LONG ISLAND CITY, New York — Most people who have seen the Hold Steady live have taken away two things from the experience: a bludgeoning hangover and a deep understanding of frontman Craig Finn’s appreciation of the Minnesota Twins.
Though he’s currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Finn grew up just outside Minneapolis — as evidenced by his lyrical output, which deals almost exclusively with dead-end kids doing dead-end things in and around the Twin Cities. And, as a lifelong Twins fan, he’s taken to delivering onstage sermons about the brilliance of pitcher Johan Santana or the intestinal fortitude of former first baseman Kent Hrbek during the band’s epic, fist-pumping live sets (see “Worshipping The Boss And Proud: Meet The Hold Steady” ).
“If anyone’s ever been to one of our shows, I’m always shooting my mouth off about the Twins, so people know what team I’m for,” Finn laughed. “I mean, when [Twins first baseman Justin] Morneau was named the Major League Baseball American League MVP last year in New York, they thought it was an outrage, and I had a lot to say about that when we’d play there — until some shoes started coming onstage, that is.”
And as a Twins lifer, you can imagine how excited Finn was when — as a result of an interview he did with a sports reporter who writes for Minneapolis/ St. Paul’s Star Tribune — he was contacted by Twins musical director Kevin Dutcher. He’s the guy in charge of picking the songs played in between innings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the stadium where the team plays its home games. Seems Dutcher was a fan of the Steady’s latest, Boys and Girls in America, and wanted to see if the bandmembers would be interested in some sort of collaboration. And, of course, they were.
“He thought it would be cool for us to record ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game,’ ” Finn explained. “He was like, ‘I’m gonna be playing your record, so it’d be cool if you guys could do this.’ It was all unofficial, but we decided we should do it.
“I mean, the Hold Steady, we’re all sort of sports guys,” he continued. “We’re more likely to be drinking beer and eating wings and watching baseball rather than collecting some obscure 7-inch.”
So over the weekend, Finn and the rest of the Hold Steady — guitarist Tad Kubler, pianist Franz Nicolay (a big Red Sox fan), bassist Galen Polivka (a Brewers man) and drummer Bobby Drake — got together in a Long Island City studio to record a decidedly Twins-centric version of “Ball Game,” complete with shout-outs to the Twin Cities (“Hey Minneapolis/ Hey St. Paul/ We don’t even care if we don’t get the call!” Finn sneers) and a guitar solo straight out of Aerosmith’s “Cryin’.”
The song is gritty and a little silly and totally Hold Steady, which already puts it above roughly 80 percent of the musical fare being bumped at MLB stadiums.
“We’re just trying to make our version of ‘Ball Game’ a unique one. Some of the music they play at ballparks is great — the Red Sox [use the Dropkick Murphys' cover of the obscure Standells song 'Dirty Water'] and that’s great — but I think I can do without ‘The Chicken Dance,’ I could do without ‘Cotton Eyed Joe,’ ” Finn said. “I think a lot of the players choose their own music, and generally speaking, baseball players don’t have the coolest music taste. I think your ability to hit a baseball takes away from your ability to like good music.”
The band sent the track to Dutcher on Sunday, and he told MTV News that he definitely plans on playing it — and “Massive Nights,” from Boys and Girls in America — Monday night (April 2) during the Twins’ home opener against the Baltimore Orioles. Which, of course, would be another totally mind-blowing event for Finn. But despite what you might think, it wouldn’t be the culmination of his ultimate Twins dream. That would involve some quality time with Hrbek.
“My favorite player on the Twins is Hrbek. He was kind of the heart and soul of those championship Twins teams [in the '80s]. And he seems like a winner, and he had a lot of fun playing the game,” Finn explained. “He just seems like a really cool guy to me. And he has this hunting and fishing show in Minneapolis that I really hope to be on, but only for fishing, because I don’t shoot guns.”