Dan Epstein brings it High & Tight with Rollingstone.com
Our pal and fellow OGB (Old Guy Ballplayer) Dan Epstein is also, as many of you may already know, and outstanding columnist and author, having written one of CBBB’s favorite books of all time, “Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s” – which, by the way, is coming out in paperback on June 5! But more on that later….
Dan’s got another current gig — one that combines two of our (and America’s as a whole) greatest passions: Rock ‘n’ Roll and baseball! He’s writing a column for Rollingstone.com called High and Tight, and it features rocks stars’ views on various issues as big fans of the legendary “National Pastime.”
Dan’s a busy man, but he’s also a great guy who always makes time for ol’ CBBB and his pal Tommy J:
TJ: Would you say the “rock ‘n’ roll” element of Major League Baseball has always bubbled to the surface despite what I would call the traditional, “Selig-ian” efforts to quash it?
DE: Well, like Dock Ellis told Donnell Alexander (and if your readers haven’t checked out Donnell’s recent Deadspin piece on Dock, they can find it here), “Whatever goes on in life, it goes on in sports.” Much of what we think of as “rock ‘n’ roll” behavior (including drinking, drugging, screwing, and carrying on in a flamboyant and entertaining manner) far pre-dates rock ‘n’ roll itself, so it makes sense that “rock ‘n’ roll” elements have been a part of baseball since the sport began. Babe Ruth may have been the game’s first “rock star,” but MLB players were certainly partying like rock stars well before he showed up.
And WHY do you think the “rock” mentality has managed to prevail?
Well, like Twisted Sister says, “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll.” There’s always gonna be some craziness that seeps through the cracks. Even in our era of bland players who speak in affable soundbites and try not to do anything that will jeopardize their endorsement deals and mega-salaries, there’s always a few free spirits who can’t help but let their freak flags fly. (I’m looking at you, Nyjer Morgan!)
How did High & Tight originate? Did you pitch the idea to the editors? Did they approach you first?
Bill Crandall, who’s the head of digital content for Wenner Media, came to me with the idea during spring training this year. Bill and I go way back; we worked together at SF/LA’s now-defunct BAM Magazine in the late 90s, and even nearly got killed by rednecks together during a pilgrimage to see Buck Owens in Bakersfield, and we’ve kept in touch since then. Bill’s a huge baseball fan himself (he turned me on to the MAC version of Strat-O-Matic — which, like BAM, sadly no longer exists), and he came up with the idea for this column, knowing that there are a lot of rockers out there who seriously dig baseball. He thought I’d be the perfect guy to do the column, and I complimented him on his excellent taste!
How did you get your contributors? Did you know all of them were baseball fans? Did you have to do some digging? Are they all close, personal friends of yours – so you already knew their horsehide inclinations?
I’ve interviewed several of our panelists in the past, like Scott Ian, Tom Morello, Alice Cooper and Ken Casey, and was well aware of their horsehide inclinations, as you aptly put it. I knew Handsome Dick Manitoba was a diehard Yankees fan, and I knew Greg Dulli was just as hardcore about the Reds; I had the LA book release party for Big Hair and Plastic Grass in 2010 at The Short Stop, Greg’s bar near Dodger Stadium, and we’ve talked a few times about the glory days of the Big Red Machine. And of course The Baseball Project guys were a “must get” for the panel. I wasn’t aware of Joe Pernice, Ben Gibbard, Steve Earle or Pete Yorn’s fandom, but Bill was, and they were all at the top of his “want” list. We sent out feelers to the artists through their publicists, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Has the passion of your contributors surprised you?
Not at all — they were all handpicked because of their passion for the game. Some of ‘em have surprised me by being a little fuzzy with their facts on occasion, but that’s okay; I usually know what they meant to say, even if they’ve gotten the names or dates wrong, and I fix it before the column goes live.