The 200: 34-17

Whoops. This was written, but never actually posted. So, we’re a little out of order.

We come to the Second Set of songs from the top, the real meat and potatoes here. Now, you have to pretend I said that last sentence in a historically gravelly voice, since it’s lifted from former WNEW-FM disc jockey Scott Muni when the station used to broadcast its annual Memorial Day Top 1027 songs of all-time.

Unlike the Modern Rock 500, broadcast by WOXY annually over the same weekend, the top of WNEW’s list barely changed from year to year. Stairway to Heaven was always No. 1, followed by Born to Run, Layla and Baba O’Riley. While only Springsteen was represented on my countdown, I like the Who and I can tolerate a lot of Zep. On the other hand, my life has been Clapton-free for a very  long time.


34           Breathe Me   Sia (You Tube)

33           Subdivisions         Rush     

32           Lovecraft In Brooklyn         The Mountain Goats

31           Here’s Where The Story Ends   The Sundays   

30           When Doves Cry    Prince

29           Another Nail In My Heart   Squeeze                             

28           Mighty K.C.   For Squirrels

27           Born To   Jesca Hoop (You Tube)

26           Sultans Of Swing    Dire Straits

25           Ears Ring   Rainer Maria

24           Deeper Into Movies   Yo La Tengo (You Tube)

23           City Of Angels      The Distillers 

22           Pop Goes The World   Men Without Hats

21           New Slang    The Shins 

20           These Days   R.E.M. 

19           Left Of Center      Suzanne Vega Feat. Joe Jackson

18           Ace Of Spades     Motorhead

17           Time After Time   Cyndi Lauper    


33. As alluded to in the intro, there aren’t many holdovers from my high-school era “Classic Rock” fandom period in my musical rotation today, but I’ll always have a soft spot for these Canadian boys.

25. In 2006, I attended a Rainer Maria show at Metro in Chicago, with 10-year-old Ian in tow (it was an all-ages event). It was his first concert. RM was the third of four bands on the bill, and we left midway through the headliner, as he was starting to lag. On our way out, I saw the charming lead vocalist for the three-piece outfit, Caithlin De Marrais, talking to some fans. I walked by, as I was wont to do. Only after I got out did I realize that Ian most certainly would have liked to get the chance to meet her, and she probably would have been amused to meet the only pre-teen in the crowd. When I got home, I sent her an email through the band’s website, and she responded with a nice note to Ian telling him how she saw us at the show, and hoped we’d stop by to talk. He liked that. The band is back together now, and I’d like nothing more than to go see them again, accompanied by a twenty-something Ian.

22. They weren’t one-hit wonders. They had two hits, and this was the much, much better one.

20. Not included on this list, but REM supplied the song for my 1992 nuptials. For our first song, Kem had this cool idea to invite the entire wedding party on the floor for the first dance. The DJ then played about 15 seconds from a sappy love song, before breaking into “It’s the End of the World As We know It (And I Feel Fine). The rest of the wedding party was stunned when it happened, while everyone else at the reception kind of crept closer to see what the heck was going on, including a bunch of little kids dancing just off the floor. It really set the tone. Also, if you give it some thought, it’s not a bad idea for a wedding song.

Oddly, years later I was reading a Chicago Tribune piece of reader-submitted fun wedding reception stories, and a couple mentioned how they had done the exact same thing, and I concluded they had to have heard about it from someone who went to our reception. It was just too damn identical in the details to be a coincidence.

19. I always felt no song did a better job of capturing that all-too common sense of alienation so many teens experience. The song was the highlight of my all-time favorite movie soundtrack, Pretty in Pink.

18. See 166.

Ode from an Apologist

A while back, I alluded to a future column on Dusty Baker. This is it.

Ol’ Dusty was ousted at the end of the 2017 postseason, when his Nationals team failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the fourth time since the 2012 season. Over the past two seasons, Baker has guided the Nats to 192 regular season wins, but lost back-to-back five-game series in the NLDS. This year was particularly painful, as the Nats hit, pitched and fielded better than the Cubs, but were unable to turn that into a series win.

There’s a good chance this was Dusty’s last turn as a manager. He’s almost 69, which is well past the point when most guys have lost a few miles off their managerial fastball (though in Dusty’s defense, his teams have averaged more than 94 wins per year in his last four seasons, so there’s no sign he’s losing it).

