|Pitcher Barry Zito working on his
(photo by Carmen Hillebrew)
|W.C. Moriarity catches a few words from pitcher Barry Zito|
In addition to being one of the best young pitchers in baseball today, 24-year-old A.L. Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito of the Oakland A's is also a real music lover who spends much of his down-time writing songs, working on his guitar skills, and playing with his sister Sally's band at such Hollywood hot spots as Club Lingerie and Highland Grounds.
WC: So tell me a little bit about your family's background in the music business.
BZ: Well, my Dad started out composing and arranging. He was writing a lot of stuff, but he was a conductor, and he composed and arranged for Nat King Cole. And then he did a lot of arrangements for the Buffalo Symphony, which is one of the best symphonies in the country. I think they were a 104-piece symphony, which is about as big as it gets. And he worked with a lot of people. I don't know how much work he did with guys like Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington, but I know that they were all friends and he knew all the greats and hung out with all those people.
WC: So growing up, you had quality music around you from as far back as you can remember.
BZ: Yeah, I mean I was a little too young to know a lot of those people he hung out with because I came along in '78. And that was a little beyond when he was doing all that big stuff with those people. But I grew up in Vegas until I was 7, and that's a huge music town, as far as show tunes and lounge acts and all that stuff.
WC: So I guess we're lucky you're not doing a lounge act today!
BZ: Yeah, exactly!
WC: So growing up, what's the first band you remember really being into?
BZ: Well I was really into Led Zeppelin as a kid. But when I first started listening to music, I was really into hip-hop, rap, and all that stuff. Some of it's good, but some stuff is a little less than good.
WC: Do you remember the first album or CD you ever bought?
BZ: It'd have to be "Physical Graffiti" by Led Zeppelin.
WC: I guess that's the first album teenagers have been buying for nearly 30 years now!
BZ: Yeah, I know. But it's such a great album. It's two CDs. "Ten Years Gone" was probably my favorite song. But once I came out of the rap thing, I really got into classic rock--Led Zeppelin, Boston, Starship, the Doobie Brothers.
WC: You should have been born 10 years earlier. That's what was on the radio when I was growing up!
BZ: I know, man!
WC: Do you remember the first concert you ever went to?
BZ: Yeah, my sister Sally dragged me out to see Aerosmith when I was like 7 or 8. This was in the '80s, and she and her friend had their big teased hair and everything. I'm this little 8-year-old, and they dressed me up in slacks and a jacket. And they're all rockin' out! It was at the Sports Arena in San Diego, I remember that!
WC: So they were these big-haired southern California rock chicks?
BZ: Yeah, there was a big '80s thing workin' there!
WC: So what's the best live show you've ever been to?
BZ: Wow, I'd say one of the best shows I've ever seen was when I saw Ben Folds in New York. And it was his first-ever solo show, just him and a piano. He had always gone out and played encores with a piano without the rest of the band. But this was his first time doing it just completely solo. I mean that was just a moving experience! My sister got completely inspired by that. I flew her to New York with me and we got a hotel and everything. And it was such a big hit for him that he's doing a tour now, just Ben Folds and a piano.
WC: I heard you were just hanging out with him recently.
BZ: Yeah, that was great. I got a chance to meet him when we were in New York. And then I've been e-mailing his tour manager--he's a baseball fan. I just sat down with Ben for like a half-hour and shot the shit for a little while. It's great. He's just a normal guy. He lives in Australia. Just a down-home North Carolina guy, but with this unbelievable musical talent. And then the other show that I really loved was probably the only time I've ever seen Dave Matthews, which was at something in San Francisco called the Bridge School Benefit.
WC: The Neil Young thing?
BZ: Yeah, and everyone does it for free. And it was so moving because Dave came on stage, and I wasn't really even that into him at this point. But it was an all-acoustic concert, so his band wasn't even there. He just came on stage with his guitar, and he only played 5 or 6 songs, just him and his guitar. And that really just kind of launched me into Dave Matthews. And since then, I've bought every guitar book on him, and every CD, and every live bootleg I can find.
WC: Obviously, somewhere along the line you decided that baseball was going to be your major focus even though most everyone in your family had pretty much gone in a musical direction. When did you later decide that you really were interested in music too and wanted to get serious about getting into it?
