The Baseball Project is the greatest idea ever and, unlike a lot of great ideas, the execution is pretty fantastic too. It’s a supergroup of sorts, consisting of Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, Mike Mills , Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon, and all of their music is about baseball. They just put out their third album — appropriately called “3rd” — a couple of weeks ago.
I just heard it for the first time. One standout song among many good ones: “They Don’t Know Henry.” It’s about how, for everything that has ever been said or written about Henry Aaron, not too many people know the real Aaron. As bandleader McCaughey put it in this interview with Riverfront Times:
So much of it was manufactured. It wasn’t him. People wanted him to fit into this niche and be this guy. He was never called Hank in his entire life. Nobody who knew him would ever call him Hank, and they immediately made him “Hammering Hank,” just like when Roberto Clemente came up, he was ‘Bobby Clemente.’ That was not him. That’s the kind of thing that was foisted on these guys, especially in the ’50s if they weren’t white. Aaron didn’t want to be a well-known person. He’s a pretty private guy.
People are still manufacturing things about Aaron. Using him as their avatar for battles over Barry Bonds and steroids. Pouncing on the relatively innocuous things he says in order to take political offense. As if Aaron were at the vanguard of these sorts of political battles as opposed to a man in his 70s merely offering his personal view on the matter or, in some cases, trying to steer clear altogether. It’s a no-win situation for a guy like Aaron in the era in which he came of age and into the public life: be outspoken and flamboyant and you get called a showboat (or far worse). Keep one’s own counsel and speak rarely, have others fill the vacuum with what they’d have you stand for rather than what you do.
Anyway, give a listen. And consider picking up The Baseball Project’s new album: