Having attended more Yankee games this season than in any year past, I’ve become fascinated by the now de rigeur “entrance music” that each batter chooses to be played as he steps up to the plate. Mark Teixeira uses “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister; Derek Jeter uses 50 Cent’s “Get Up”; Nick Swisher uses “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” by the hat act Big & Rich. Fun stuff, and telling in its way, but pretty much what you’d expect from a bunch of jocks.
But late in the regular season, after the Yankees had clinched the division, I attended a game where they were starting a bunch of backups (who still demolished the hapless Kansas City Royals), among them the 30-year-old Shelley Duncan, whose impressive slugging in Triple A never quite seems to translate to the big leagues. But what an entrance-music choice! He strode to the plate to the White Stripes’s “Icky Thump.” Heavens, could there be a bona fide Rock Snob in the Yankees organization?
This naturally got me thinking what song I would choose if I were a Yankee position player. My first impulse was to make a joke of it and choose the gayest, most antithetical-to-jockdom song I could think of, something like Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” or Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy.” (I am, after all, from a small town.) But I soon realized that nothing could top the cognitive dissonance of the Yankee Stadium grounds crew’s ritual fifth-inning pantomiming of “YMCA,” a song conceived by Village People svengali Jacques Morali as an homage to cruising.
I then thought that something vaguely alt-rocky and Shelley Duncan-ish would be good, but what? Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up” is one of the best pop singles ever recorded, and it has the right energy for a stadium, but the title phrase has become too cliché, not to mention redolent of steroid abuse. Big Audio Dynamite’s “C’mon Every Beatbox” is inspiring and dynamic but too English for the Bronx. The Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot” has sports-appropriate lyrics and the right geographical pedigree, but it could almost qualify as jock rock.
So for the moment I’ve settled upon Lou Reed’s “Vicious,” because A) Reed is so New York; B) it’s a good, rollicking song to step up to the plate to; and C) there’s something subversive and enigmatic, especially in a baseball stadium, about the lyric “I hit you with a flower.”