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Bruce and Baseball

Just so everyone is clear about this: Bruce Springsteen is a baseball guy. We're merely loaning him out to the NFL for the weekend.

"If there's going to be a lot of questions about football," Bruce told reporters at his Super Bowl news conference yesterday, "this is going to be the shortest press conference ever -- because I don't know anything about it."

That's our Bruce. If you stop by this blog regularly, there's a pretty good chance you're a Bruce Springsteen fan, because for some reason unknown to science, love of baseball and love of Bruce stem from the same gene. And if you love both baseball and words, your chances of also loving Bruce are about 95 percent -- which happens to be the approximate percentage of baseball writers I know who love Bruce.

Apparently, NFL writers, or at least this one, do not. Figures. Excuse me while I hitch up my "ill-fitting Dockers" and get back to my original point.

Bruce is a baseball guy. (Quick trivia question: Name the two Bruce songs that mention "baseball." One should be obvious. The other, not at all. First correct answer in the comments section gets a special prize -- as soon as I think of one. Honor system, folks. No Googling.)

Bruce's baseball roots go deep, well beyond the atrocious video for "Glory Days." (We also need to deal with his disturbing use of the word "speedball," as in "He could throw that speedball by you / Make you look like a fool, boy." I can honestly say, in my 12 years of covering baseball, I have never heard a baseball person use the word "speedball." Why not just go with plain old "fastball.")

Bruce was a scrappy infielder on his Little League team, which he describes here -- notice that Bruce's throwing form is better than that of Pat DeNizio of The Smithereerns -- and when he sang of "Indians in the summer" in the song "Blinded By the Light," he is referencing his Little League team, which was called the Indians.

In the 1970s, Bruce and the E Street Band had a softball team called the E Street Kings that would play games against teams from radio stations. Robert Santelli's 2006 book, "Greetings From E Street," has a great montage of softball pics, including some of Bruce taking some vicious cuts. (Think Dustin Pedroia in blue jeans, sleeveless jersey and yellow cap turned backwards.)

He is also a huge Yankees fan, for which he can be forgiven, and I've seen him on a handful of occasions at Yankee Stadium. (Once, I almost made it into an elevator with him, but was squeezed out. I've often wondered what I would have said if I had the chance to speak to him, and eventually I settled on a simple, heartfelt "Thank you.") On shows from Bruce's epic 1978 tour, during the legendary Yankees/Red Sox pennant race, you can hear him asking audience members for a Yankees score.

In November 2007 he played a benefit for Joe Torre's foundation and dedicated a version of "California Sun" to Torre, who had just signed on with the Los Angeles Dodgers, changing some of the lyrics to tweak Torre. (Wonder what Bruce thinks of Torre's book.)

But the best story involving Bruce and baseball is Bruce's own re-telling, during a 1984 concert in Pittsburgh, of an incident from his teenage days. It seems young Bruce had played a late rock show one Friday night and was too tired, or perhaps hungover, to play in his baseball game the next morning. When his buddies came to get him, he had his mother lie for him and tell them he was too tired. But they needed Bruce to play because they only had eight players and would have had to forfeit the game if he couldn't. So he relented and stood out in right field praying nothing would get hit to him. But then, around the bottom of the eighth, he started to daydream about a pretty girl who climbs over the fence and starts walking towards him. (Read a transcript of the whole story here. Yes, Bruce fans can be a bit, well, fanatical.)

"She's coming closer," Bruce says. "She says, 'It's too hot to wear this baseball uniform.' We're laying down in the grass. And then, all of a sudden..."

You can guess the rest. "Anyway," he says, "the runner scored, we lost the game, I suffered defeat and humiliation in front of my peers. And that was when I decided to give up sports and dedicate the rest of my life to rock and roll."

And clearly, that decision worked out well for all of us.

As for the Super Bowl halftime show....

Everyone has their own ideas about what Bruce's setlist will be -- I've been avoiding any spoilers who say they already know -- and the folks over at PostRock have a running thread of predictions.

Twelve minutes, four songs. Here is my best guess. Feel free to add yours:

1. "Glory Days." The opener has to be familiar and uptempo, and this hit off "Born In the USA" fits the bill. Alternatives: "Hungry Heart," "Dancing In the Dark."

2. "Promised Land." The concert staple, a warhorse from "Darkness On the Edge of Town," hits all the appropriate notes for these dark times -- redemption, salvation and faith. A better lyrical fit than "Badlands," but I wouldn't argue with that choice.

3. "Working On a Dream." Title track from the new record. The man's gotta move some inventory, after all.

4. "Born To Run." Is there really any doubt?

By Dave Sheinin  |  January 30, 2009; 8:17 AM ET
 
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Comments

For the trivia question, I think it's "Glory Days" and "The Angel" (I know there's a line on Greetings that says "baseball cards poked in his spokes".

Posted by: Freedog | January 30, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The Arizona Cardinals are playing in the Super Bowl. Gotta go with "Surprise, Surprise."

Posted by: BobLHead | January 30, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Congrats, Freedog. And you even saved me the trouble of having to type in the lyric in question. Shoot me an e-mail, if you will, at sheinind@washpost.com and we'll talk prizes.

Posted by: Dave Sheinin | January 30, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

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