It's pretty safe to say that just about every hardcore baseball fan under the age of 80 has played some form of fantasy baseball at some point in their life. Whether you've managed a hand-picked roster of current players in a Rotisserie league or helmed teams of past major leaguers with computer-oriented games like Strat-o-Matic, Out of the Park, WhatIf and Diamond Mind, or just flicked the spinner of Cadaco's All Star Baseball, you're well aware of the allure of putting together an All-Star team of your favorite players.
Of course, you don't have to even play fantasy baseball to make lineups of your personal all-time greats; fans have argued over such things since at least the 1870s. But since this is a baseball and rock & roll column, we've been thinking about the ultimate rock & roll fantasy baseball argument starter: If you had to field a starting nine made up entirely of musicians, living or dead, who would make your team?
For this writer, James Brown would be the obvious pitching choice. The Godfather of Soul not only had more moves than Luis Tiant and Juan Marichal combined, but he also had the single-minded focus, intensity and self-confidence necessary to command a mound. Plus, he was so damn inscrutable, hitters would have had no way of knowing what pitch was coming next – provided he could stop camel-walking long enough to actually throw the ball.
Catcher: Bo Diddley. Though he wasn't a big man, Bo had the smarts, the presence and the authority that the "captain of the field" position requires. Plus, who's gonna dare slide home against a guy who wields a tombstone hand and wears a cobra snake for a necktie?
First base belongs to Clarence Clemons. Football was actually the late E Street Band saxophonist's sport of choice, but you need a Big Man at first and in the cleanup spot – and with Clemons' natural propensity for good vibes, he'd be an inspirational clubhouse presence along the lines of Willie "Pops" Stargell.
Second base and shortstop: A good double-play combination has to be able to work together smoothly and seamlessly, and it helps if both players share a similarly high level of ability. Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson's stellar harmony lead guitar work on Thin Lizzy's classic Jailbreak album clearly qualifies them for the gig.
Third base: Joan Jett. It never hurts to have someone with a "Bad Reputation" on your team, and she's got the speed, toughness and overall sang-froid necessary to handle the "hot corner." She'd most likely be my leadoff hitter, too.
Left Field: Paul Stanley. Every team needs a heartthrob, and the Starchild in his prime would totally fit the bill. Plus, the guy's got impressive range and agility, and you could always count on him to pump up the fans in the bleachers with his between-pitch banter. ("How many o' yew pee-puhl like PEANUTS AND CRACKERJACK?!? Aww-uh YAY-uh!")
Centerfield: Iggy Pop. Sorry, John Fogerty; you may indeed be ready to play, but I want a guy who's always willing to run through a wall and/or open up and bleed to patrol center, and the World's Most Forgotten Boy seems the obvious choice. And if he can't keep his pants on in the process, well, that's always more grist for the highlight reel.
Right Field: Marilyn Manson. The ideal guy in right has a cannon for an arm, a la Dave Parker, Ellis Valentine or Ichiro Suzuki in their primes. Manson recently told me that he has perfected the art of hitting a music festival soundman from the stage with a full water bottle. That's definitely the kind of power and accuracy I'm looking for in a right fielder.
Now it's our esteemed panelists' turn to pick their ultimate rock & roll fantasy baseball teams:
Name: Tom Morello
Band: The Nightwatchman, Street Sweeper Social Club, Rage Against the Machine
Position: Guitar, Vocals
Rick Ross – first base. His resemblance to Big Papi is uncanny, and hopefully he'll have similar results at the plate.
Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme at second base, because he can actually play baseball.
Hayley Williams from Paramore – shortstop. She's small, she's fast. She will be my leadoff hitter.
Flea – third base. You can always count on Flea, and if his dedication to baseball is even 1/100th his dedication to music, he'll be spectacular.
Travis Barker – catcher. He'll call a smart game, and he'll throw everybody out at second.
My starting rotation:
Win Butler of Arcade Fire – He has the height to be dominant and the eye of the tiger in ping pong, which I'm pretty sure will translate to the mound.
Bruce Springsteen – Check out his splitter in the "Glory Days" video.
Snoop Dogg – He will baffle hitters with a smoked-out knuckleball release.
James Hetfield – He will certainly be an intimidating, Al Hrabosky-like presence on the mound.
Lady Gaga will be my closer, because she'll scare the shit out of any batter unlucky enough to come up in the 9th inning.
My manager will be Chuck D, because everyone should do what he says anyway, on the field and off. And my bench coach will be Carlos Santana, who will bring a soothing Zen-like presence to the clubhouse, and he can also wail a Latin-tinged National Anthem before every game to set the tone for our World Series push.
Name: Joshua Epstein
Band: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Position: Vocals, Keyboards
1B: Glenn Danzig. All that muscle must make him a basher .
2B: Flea. He is spry and agile and has quick fingers .
SS: George Harrison. He had a tranquility that would have been healthy in a shortstop.
3B: Henry Rollins. He seems so angry, and you need a fire to play third.
C: Stephen Malkmus. You need smarts to play catcher, and Steve has often proved that a Stanford education is no joke.
CF: Thom Yorke. I wouldn't have pegged him as an athlete until all of the footage of him dancing surfaced, but he's got some footwork fundamentals.
RF: Ozzy Ozbourne. Every team needs a "wild thing." Ozzy would be entertaining out there.
