Sports Illustrated's Ultimate Playlist (cont.)
Todd Snider , 2009
Dock Ellis's 1970 no-hitter on LSD has inspired at least a half dozen songwriters. Barbara Manning and the SF Seals did the trippiest version, in 1993, but Snider, a countryish storyteller from the John Prine school, has the most entertaining. He vividly imagines the day the Pirates' right-hander no-hit the Padres after dropping acid ("Taking the mound the ground turned into the icing on a birthday cake. ..."). Said Snider, "As soon as I heard [about that game] I knew I was going to make a song about it."
John Stewart, 1975
After Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 -- with record times that still stand at Churchill Downs and Belmont -- the country clamored to see the colt race. But he never ran west of Chicago. Secretariat retired to stud, leading to this plea from Stewart to the horse's owner. Once you get past the clichéd opening, the singer implores, "Please Mrs. Tweedy/I saw him on the TV/Send him out to run in the California sun."
Buddy Johnson Orchestra, 1949
Two years after Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball came this assertion of pride in an African-American ballplayer by a black bandleader. It climbed as high as No. 13 on the charts, a measure of the excitement Robinson brought to baseball but also a window into the changing cultural scene in America.
Chuck Brodsky, 1996
Brodsky specializes in wonderful folk songs about baseball. In this one he keeps alive the memory of the first and probably the only white player to appear in the Negro leagues. Brodsky misspells his hero's name -- it's Klep -- but he gets the record straight on the born-under-a-bad-sign ballplayer who faced reverse racial discrimination as a pitcher for the Cleveland Buckeyes in 1946.
Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, 2009
Hornsby composed this tune for his score for Spike Lee's 2009 documentary Kobe Doin' Work. It revisits the basketball theme that Hornsby -- a starting center at James Blair High in Williamsburg, Va., in the early 1970s -- mined decades earlier in Rainbow's Cadillac and The Old Playground. Only this time the king of the court is headed for the NBA, because, as the song goes, "We been puttin' our time in while you playin' games."