Perhaps more than his age, what might keep Dusty from ever perching himself atop the dugout steps again is the modern general manager. Today’s front offices increasingly want a manager who is going to unquestionably adapt the GM’s ideas and strategies, which is why so many neophytes are getting jobs. We saw that play out in late November, when Yankees GM Brian Cashman opted to let one of the game’s best managers walk so he could bring in Aaron Fucking Boone, a trade that is not likely to help the Yankees but will be appreciated by Sunday Night Baseball viewers.

So Dusty’s likely done. And if he is, it ends a damn fine managerial career, even if the conventional wisdom (at least among my crowd) doesn’t always recognize it that way.

Despite leading four separate teams to the postseason, chalking up 1,863 victories (all-time) against 1636 losses, earning three MoY honors and getting votes another nine times, and most often getting better results than both his managerial  predecessors and his successors, Dusty’s skills have often been downplayed by baseball’s fans. That’s because Dusty had the misfortune of turning in his worst effort when he piloted one of the game’s loudest franchises.

Baker’s Chicago run was undoubtedly his worst. From my vantage point in the Chicago suburbs, Dusty seemed to be going through the motions over the final two-plus seasons on the Northside, all the while crafting sad excuses for his team’s sad play. He struck me as a guy who needed a break, which Jim Hendry ultimately provided for him. And that break did him a world of good, as there were no more 2005-06 seasons on his resume.

But because Cubs fans have an out-sized voice in baseball discourse, Dusty’s Chicago term, rather than his more successful stints with his other three franchises, have continued to define him. What’s worse, the definition isn’t terribly accurate.

Baker earned a reputation in Chicago as the game’s preeminent arm shredder. He also got tagged as a guy who wouldn’t work with young players. The first trait isn’t any more true of Dusty than anyone else, and the second simply doesn’t have any evidence to support it.

Yes, Baker never should have rode Mark Prior as hard as he did during the 2003 season. And yes, it’s possible that workload contributed to Prior’s injury-racked career. Baker deserves to get dinged for that, even if it’s quite possible Prior’s shoulder was destined for the operating table regardless how babied he was.

And the rest of the Baker CV isn’t littered with tattered shoulders and torn UCLs brought on by Baker’s indifference to arm health. He’s got a few Tommy Johns and some other assorted ailments, but no more than you’d expect out of any manager who was around for 22 big league seasons. He may have worked his starters a little harder than seems prudent to us wing preservation speculators, but the track record on the injury front is comparable with his managerial peers.

That leaves Dusty as Kiddie Hater, the game’s anti-Roy Moore. It’s accepted fact that Dusty will never give time to a promising youngster when a grizzled vet can do the same job at half the productivity. Again, the facts don’t support that contention.

Baker made his bones with the Giants, a team run by an executive with a legitimate (if expired) reluctance to build with homegrown kids. Brian Sabean once gave up a first-round draft pick for the right to sign the perpetually mediocre Michael Tucker, which he could have done a few days later at no cost to the Giants. That’s how little he valued the draft at the time. But that time was a full year after Baker was gone from SF, showing the Giants’ aversion to kids always began at the top.

The simple truth is, Dusty wasn’t given much in the way of young position player talent to work with in either of his first two stops. The Giants organization preferred vets to kids, and acted accordingly on the team-building front. And the Cubs were in a decades-long stretch where the organization was unable to produce any position-player talent from the farm. But those teams had some young arms, and Dusty wasn’t afraid of putting them on the hill.

Moreover, when Dusty got to Cincinnati and Washington, he had no trouble turning over at bats to his kids, and was rewarded with various Vottos and Bruces and Turners and Difos during his final eight seasons.

Perhaps the most remarkable example of how the Dusty narrative differs from the Dusty record is with one Matthew Henry Murton. Cubs wisdom claims that Baker buried the promising Murton, short-circuiting his career. Not only is this wisdom inaccurate, it’s about the exact opposite of what happened. Over the course of his five-year career, Murton played more games for Baker (195 games over 2005- 2006) than he did any of his other managers. He also performed much better under Dusty (105 OPS+, 2.9 of his 3.3 career WAR) than he did under any other skipper. The truth is, Dusty extracted more out of the marginal Murton than anyone else came close to doing.

And a look at the guys he never gave real looks to reveals something else. They couldn’t play. There’s not a single young player that he buried who was able to unleash his talent elsewhere when freed from Dusty’s clutches. Not one. A couple of guys blossomed later, but they were guys that Baker found playing time for (Rich Aurilia and Edwin Encarnacion), who just took more time to develop. The more logical conclusion to draw from this was that Dusty had a pretty keen eye for spotting big league talent. Unfortuntately, that will never do for the Baker bashers.

