How a fantasy baseball conference of pioneering indie rock-and-roll protagonists is just like yours.
Oscar Gamble’s Afro, perhaps indie rock’s most venerable fantasy baseball conference, was born in 2008. It almost never existed.
Mike Mills, bassist of celebrated stone group R.E.M ., had tried and flunked for years to coax members like The Minus 5 and onetime touring R.E.M. guitarist Scott McCaughey into a tournament. McCaughey remembers being beguiled when the two were on the road together in 2003.
“I had always forestalled attaching illusion organizations because I knew I’d dedicate room too much time to it, ” McCaughey says. “When we were on tour with R.E.M ., he was always doing his fantasy athletics thing and “hes going to”,’ Yeah, you are able to get into a baseball league with me! It doesn’t make that much age! ’ I’m like,’ I see you backstage three hours a day on your fucking computer.’”
In 2007, the two attached with Peter Buck( R.E.M .), Steve Wynn( The Dream Syndicate ), and Linda Pitmon( Filthy Friends, The Minus 5) to organize The Baseball Project, an indie boulder supergroup that writes songs about the most interesting characters of America’s pastime. Steve Gardner, formerly the director of advertising and publicity for their name, Yep Roc Records, came up with the relevant recommendations to start a fantasy baseball league to promote their 2008 introduction, Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails.
The arising league, called Oscar Gamble’s Afro — or The OGA as its members frequently refer to it — is still thriving today, with famous musicians and friends of The Baseball Project’s members like Stephen Malkmus( Pavement, Stephen Malkmus& The Jicks ), Ira Kaplan( Yo La Tengo ), and Steve Berlin( Los Lobos) replenishing out its 12 -team setup.
“’It’d be kind of entertaining if we put together a tournament of musicians and beings in the music business, ’” perennial organization win McCaughey says, echoing the conversations that birthed The OGA. The organization shall consist of former Wilco manager Tony Margherita, M. Ward and The Decemberists’ producer Adam Selzer, and current and onetime employees of Yep Roc and Redeye Worldwide. “When they came up with this idea, I was like,’ I kind of is therefore necessary to do it now because it’s for the record, for the band or whatever.’ I went into it and it’s been exactly what I thought it would be: it’s a huge time waster and it’s super, super fun.”
A mutual infatuation with fantasy baseball passes these regularly touring creators respite from world — a counter to the wearines of inexhaustible driving, soundchecks, and fast food — and an easy way to follow a play they enjoy. When members of The OGA are on the road together, they grow especially competitive.
“You’ve got all of us there together in the same van participating against one another and it gets pretty intense, ” Wynn says. He flows team Reggie Jackson Heights, a play on his Queens neighborhood. “It gets horrible! Here’s why Scott’s the advocate: we’ll have long nights and I’ll wake up the next day and see that Scott was constructing moves until five-in-the-morning. Male, he’s committed.”
“I wanted to go teen pheromone hop vibe all over you when my crew trounces you –‘ Ugh, Axe Body Sprays are earning! ’” – Stephen Malkmus on his OGA team name
“You might witness individual in the backseat — you ascertain on your computer someone just get drafted or get snagged up as a free agent and you go,’ Oh you fucker, McCaughey! I was just going to pick him up! ’” McCaughey says. “Sometimes “its a problem” when someone has to drive, but luckily, often we have a tour overseer who can do it.”
Stephen Malkmus, the onetime lead singer of’ 90 s indie superstars Pavement( he is also in an ESPN league with David Chang of Momofuku fame and various Rotoworld scribes ), won the league in his first time in 2010, thanks in no big proportion to Ubaldo Jiminez’s breakout 19 -8 season in Colorado. His fortunes since going to go in a downward spiraling that led to a bottoming out in 2018, due to Willson Contreras’ woeful season and traumata to Kris Bryant. He’s been burned by Giancarlo Stanton several times — “He’s like a fucking pain in the ass every year and then he goes off! ” Malkmus says. “Fucking pisses you off! ”
Unsurprisingly, to those who know his legendarily contemptuous lyrics, Malkmus has the most purposefully-cringeworthy squad appoint in the tournament. “Mine is announced The Axe Body Sprays, ” he says. “I try to make a name that defeats you and sees you outraged by my crew in a certain room. I want that teenage pheromone hop vibe all over you when my unit trounces you –‘ Ugh, Axe Body Sprays are earning! ’”
As with countless fantasy conferences, the draft is the most entertaining part of the OGA season. The organization is a Yahoo 5×5 points conference that includes lists for OBP instead of slugging percentage, aspect starts rather than triumphs, and incorporates nurses into the saves column. Most members hold off on drafting pitchers early. Each musician has their personal targets.