LF: Mick Jagger. The most durable musician of all time would have been a baseball iron man.
DH: Notorious B.I.G. He looks like David Ortiz in stature, and he could probably hit bombs .
Name: Handsome Dick Manitoba
P: Jimi Hendrix (I assume Jimi was a lefty!)
C: Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (bassist, Dictators, Twisted Sister) or John Entwistle (bassist, the Who). Do I REALLY have to explain WHY?
2B: Scott Ian (Anthrax). A scrapper if I've ever seen one.
3B: Bruce Springsteen. One tough fuck for the hot corner.
SS: J.P. "Thunderbolt" Patterson, my drummer, for sheer athletic ability.
LF: John Lennon. (Gotta get a Beatle in here!)
CF: Roger Daltrey, 'cause I get the feeling he's fast as fuck.
RF: Ross the Boss, my guitarist, for his fearlessness and rifle arm.
I would have me relief pitching from the port side. Gimme the ball late, with no chance for failure. Do or die. That's the way I like it, uh huh!
Manager: Tom Morello, 'cause that man got his shit together, and any man that will stay with a team that's been losing for over 100 years has the kind of "intestinal fortitude" necessary to manage my team!
Name: Vinnie Paul
Band: Hellyeah, Pantera
To start with, I would be the catcher! As a drummer, I'm always in the backbone role, and the catcher is the only guy that's involved in every play of the game! Period! My first baseman would be a great lefty, so I got Jimi Hendrix! I got Eddie Van Halen on second and his brother Alex at shortstop, 'cause I gotta be strong up the middle and they know how to "stay frosty." Third base would be held down by thunderfoot John Bonham! My outfield has got to be made up of madmen, so I'm rollin' with Bon Scott in left field, Corey Taylor in center, and I gotta have Ozzy in right so every pop-up is a crazy adventure. And my starting pitcher would be Mick Jagger, 'cause he's got sticky fingers! Hell yeah!
Name: Steve Wynn
Band: The Baseball Project
Position: Vocals, Guitar
C: Peter Asher – Dependable. Understood the mechanics, became a manager .
1B: Howlin' Wolf – The right body type. 300 pounds of muscly man.
2B: Johnny Ramone – speedy, nimble, always got the job done.
3B: Iggy Pop – Quick, good instincts, not afraid to dive to get the job done.
SS: A platoon of myself and Scott McCaughey – Not a lot of hits, but we cover a lot of ground and can hold the team together .
LF: Leigh Stephens (Blue Cheer) – Lots of power, didn't necessarily cover a lot of ground.
CF: John Fogerty – Needless to say.
RF: Pete Townshend – Great arm. That windmill could throw out anyone at the plate .
SP: Bob Dylan – Wild and unpredictable in his youth, wily and one step ahead of the competition as he got older .
Name: Scott McCaughey
Band: The Baseball Project, The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows
Position: Guitar, Vocals
Pitcher is easy: I'm going with Jack McDowell, who plays the right guitars and writes songs and was a badass mo-fo on the mound.
Catcher: Frosty, who was Lee Michaels' drummer – I want him blocking the plate.
First base: Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol – he's got a great wingspan, a good stretch.
Second base: You want a scrappy support player – let's say Sylvain Sylvain.
Shortstop: It's between the very musical Omar Vizquel and moody field general Van Morrison.
Third base: who better to man the hot corner than Arthur Brown, the god of hellfire?
Outfield: In the tradition of Jesus, Matty and Felipe Alou's brief stint manning the green grass of Candlestick, I'll go with the Gibbs – Barry in center, Maurice in left and Robin in right. Sweet harmony out there, chasing down the balls in the gap.
Name: Steve Earle
Position: Vocals, Guitar
P: Jimi Hendrix
C: Jack Casady
1B: Bud Powell
2B: Louis Armstrong
3B: Charlie Parker
SS: Thelonious Monk
LF: Earl Scruggs
CF: John Bonham
RF: Ron Carter
Name: Ken Casey
Band: Dropkick Murphys
Position: Bass guitar, Vocals
P: Sid Vicious
C: G.G. Allin (he'd make them nervous in the batter's box)
1B: Frank Sinatra
SS: Angus Young
3B: Any Ramone
LF: Dicky Barrett
CF: Jeff DaRosa
RF: Vinny Stigma
Name: George Thorogood
Band: George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Position: Vocals, Guitar
Leading off and playing 2nd base: Junior Thorobueno
CF: John Fogerty
RF: Jeff Simon
LF: Glenn Frey
C: Count Basie
SS: Duke Ellington
1B: John Hammond
3B: Alice Cooper
P: Nat King Cole
Name: Alice Cooper
Tico Torres – Catcher
Sebastian Bach – 1st Base
Iggy Pop – 2nd Base
Slash – 3rd Base
Ozzy Osbourne – Right Field
Alice Cooper – Left Field
Steven Tyler – Centerfield
Ronnie Wood – Shortstop
Bob Dylan – Pitcher
Name: Ben Gibbard
Band: Death Cab for Cutie
Position: Vocals, Guitar
I would pick only pasty British musicians who had never played the sport, and let them choose their own positions. The resulting chaos would prove thoroughly entertaining.
Dan Epstein's book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s, is now available in paperback.