BZ: Well, I played piano when I was young. When I was 12 years old, I picked up this Mozart piece and learned it from front to back just on a whim. I spent a week and learned it just because I wanted to. And I played it great! And after that, I always thought 'Okay, if I want to go that route, I can.' But I never touched the piano again. And then in 2000, during my first spring training here, I started playing guitar because I knew the road trips and all that stuff were going to get a little monotonous. So this is a nice break from all the pressure and strain of playing baseball in front of 50,000 people.
WC: And it gives you something constructive to do with all that free time.
BZ: Yeah, instead of just sitting around playing video games like a lot of people.
WC: Or getting into trouble!
BZ: Well, I save some time for that too!
WC: There's always a little time for that!
BZ: Yeah, exactly! But I mean, I always knew I was musically inclined. The question was just when I was going to get in touch with it. And now I feel like I have.
WC: So I guess you've been spending a lot of time working on your guitar-playing lately.
BZ: Yeah, I've had a Taylor, which is just the most amazing guitar ever. Actually, I was trying to find out what kind of guitar Dave Matthews plays. It turns out he plays a Martin, but I've heard that he's been playing Taylors too. Taylors are actually local, they're from San Diego. But God, those are just unreal. I'm probably going to get a lot of those in my day!
WC: Your team's general manager, Billy Beane, is a big music fan. Have you ever talked to him about music?
BZ: Yeah, he actually recommended the Strokes to me, and I got into them in the off-season. They're pretty sweet. I had tickets to go see them in San Diego, but I had to fly to Alabama at the last minute. But the girl I was dating at the time went to see them, and she said the band got so wasted the night before that after the third song, the guy couldn't even sing anymore!
WC: Well, sometimes that happens?that's rock & roll!
BZ: Yep, that's rock & roll!
The Oakland A's currently have one of the youngest rosters in all of baseball. The team's also got as much of the rock & roll spirit as any team in the league! Former A's infielder Scott Spiezio has his own band, starting pitcher Barry Zito is a big music lover who spends most of his down-time playing the guitar, and even general manager Billy Beane is a huge Ramones fan! Here's what some of the members of "Generation A's" are currently groovin' to?
Barry Zito (Cy Young Award-winning
Dave Justice (outfielder
& ex-hubby of Halle Berry)
Tim Hudson (pitcher)
Terrence Long (outfielder)
Eric Chavez (Gold Glove-winning
Cody McKay (minor-league
Ron Washington (shit-talking
third base coach)
Billy Beane (too cool general
Art Howe (old school manager)
TO THE BALLGAME!
|Some people might think the worlds of baseball and punk rock don't have an awful lot in common. But just try telling that to punk rock legend and baseball freak Johnny Ramone and Oakland A's general manager and punk rock freak Billy Beane! You'll have a mighty hard time finding a punk rock icon more devoted to our national pastime, and an even harder time finding a baseball executive who was buying Ramones and Sex Pistols 8-tracks way back in '78. The dynamic duo recently got together out at the ballpark for an enlightening little chit-chat?|
Johnny, I might turn into a crazy fan here and just gush for
a few minutes. But I went out and got the "Rocket To Russia"
8-track when I was 16. When I first heard you I went, "Oh
my God!" It was like I was enlightened!
JR: Hey, and I wanted to be a baseball player?I just fell into this!
BB: When we were in the playoffs two years ago in New York, Johnny, I made the cab driver take me to CBGB's in my suit and tie and take a picture out in front of the awning there.
JR: I went and did that when we went into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, this past March when we got inducted. I probably took my first picture there since about 1974. I went inside for the first time in about 20 years too. And Hilly, who runs the place, was actually nice to me. He was never nice to me before. He gave me a t-shirt?he wouldn't even give me a free soda before!
BB: Well I've read all the biographies. You were actually a construction worker at first, right?
JR: Yeah, I was a construction worker. I was a steam-fitter for five years. I bought a guitar when I was 26 years old.
BB: That's amazing!
JR: Billy, we have a Ramones tribute record coming out. And we've got Rob Zombie, the Chili Peppers, Metallica, U2, Green Day, Rancid, The Pretenders, KISS, Tom Waits, a really good lineup.
BB: Now is Tom Waits gonna sing a Ramones song?
JR: Yeah, Tom Waits did a Ramones song. Eddie Vedder did two Ramones songs on it. U2 did "Beat On The Brat." Metallica did "53rd & 3rd."
