If baseball is the national pastime, musical supergroup the Baseball Project — singer/guitarists Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate) and Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows), drummer Linda Pitmon (Zuzu's Petals) and bassist Mike Mills ( R.E.M.) — is its roving band of troubadours, decrying obvious injustices (Dale Murphy's exclusion from the Hall of Fame) and telling dramatically enhanced tales of on-field glory (like "The Day Dock Went Hunting Heads," about Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis' famed 1974 attempt to bean every player in the Cincinnati Reds lineup). The Baseball Project's recently released third album, "3rd," however, which follows 2008's "Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails" and 2011's "Volume 2: High and Inside," shouldn't be dismissed as a mere novelty record; rather, its 18 tracks explore varied shadings of guitar rock and musicality not often heard these days.
The Baseball Project performs at Hygienic Art Park in New London on Tuesday, July 22. Via e-mail CTNow asked Wynn about the various intersections between baseball and music.
CTNow: Are the instruments in a rock band at all like positions on the field?
Steve Wynn: Well, the drummer is obviously the catcher. They're calling the game, seeing all of the action and, well, getting to sit down all the time. Slackers! Bass players are second basemen. The glue, holding it all together, a pivot between all of the fireworks and hijinx. Singers are pitchers — drawing much of the attention but nothing without good support. Guitarists prowl the outfield, covering as much ground as they can, hoping to make highlight reel moves and all the while patiently waiting for their next at-bat.
CTNow: Have you ever adapted an older, non-baseball song you've written for use with the Baseball Project? That's not cheating, I don't think.
SW: I can only speak for myself on this one but I've never ended up adapting a non-baseball project song for our band. And I've never retooled a BBP song for another project. The songs we do for this band kind of live in their own world. I'd be more likely to say that I had an idea for an essay, a letter to the editor, a blog posting, a TV-watching tirade that got retooled for a Baseball Project song.
CTNow: What's the most ridiculous baseball story you've heard and ended up not using for a song?
SW: The steroid story is the most ridiculous and unavoidable baseball story and we've been drawn kicking and screaming into writing about it for a song here and there. There you go! We use even the most ridiculous stories! If it's interesting enough to be ridiculous, then we're on it.
CTNow: There's an underlying activist strain to some of the songs ("To The Veteran's Committee" comes to mind). Can music enact real change when it comes to baseball?
SW: Yeah, and Harvey Haddix tried to amend the record books. Didn't happen. And, sadly, I don't see Murph getting into the Hall of Fame either. Though he should. And will we help Bernie Williams get his monument at Yankee Stadium? How about this? If any of those things happen, we'll gladly take credit for it.
CTNow: Has being involved in the Baseball Project changed the way that you follow the season?
SW: Between the Baseball Project and being involved in fantasy baseball, I follow baseball much closer than I have since I was a kid. I mean, now it's like a full time job — I'm talking about fantasy baseball, of course.
CTNow: Who's the starting lineup of your fantasy league Baseball Project?
SW: Well, our-five man rotation [which also includes R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck] is a murderer's row, an all-star team, an unbeatable starting staff. But there's plenty of talent floating around on other teams. We'd have to get our A-game together to face a lineup of, say, Ira Kaplan, Will Johnson, Joe Pernice, Rhett Miller, Steven Malkmus, Steve Berlin, Ben Gibbard and Craig Finn, all top-notch musicians, writers and baseball fans.
CTNow: What's more fun: writing about a Hall of Famer ("Ted Fucking Williams," "The Babe") or a baseball story ("The Day Dock Went Hunting Heads")? I could see how they'd both be fun. In general, which ones seem to connect more with the audience?
SW: We've often avoided the biggest names — only got around to Hank and The Babe on this record. And we've barely touched on DiMaggio, Ty Cobb and some of the other big names. But, really, if it's a good story, we want to tell it. And there are plenty more out there.
THE BASEBALL PROJECT plays on Tuesday, July 22, at Hygienic Art Park in New London. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Information: hygienic.org.