Baseball related songs: “America’s Favorite Pastime” by Todd Snider

In today’s episode of Baseball related songs, we pay attention to America’s Favorite Pastime performed by singer-song writerTodd Snider. For this song, Snider, who fought drug addiction several times, was inspired by Dock Ellis’ 1970 no-hitter that he threw after he took LSD.  

In June 1970, Pirate righty Dock Ellis threw nine innings of no-hit baseball against the San Diego Padres. That in and of itself is impressive, but Ellis did it while tripping his brains out on LSD. In his celebration of the feat, Nashville raconteur Todd Snider recounts this bit of counterculture lore by describing the hallucinations (“the ball turned into a silver bullet, his arm into a gun”) as vividly as he does the game play (“His sinker looked like it was falling off a table, but nobody was hallucinating that”). In the end, it’s impossible to tell which is America’s real favorite pastime: baseball or recreational drug use.

Snider states: “I felt connected to that because many times I have come to work unprepared and still done OK,” Snider says. “I think Doc Ellis gives unprepared people everywhere someone to look up to. He didn’t do it on purpose, he thought he was pitching the next day.”

As he spent time at the downside of life on several occasions due to drug- and alcohol abuse, he is trying to see the funny side of the downside of life. He was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which he says finally explains his depression. “I don’t know why a person with a job as good as mine, with as much freedom as me, would get as depressed as I can get,” Snider says. The intersection of these struggles and his music provides Snider with a way to get out of “the swings.” “I write a lot of songs going in and out of those types of things,” Snider says. “I kind of write myself out of those holes.”

The music Todd Snider is playing is a mix of Americana, alt-country, and folk.

The lyrics of America’s Favorite Pastime are as follows:

Dock Ellis didn’t think he was pitching that day
Back in 1970
When he and his wife took a trip to the ballpark
A little bit differently

So by the time that he hit the bullpen
Half the world had melted away
That’s about the time coach Murtaugh came and said
Dock, you’re pitching today

Taking the mound the ground turned into
The icing on a birthday cake
The leadoff man came up and turned into
A dancing rattlesnake

The crowd tracked back and forth
In waves of color underneath the sun
That ball turned into a silver bullet
His arm into a gun

I took a look all around the world one time
I finally discovered
You can’t judge a book

Three up, three down for three straight innings
In a zero, zero tie
As all those batters names come ringing
From a voice out of the sky

Hallucinating Halloween scenes
Each new swing of the bat
His sinker looked like it was falling off a table
But nobody was hallucinating that

I took a look all around the world one time
I finally discovered
You can’t judge a book

By the top of the seventh, he was up one to nothing
And giving them Padres fits
By the bottom of the eighth, he was up two to nothing
And they still hadn’t got any hits

With one out left to go in the game
The batter looked like a baby child
That birthday cake was shaking
Them waves of color was going wild

By the time that he mowed the last man down
He was high as he had ever been
Laughing to the sounds of the world going around
Completely unaware of the win

And while the papers would say he was scattered that day
He was pretty as a pitcher could be
The day Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates
Threw a no-hitter on LSD

I took a look all around the world one time
I finally discovered
You can’t judge a book

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