Celebrate Opening Day With These 10 Superb Walk-Up Songs
You expect me to bat without a song to pump me up, bro?
If you know me, it’s no secret that besides music, I love baseball.
When I was in first grade, my teacher gave us baseball cards to learn math, and while I’m still terrible with numbers, I love the game that is based around them.
This year’s Opening Day Weekend feels extra special after having the delayed and shortened season last year. Also, enjoy all 162 games as it appears the league is heading for a strike next season.
In the early days, baseball games relied on fans and pep bands for musical atmosphere (Red Sox fans known as The Royal Rooters gave birth to “Tessie” back in 1903) before organists took over. It’s believed the modern walk-up phenomenon began when the White Sox hired Nancy Faust to play the organ in 1970.
Though not a baseball fan, Faust came to the team simultaneously as the legendary Harry Caray, who came to town after getting his start with the Cardinals and one year in Oakland. Faust would listen to Caray’s broadcast, which would make her think of tongue-in-cheek songs to play. As MLB.com explains:
She soon realized she could play specific songs that related to each player. After Caray referred to Frank Howard as 'Too big to be a man, not big enough to be a horse,' Faust played “I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet.” She once played “Jesus Christ Superstar” for Dick Allen and, after he homered when the song was played, the song stuck. Harold Baines, known for his quiet, almost shy demeanor, earned “He’s So Shy.”
Fifty seasons later, and a player’s walk-up song is maybe more well known than their number.
From my childhood going to Rockies games, to the places I’ve lived and ballparks I’ve loved to catch a game at, here are ten walk-up, bullpen, and team victory songs that define this absurd combination for me.
10. Randy Newman - “I Love LA”, Los Angeles Dodgers
This list would not be complete without this entry from everyone’s loveable shlub, Randy Newman.
After each Dodgers home win, this classic from his 1983 album Trouble In Paradise is played. As with many of his other songs, Newman is mostly sarcastic about his hometown in this case. Whether it’s comparing women and palm trees to homelessness or riffing on the awful Santa Ana winds, it’s hilarious to watch a full stadium shout out the chorus refrain of “WE LOVE IT” (sang by Christine McVie and Lindsay Buckingham on the record).
Newman later said the lyrics were ambiguous and that he loves much of his hometown’s culture like convertibles, redheads, and The Beach Boys.
Right on, Randy.
9. Elton John & Tim Rice - “Circle of Life”, Yoenis Cespedes
When the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes, it was a blockbuster move that helped take the team to the World Series.
In typical “Mutts” fashion, Cespedes had an All-Star season the following year before fracturing his ankle while taking on a wild boar. After missing over two years of baseball, he returned last year to walk-up to “Circle of Life” from The Lion King, a nod to him being king of the jungle.
8. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs - “Matador”, Vinny Castilla
When baseball came to Denver in 1993, a young Oaxacan with a golden mullet named Vinny Castilla was a massive part of its offensive success. The thin air-wrecking crew lineup would be known as the Blake Street Bombers, and Castilla would hit over 200 home runs during his time with the team.
In a lineup of amazing walk-up songs, Castilla always had the crowd going with “Matador,” and I’m pretty sure it’s also why “Vinny” was my sister’s favorite player. She would soon learn the hardship of Rockies fandom when the team traded him to the Devil Rays for some crappy pitchers.
When Jeff Cirillo showed up the next season at third base sans “Matador,” it was all over for her.
7. Styles P - “Good Times (I Get High)”, Manny Ramirez
Man Ram will forever be my favorite Red Sox player because he never took a situation too seriously, whether it was taking a pee break in the wall of the Green Monster while the game was in action or this high five with a fan. He knew how to entertain.
One of these moments of pure joy came in 2002 when he asked a clubhouse employee to play this as his walk-up song. Without screening it, the Fenway faithful were greeted by the Chipmunks refrain and classic lines like “I get high as a kite, I'm in the zone all alone, muthafucka 'case I'm dyin' tonight.”
That’s just Manny being Manny.
6. 2Pac - “California Love”, Kenley Jansen
Enough about Mariano Rivera and “Enter Sandman,” my pick for the best bullpen entrance song is Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen.
While the Randy Newman bit is amusing, Tupac and Dre coming over the PA system have meant the game is over for the last nine seasons. Although he’s not as dominant as he used to be, Jansen is a towering presence on the mound, and only this song could complement that.
5. The Outfield - “Your Love”, Charlie Blackmon
The only modern Rockie to make this list, Chuck Nazty’s iconic entrance stands out amongst the tepid Christian rock the rest of the team chooses. It is also what many locals would place at the top of their all-time list.
A full house shouting “TOOON-IGH-GHT” is a blast and something that I will miss while boycotting the team until the Monforts sell. Forget the Arenado trade. These guys are monsters.
4. AC/DC - “Thunderstruck”, Noah Syndergaard
Between his luscious locks and ability to throw the baseball like it’s Mjölnir, Noah Syndergaard has embraced his nickname of Thor.
While warming up as the start, Syndergaard was best with “Thunderstruck” in the background, but “Immigrant Song” has taken its place, and that ain’t too shabby.
It makes me miss a Sunday afternoon in Flushing.
3. Ozzy Osbourne - “Crazy Train”, Larry Walker
Before there was Chuck Nazty’s “tonight” or Ryan Spilborghs’ Gwen Stefani love, Larry Walker was amping up the crowd with Ozzy yelling “AAAALL ABOOOOARD.”
The young Rockies never had a slugger like quite like Walker before, and a whole generation of Coloradoans associate that bass and rattle intro with him.
2. The Standells - “Dirty Water”, Boston Red Sox
Like “I Love LA,” the Red Sox play this psychedelic garage-era classic after each home win. Like Randy Newman, The Standells were from LA and had nothing to do with Boston as the song is a cover.
I guess it works better than the folk activism of The Kingston Trio’s “MTA.”
1. Peter Gabriel - “Sledgehammer”, Dante Bichette
Dante is my favorite Blake Street Bomber and also had my favorite walk-up song of the era.
Between the pure 80s feel of the horns and synth, my love of Peter Gabriel, and my grandfather calling me “Sledge” as a kid, this one is close to the heart.
FYI, if you haven’t watched baseball in the last few seasons, Dante’s kid, Bo, is tearing it up with the Blue Jays and looks like a natural talent for years to come.
Everyone has a favorite karaoke song, but I’ve always had walk-up songs in the back of my mind.
I always associate closers with classic rock songs, so my two picks, if I were running out of the bullpen, would be “Silent Running” by Mike and the Mechanics or “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” by Genesis.
What would your walk-up song be? Let me know your favorite player’s song that I missed in the comments!