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GREG KELLY
July 04, 2011
WHAT ARE THE BEST SPORTS SONGS OF ALL TIME? IT'S TIME TO FACE THE MUSIC
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July 04, 2011

The Ultimate Play List

WHAT ARE THE BEST SPORTS SONGS OF ALL TIME? IT'S TIME TO FACE THE MUSIC

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There are hundreds of sailing shanties, and there's Christopher Cross's "Sailing" and Jimmy Buffett's "Take It Back" (the best and perhaps only America's Cup rooting song). But nobody sings about the nautical life better than Aiken. He spends much of the year aboard a 42-foot cutter near Chesapeake, Va., and this simple ode to being on the water explains the appeal.

34 VAN LINGLE MUNGO

Dave Frishberg, 1969

It's little more than Frishberg crooning colorful names of ballplayers from the '40s to jazzy piano lines, but it's wonderfully entertaining. (Where else will you hear Max Lanier rhymed with Johnny Vander Meer?) The one discordant note: The song's mellow lilt hardly fits with the hard-drinking and combative Mungo—who, legend has it, once had to be secreted out of a restaurant in Cuba in a laundry bin to avoid an angry husband with a butcher knife.

35 STEWBALL

Leadbelly, 1940

It might have the richest history of any sports song. The tune was originally an English ballad from the 1700s telling the story of an 11-year-old gelding belonging to Lord Godolphin, who sent the horse to Ireland to race an uppity landowner's champion. "Stewball" made its way to America as a slaves' work song. In Leadbelly's version, the iconic bluesman urges underdog-loving horseplayers, "Bet on Stewball, you might win, win, win." A different version was a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1963.

36 AMERICA'S FAVORITE PASTIME

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' righthander 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."

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