If this is indeed it, Dusty Baker exits the game as an excellent baseball manager, of his history’s best. I don’t think he’s Hall of Fame good, at least not until the Hall starts inducting combo platter candidates based on the sum of a player’s entire baseball career, where Baker’s productive 18-year playing career can supplement his managerial case. But with or without Cooperstown’s call, I hope the future story of Baker’s managerial tenure better reflects his record and abilities, rather than the lingering bitter feelings of some misguided fans.

The 200: 16-1

So we’ve reached the end. The Top 16, plus one.

16            What Do All the People Know   The Monroes

15            Post-War Blues     Dan Mangan

14            The Life Of Riley   The Lightning Seeds (You Tube)

13            In Circles    Sunny Day Real Estate

12            Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards  Billy Bragg

11            Carry Me Ohio      Sun Kil Moon (You Tube)

10            Panic      The Smiths

09            The Band Played Waltzing Matilda   The Pogues 

08            Audiowhore   Archers Of Loaf

07            Two-Headed Boy  Neutral Milk Hotel

06            Wolf Like Me        TV On The Radio

05            Roscoe   Midlake                 

04            Understanding Jane   The Icicle Works (You Tube)

03            Civilian   Wye Oak 

02            White Lightning    Lowlife

(Secret Unranked Bonus Song) (You Tube)

01            The Bleeding Heart Show    The New Pornographers


16, 02 – Most of the songs on this entire list are from acts that had something of a shelf life. Neither of these did. The Monroes were a San Diego band that released an EP featuring the song, then suffered the common fate of a failing label, shelved albums, etc. before petering out. Lowlife was a Winnipeg-based band that released a single 7-inch, and White Lightning wasn’t even the lead single, even if, in my opinion, it is rock and roll in its purest form.


09-08-07 – If Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, the Pogues’ second album, isn’t my favorite record of all-time, then it’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel that earns that distinction. And if the Pogues are not my favorite band, then it would be Archers of Loaf. I saw all three of these acts on reunion-type tours, which isn’t the place you want to see them, but it’s hard to begrudge them the money that mostly eluded bands like these the first time around.


05 – I’ve written a lot of song parodies on Baseball Think Factory through the years. My two favorites were an 88 Lines About 44 Women remake about pitchers, and a version of Roscoe for Derek Jeter.


03 – The 2.37 mark of this song is my favorite moment in music history. It’s simply orgasmic.


Secret Unranked Bonus Song: The answer to the oldest/second-oldest question can be found if you click on the You Tube link. For my money, it’s simply the finest song ever written, but I didn’t think about it until after I’d thrown the rest of the collection together. And it might not really fit on this particular list.


01 – I read a recent run-down of the best New Pornographers albums of all-time. It ranked Twin Cinema somewhere on the lower side of the band’s catalogue, which isn’t consistent with most observers’ rankings. More remarkably, the reviewer managed to write up his critique of the album without even mentioning The Bleeding Heart Show, which may not be the top-ranked song of all-time on any other list, but is surely the band’s biggest song and the one they closed out my birthday show with. That list reeked of Slate-style contrariness. I hope mine didn’t.








TBtB: Seattle Mariners

Part 8: Seattle Mariners
As mentioned in the opening thread to the series, the Mariners’ pending name change was the final push for this entire project. Among the first of the wave of new parks in the ’90s, the House that Edgar Built has been called Safeco since it’s opening. It’s a name that’s served the facility quite well, has a common baseball term jammed in there, and surely everyone in the Pacific Northwest has the name ingrained in his head as the home of the M’s.
Now it won’t be, (Officially. Fans of the club will undoubtedly be calling it Safeco for years to come). Still, the home team announcers and local papers, TV and radio folk will refer to it by the new moniker, flummoxing many casual fans. Above all, that’s the kind of nonsense this endeavor was designed to prevent. Names are meant to help identify, not confuse.
Based on previous competitions, my guess is that our voters will be overwhelmingly in favor of just keeping the current name on the joint. No argument there, but we can still get adventurous and come up with some decent possibilities if we were opening the place tomorrow before we vote to keep Safeco, can’t we?
Ahh, a boy can dream.

