When talking the quantity and quality of songs that celebrate it, no other sport approaches baseball. You've got Sister Wynona Carr's swinging gospel number "The Ball Game" and the Intruders' Philly soul gem "Love Is Like a Baseball Game." You've got entries from the worlds of big band, rock, jazz, bluegrass, polka, folk and country. Heck, you've got no fewer than three songs about the late Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis. And from North Carolina alone, there's Bruce Piephoff's "Big Foot in the Door" (about Greensboro's Tom Alston, the first black player on the St. Louis Cardinals), Kenny Roby's "The Sweep" and "Ace, My Radio & Baseball," and, well, too many to mention from baseball balladeer Chuck Brodsky.
Trailing baseball—and doing so by, in diamond-speak, about 100 games—are hockey and boxing. Here's a look at some of those sports' best.
"HIT SOMEBODY (THE HOCKEY SONG)," WARREN ZEVON (FROM MY RIDE'S HERE) — A good-natured co-write by Zevon and sportswriter/author Mitch Albom about a reluctant enforcer; it's been reported that Kevin Smith is making a movie based on the song.
"(I WANNA DRIVE THE) ZAMBONI," GEAR DADDIES (HIDDEN TRACK ON BILLY'S LIVE BAIT) — The Gear Dads excelled at chronicling the struggles of Middle America Joe and Jane, with this tale of a guy who doesn't even get to realize his dream of driving the ol' ice machine a prime example. (The Dads could also crash the boxing list below, thanks to their cover of Johnny Wakelin's disco-era hit "Black Superman" about Muhammad Ali.)
"(I FEEL LIKE) (GERRY) CHEEVERS (STITCH MARKS ON MY HEART)," CHIXDIGGIT! (FROM CHIXDIGGIT!) — A punk-pop winner (and the best use of parentheses in a title ever), this tune was resurrected by pop-without-the-punk band Cheeky Monkey on 1998's Four Arms to Hold You.
"THE HOCKEY SONG," THE HANSON BROTHERS (FROM SUDDEN DEATH) — With the Ramones and the movie Slap Shot offering inspiration in equal measure, calling the work of this Nomeansno spin-off "puck rock" is just too easy.
"FIFTY MISSION CAP," THE TRAGICALLY HIP (FROM FULLY COMPLETELY) — It would take a Canadian rock band to build a song around the mysterious disappearance of the Toronto Maple Leafs' Bill Barilko, wouldn't it?
"JACK JOHNSON"/ "MUHAMMAD ALI," TOM RUSSELL (FROM HURRICANE SEASON AND HILLBILLY VOODOO/ MODERN ART) — A pair of fine pugilist profiles from roots rock's premier character sketch artists. (Russell is also no stranger to the baseball-song world, courtesy of his Mickey Mantle tribute, "The Kid from Spavinaw.")
"BOOM BOOM MANCINI," WARREN ZEVON (FROM SENTIMENTAL HYGIENE) — No sucker punches here, just straight-at-ya Zevon: "But the name of the game is to be hit and hit back," he sings as death visits the ring. (And don't forget Zevon's baseball song "Bill Lee," a nod to the hurling Spaceman.)
"SMOKIN' JOE," THE BIG BAD JOHNS (FROM I WILL BE GOOD) — Ali's toughest opponent gets equal time, and the tune, which sounds like The Blasters going power pop, hits hard.
"15 ROUNDS FOR JESUS," SISTER WYNONA CARR (FROM DRAGNET FOR JESUS) — Baseball wasn't the only sport that metaphor specialist Carr turned to in her musical efforts to save souls.
"HURRICANE," BOB DYLAN (FROM DESIRE) — This song about middleweight Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, arrested for murder in the mid '60s, was obviously about much more than just boxing—and his story remains a polarizing one.