I remember my very first Phillies game very well. July 6, 2009. The Phillies beat the ever loving shit out of the Reds, 22-1. I have a lot of memories of that game, but one has stuck with me for nearly a year now. It wasn’t one of the 290342 Phillies hits, or seeing Cole Hamels effortless on the mound. It was this: when Shane Victorino walked up to the plate for the first time and “Buffalo Soldier” came blaring out of the speakers, I actually said out loud “What the hell is that? That is the worst fucking at-bat song ever.” Neither of my sisters laughed, my parents rolled their eyes, and several people looked at me strangely. But I was right. It was horrible.
Then, about two months ago, NPR Music asked “What Would Be Your At-Bat Theme Song?” They got answers from several of their talented staff members, and asked for comments from the readers. It was pretty cute; each of the NPR staff members was given a field position, and the songs they chose were well thought out.
That got me thinking: what if I chose at bat songs for the Phillies? I mean, Utley has pretty much the most amazing at bat theme ever (Kashmir by Led Zeppelin), so I wouldn’t want to take this too seriously. Besides, that would rob me of the chance to choose a Barry Manilow song.
I decided that I would pick a song from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s, and a song from the player’s birth year. I would also look at what song was #1 in the US on the day of their debut in the Majors.
I’m starting with Cole Hamels, since he’s pitching today against the Mets. I had the most fun choosing Cole’s songs. He’s cute as a button and he always looks like he should have an overexcited puppy following him around. Cole could never carry off a Led Zeppelin song, or a Bob Marley song, or even a Nickelback song. Since the normal at-bat songs wouldn’t work for him, I decided to go another way.
Debut: May 12, 2006. #1 – SOS by Rihanna. I’ll admit it right now: I’ve never voluntarily listened to a Rihanna song. I have no idea what this song sounds like. But if the title is any indication, I’m assuming it was a prediction about Cole’s 2009 season.
Birth Year: 1983. Song – I’m Still Standing by Elton John. 1983, which happens to be the year of my birth, is chock full of excellent songs. This one jumped out at me, though, for obvious reasons. Cole went through the wringer last year, in my opinion betrayed by his own confidence issues (and lack of pre-season preparation). The acquisition of Cliff Lee mid-season probably didn’t help much. By the time the World Series came around, I hated seeing him on the mound. Not because I didn’t know what kind of game he’d pitch, but because he looked so…lost. Seeing him so unsure of himself was fucking painful, especially after everyone and their mother praised him in 2008 for his poise under pressure. This year he’s back and he seems to have gotten his confidence issues under control. He had a questionable few starts at the beginning, but by and large he’s been great. So “I’m Still Standing” is a fuck you to all the fair-weather fans and haters. Seriously, shut the hell up about Cole.
60s – Daydream Believer by The Monkees. Imagine it right now. Cole walking to the mound or to the plate with the chorus of this overly exuberant tribute to nonsensical lyrics playing over the speakers. “CHEEEEER UP SLEEEEEPY JEEEEEEAN!! OOOOOH WHAT CAAAAAN IT MEEEEEAN TOOO A DAAAAAYDREEEEEAM BEEELIEEEEEVER AND A HOOOOMECOMING QUEEEEEEEEEN?!!?” Try to think about that and keep a straight face.
70s – Can’t Smile Without You by Barry Manilow. If you’ve never heard this song, stop what you’re doing and listen to it. It’s so goddamn cheesy. This song was once a hit, please remember that. But everything about it just screamed Cole to me. The whistling at the beginning, the overly orchestrated climax, the delightful simplicity of the lyrics. Plus, Cole is practically a walking cartoon, with those movie star good looks and flowing hair. He has cartoon hearts instead of eyes. He smells of rainbows and rides a unicorn to the Bank. There is no other Phillies player as soft-core as Cole Hamels.
80s – Theme from Greatest American Hero by Joey Scarbury . Greatest American Hero plays right into Cole’s image. Not necessarily reality, just image. It’s just so upbeat and happy. Who wouldn’t want to hear that when they’re walking up? Believe it or not, I’m walking on air! I’m totally going to pitch a complete game shut out, because my Phillies uniform was actually a gift from aliens. Honorable mention: Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. Yes, this is the song you think it is. “If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain…” I can picture Cole in a polyester leisure suit and holding a pina colada with an umbrella in it, can’t you?
90s – MmmBop by Hanson. I considered a lot of songs for Cole from this decade. I looked at every boy band, every crooning singer-songwriter, every squeaky teenage bimbo. But I couldn’t escape this fact: if Cole grew his hair a little longer, he’d look like the long lost Hanson brother.
00s – Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. Until I decided to listen to it for this feature, I’d only ever heard snippets of Lady Gaga’s music on TV. Or at the grocery store. Or at the mall. Or on my computer. What I’m saying is that Gaga woman is trying to overthrow the government and rule the fucking world. I can’t get away from her. I’ve never voluntarily listened to any of her music (until recently for this feature), but I know her songs. They’re so goddamn catchy. Damn you, Gaga! Uh, anyway, this song is almost too hardcore for wee little Cole, but it’s a Hollywood kind of hardcore. All glitz and glamour and smiles and perfect hair. No Zeppelin-esque head banging. That would ruin all the styling!