BB: Well I read Dee Dee's autobiography, so I remember what that song was about!
JR: Nobody sang about this kind of stuff. I mean, here's Dee Dee writing about some Vietnam veteran coming back and becoming a male prostitute?and a Green Beret on top of it!
BB: Do you know Lars Frederiksen, the guitar player for Rancid?
JR: Yeah. Wow, you really know your punk rock!
BB: Yeah, he's a huge A's fan. He lives in San Francisco. In fact, his mother's a season-ticket holder and we talk on occasion. He'll call me when we make a trade.
JR: Oh yeah? Lars calls me up like once a year and we usually talk about old movies or horror films. I'll have to run some baseball by him next time.
BB: Well, I actually gave Scott Hatteberg, our first baseman, the DVD of "The Filth & The Fury," and I had to explain the whole history of how Malcom McLaren had come over to New York and had sort of managed the Dolls?
JR: One time he was in our dressing room up at the Whiskey, and I'm already offended that this guy was in my dressing room, and he says to some girl I was seeing at the time, "Hey, what's his problem?" And I go, "What's my problem?" And I punched him. Then I pick up Dee Dee's bass and I go to hit him over the head with it, and they drag him out. I don't need this guy asking, "What's my problem?"
BB: A couple of years ago when the Pistols did their reunion tour, I came this close to getting into a fistfight at the concert. I was the assistant general manager of the A's at the time, so my brother grabs me and goes, "You don't need to be getting into fights at punk rock concerts!"
JR: That would have been terrific, yeah!
BB: The purists would say, "Oh, you can't go see the Pistols now, it's not the same thing." But I'll tell you what, it was great!
JR: The best band I've seen since I got started in like '74 were the Clash at a certain point?like around '77-'78.
BB: I saw them when they came over to the States on their first tour.
JR: The first concert I went to see was the Rolling Stones in 1964. It was at Carnegie Hall in New York. I remember the date, June 20th, 1964.
BB: My first one was KISS.
JR: I see Paul Stanley around here. I've got him on the Ramones tribute record and he's a really nice guy.
BB: You guys played out here, Johnny, I think it ended up being your last tour. It was an outdoor amphitheater up in Concord, and I want to say it was '93.
JR: Well, the last tour would be '96 when I did Lollapalooza. That was the last thing that I did. I retired then, and the only time I've ever played again was one song with Pearl Jam. They did a Ramones song and they wanted me to play one song with them.
BB: Well, Dee Dee was actually up here about a year ago.
JR: Yeah, Dee Dee died, you know?
BB: Yeah, I remember the day it happened in fact.
JR: You know, from watching athletes play beyond their prime, I wanted to retire and stay retired. I did not want to get up there and perform, and be past my prime. I was already, but I had to continue on to reach a certain amount where I could comfortably retire. So I had planned out my retirement probably five years before I retired. And I'm definitely sticking to it. I don't even touch the guitar.
BB: Well in terms of your guitar-playing, as you got older, did you find yourself more interested in doing more with the guitar, or did you just love the style that you?
JR: No! I never even touched the guitar. When I'd walk on the stage, that's when I touched the guitar!
BB: Just had a callous on that index finger, right?
JR: Yeah, we'd keep touring and playing all the time. I just loved playing for the fans, otherwise to me it was like I hated being on the road. I loved getting on the stage and playing the hour-and-fifteen-minute show for the fans. Rhino just put out the next four albums starting with "End of the Century," "Pleasant Dreams," "Subterranean Jungle," and "Too Tough To Die." They came up with bonus tracks and demos and everything else.
BB: I was just saying?I never get tired of it! I go into a ballpark now, and some of the riffs that you guys had I hear in ballparks, and commercials?
JR: Oh yeah, it's so funny. Actually, I sit there, and when it comes on, if I'm at the ballpark, I feel embarrassed and I'll look down. I try to hide. "Hey, ho, let's go!" They play it at Yankee Stadium all the time.
BB: Well it must be flattering, especially when you think about the first time you guys put that riff together, and you're thinking "Hey, this works!" And then?
JR: Well, we had written that song because we had heard the Bay City Rollers doing "Saturday Night." And we thought that was our competition, the Bay City Rollers. So we had to come up with a song that had a chant 'cause they had one too.
BB: Well, I think you outlasted them!