Ballpark History

Built:  1999
Capacity: 47,943
Name:  Safeco Field (1999-2018), Something Crappy (2018-)
Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Kingdome 1977-1999. Pilots played one season at Sick’s Stadium in 1969.
Distinctive Features:  Safeco’s retractable roof leaves open air, the only of its type in the big leagues; Baseball Museum of the Pacific Northwest and Mariners Hall of Fame located there; Extensive public art space.
Ballpark Highlights:
In the first game after the all-star break, Seattle dropped a 3-2 decision to traditional interleague geographical rival San Diego in the first game played at Safeco Field. The Mariners entered the ninth leading 2-1 before Jose Mesa yielded two in the top of the frame, allowing M’s fans to instantly reminisce about the Kingdome days.

On April 2, 2001, in the M’s first game since Alex Rodriguez left to sign a record FA deal with Texas, new Mariner Ichiro Suzuki went 2-5 with a run scored in a 5-4 win over Oakland. It was the first of a team-record 116 wins, and the first two of Suzuki’s 242 hits in his MVP season.

During the 72nd MLB All-Star Game, Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park took requests.

In 2009, Alexei Ramirez reached on a single to third on a play that sent Adrian Beltre to the disabled list with a “severely contused right testicle.” It was a play that still didn’t convince the future Hall of Famer to wear a protective cup, a very Beltrean decision.

In the span of less than five months in 2012, Chicago’s Philip Humber threw a perfect game against the home team, a sextet of M’s hurlers no-hit the Dodgers (exciting catcher Jesus Montero and no one else), and Felix Hernandez tossed a perfect game against the Rays.

Going Grateful


Today seems like a fine time to unleash my inner Anti-LaVar.


I’m thankful I get to spend four unfettered days with my wife. That guy* who came up with the equation that the lack of something produces a direct increase in the warm feelings sensed by the primary organ responsible for circulation sure was on to something.


I’m thankful my wonderful daughter is also here, and that I engaged in spirited conversation with her for most of the four-hour car ride home. That was a truly stunning development considering her preternatural ability to fall asleep the moment a vehicle is shifted into drive, and to remain that way regardless how long the car is moving.


I’m thankful that Cormac and I have managed to avoid any explosions, implosions, collapses, fractures, dislocations, 911 calls or visits from the I-Team 8 news crew since we’ve been on our own. Just one concussion, and that happened while I was out of state. Woo hoo, not my fault.


I’m thankful for my in-laws, who have never once treated me like anything but family.


Yes, they departed this world far, far too early, but I’m thankful I was undeservedly blessed with the two best parents a guy could ask for. I’d swap the 30 years and change I got with Pete and Mary Lou Markham over 60 with any off-the-rack progenitors.


I’m thankful that our house’s vacancies have been partially filled by Erwin, our guest from Guatemala, these past four weeks. His visit to the states will end far too quickly, but we’ll appreciate his presence here long after he’s gone.


I’m thankful for my sister Amanda, No. 2 in the line of Markham children, but a clear No. 1 when ranked in virtually every other way. I wish I got to see her more often.


I’m thankful that 100 or so days into his Latvian expedition, Ian has yet to spark any international incidents. Keeping those fingers crossed.


I’m also thankful that in a month’s time, the entire family will join him in the Baltics for a week. Unlike our globe-trotting son, this will be the first time overseas for the rest of the clan, so I’m hoping we’re not totally embarrassing. I can live with partially.


I’m thankful for good friends, both ones I see regularly and those whose existence is primarily digital.


I’m thankful for the fine makers of heavy equipment, ERP software and steel, aluminum and copper and brass products, and for the work they do in driving America’s manufacturing economy. It’s a shameless plug, sure, but they really do pay my salary.


Happy Thanksgiving.



*His name was Thomas Haynes Bayly, in Isle of Beauty. I bet you didn’t know that. I didn’t, until this morning.







The 200: 50-35

50            Last Cigarette       Dramarama

49           Breaking the Ice     Mojave 3 (You Tube)

48           Insistor     Tapes ‘n Tapes 

47           The Whole Of The Moon   The Waterboys

46           Grey Cell Green  Ned’s Atomic Dustbin  

45           Girl From Mars    Ash (You Tube)

44           Windstorm    School of Seven Bells

43           Ice Cold Ice   Hüsker Dü 

42           Reason is Treason   Kasabian 

41           Under The Milky Way   The Church

40           Oldest Story in the World   The Plimsouls

39           Dear God   XTC 

38           Like A Prayer   Madonna

37           I Am The Resurrection       The Stone Roses

36           How A Resurrection Really Feels    The Hold Steady

35           Rapture    Pedro The Lion (You Tube)



48 – While I do love a good lyric, it’s not always a requirement. “And when you rush I’ll call your name/Like Harvard Square holds all inane/And don’t you know I’ll be your badger/And don’t be terse and don’t be shy/Just hug my lips and say good lies/and know that I will be your bail bond” is incoherent, but I like it just the same. I guess I mostly disdain moronic lyrics when it seems the author thinks they’re profound.


