilco at the Irving Music Factory, The Shins and Spoon at Red Rocks, Cirque de Soleil “Love” show in Las Vegas, BNQT and White Denim at the Granada, and several shows at my favorite local venue, The Kessler. The highlight will probably be Springsteen on Broadway in late December, a one-man show for which my wife won the rights to buy tickets in a lottery. (She is the only one I know who won, out of dozens of acquaintances who entered the lottery).
There are still plenty of performers I am dying to see for the first time. Ask yourselves what singer or band you would most like to see perform live. Topping my list is Stevie Wonder, who does not perform often anymore. But I will find him… somewhere… and will go wherever he is to see him. This year has seen us lose several artists in my age range… Leon Russell, Glenn Frye, Walter Becker, Tom Petty. I am more determined than ever to make sure I see my favorites while they are still performing.
If you would like more info on any of the shows I’ve mentioned here, or are interested in going on a musical adventure to Cuba next winter, send me a tweet @nadeler. I hope you’ll attend some of these benefit shows. I guarantee you will love the music and your money will support a fabulous cause. As always, I appreciate your loyal support and thanks for listening. And please support our many wonderful live music venues!!!!
ERIC NADEL is a Ford C. Frick award winner, and has been the radio play-by-play voice of the Texas Rangers since 1979. He is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame, and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.