42 – Of my favorite bands, Husker Du is easily the one I most regret never having seen live, an unfortunate byproduct of not discovering them until they had just released their contentious, we’re sick of each other but we still managed to make a fantastic farewell album farewell album.


40 – If you’ve ever seen the movie Valley Girls (a much better flick than you’d expect, given the title), the Plimsouls were the band playing in the club when Nic Cage took the adorable Deborah Foreman to dangerous downtown L.A.


38 – What I said about the Pointer Sister’s song could be repeated verbatim for Madonna. I didn’t initially care for much of her catalogue, but was in love with this song from the get-go. Now, my playlist has a couple of songs from her.




A Friend Passes on Without Fanfare

Now that it’s the offseason, I thought I’d sprinkle the blog with some recycled content. You know, for the planet.

This ran in 1993. Its origins trace to a conversation I had with my editor and fellow baseball fan John Harmon, when we were old man lamenting the absence of kids playing outdoors, primarily baseball. I started writing this column in my head shortly after that conversation, planning it for my week off in June.

Then, about two weeks before my column was about to run, John wrote his own column based on that discussion. Initially I panicked, but I soon decided I could work his effort into mine. This was the result.


It’s hard to believe a man of such stature could pass away in obscurity.

The Republic has learned of the death of an American legend, Sandlot Baseball.

In ill health for the past 20 years, Sandlot, 155, was pronounced dead Saturday in a park outside Ogden, Utah.

Officials investigating the death said he was supposed to meet 12 boys, but they suddenly abandoned him when a 13th arrived to announce he had acquired the new video game, “Desensitizing Violence.”

Foul play has not been ruled out.

The exact whereabouts of Sandlot’s birth is unclear, but one commonly accepted theory says he was born June 12, 1839 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Still, Sandlot was never confined to one address, moving frequently and gracefully from large city to small burg.

Like Johnny Appleseed, Sandlot traveled the country by foot, entrenching the roots of the national pastime.

The seeds of the game took hold in more than a few local residents. Among those he befriended were the city’s hardball skippers, Columbus North’s Joe Preda and Columbus East’s Lou Giovanini.

“It seemed like everybody knew him,” Preda said. “But I can’t remember the last time I saw him.”

Giovanini also had difficulty pinpointing his most recent encounter with the legend. But the veteran manager had a theory on the demise of Sandlot and two of his buddies.
“(Sandlot) Baseball, (Backyard) Football and (Pickup) Basketball were all we knew. Maybe today there are too many others,” the coach said, pointing to younger kids Tele Vision and Play Station as prime suspects.

Both coaches said Sandlot’s ill health in recent years left its mark on the diamond, where today’s ballplayers aren’t as knowledgeable of the game’s nuances as they once were.”

From Sandlot, “you learned the game a little better,” Giovanini said.

Sandlot taught kids the strategy of the game, Preda said. “We knew where to hit the ball and when to squeeze bunt.”

The impact of Sandlot’s death is not just felt by those who made a career on the diamond. The Republic Editor John Harmon, who recently embarked on a fruitless mid-afternoon search for Sandlot, was also dismayed to learn of his passing.

“Sandlot Baseball played a large part in my life and other kids in the neighborhood. I hope we can at least keep his memory alive for future generations,” Harmon said.
“But you know, you’ll never really know him unless you were lucky enough to meet him.”
Sandlot is survived by one brother, Stick Ball, in critical condition at his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one half-brother, Little League, living comfortably at his estate in Williamsburg, Pa.

In lieu of flowers or memorials, Sandlot’s last will and testament requested one gesture.

The deceased has asked for 10-12 boys and girls to gather on a nondescript piece of property, with a ball (preferably in shoddy condition), a bat (most definitely wooden) and shareable gloves in tow. The will states that no uniforms be worn, no rule books carried and, most importantly, no adults present.

Sandlot was a firm believer in reincarnation.