“I miss Mookie Betts on every squad, but who doesn’t? ” says Mills, a Rock& Roll Hall of Famer whose unit specify is Ruthian Blast. “I do like FIP for pitchers; I think that’s a really revealing stat. The BABIP is a great stat, but it changes so much time to year that it’s hard to[ will vary depending on ]. Just because a chap had a really lousy one last year, you’d expect a bit regression to the entail the next year, but there’s no guarantee of that.”
Like everyone, stone starrings struggle to planned a age when everyone can be present for its consideration of the draft. In The OGA, each member could be anywhere in the world at any given point in time, perhaps drafting from the lettuce apartment backstage before or after a register. Many of the league’s representatives are gearing up to liberation brand-new books this year — Malkmus’ new solo book, Groove Denied, “re coming out” on March 15, and The Dream Syndidate will release These Times on May 3, the same day McCaughey and Pitmon’s Filthy Friends likewise falls Emerald Valley. Yo La Tengo is still playing pictures in support of last year’s critically acclaimed There’s a Riot Going On.
Scott McCaughey is a founding member of The Baseball Project and Oscar Gamble’s Afro. “We all are literally sitting in the van online snagging participates, ” McCaughey says. “You read on your computer someone is get drafted or get snagged up as a free agent and you go,’ Oh you fucker McCaughey! I was just going to pick him up! ’”
“I’ll be playing London the next day after our sketch, ” Wynn says ahead of the OGA’s fantasy draft, which took place on March 24. “It’s going to be one in the morning, I might have had a few beers, but now I won’t have too many because I don’t want to make any dumb moves. I’m emphatically not going to go out that night. I’m going to sit in my inn room and bone up for the draft. London, Schmondon.”
Setting a lineup and checking the waiver wire on a daily basis is daunting while on the road. For Kaplan, who doesn’t own a smartphone, it’s next to absurd. He had been coming some assistance last season, his first in The OGA, but he won’t have any this year.
“I tried to do it every day, but there would be dates I would forget, ” Kaplan, a committed Mets fan, says, reminiscing on his second-to-last locate finish. “Our tour manager in Yo La Tengo belongs not to this league but two other leagues, so I was get a lot of help from him. Not coincidentally, early in the season when we were touring a lot, he was helping me a great deal and I was doing much better. When we went off the road briefly, my riches nose-dived.”
Wynn learned a exercise about concluding crafts along the road in 2015 when he sold away Bryce Harper early in his NL MVP campaign for closer Jeurys Familia. “That was the worst instant of “peoples lives”, ” Wynn retains. “The Baseball Project was playing at Rough Trade[ in New York City] and we were backstage about to go on. I was travelling high-pitched in first place and the one thing I was missing was a closer. That was the year[ Harper] had his incredible time but he had a gradual start. I really figured,’ I don’t need Bryce Harper, I have so many good outfielders. I’ll sold him away.’ Man, did I get bird-dog for that.”
“It’s going to be one-in-the-morning, I might have had a few brews, but now I won’t have too many because I don’t want to make any dumb moves.” – Steve Wynn on the 2019 OGA fantasy draft
Yet as tough as maintaining a fantasy baseball squad over the course of a six-month season are likely to be — extremely when at work on a new record — The OGA has persisted for much longer than anyone else in the organization expected, owing in vast constituent to the musicians’ desire for the athletic itself. If anything, fantasy baseball has increased their obsession with baseball, peculiarly when touring with The Baseball Project, which catches sports between soundcheck and their gigs.
Occasionally they get asked to sing “the member states national” anthem or “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at minor and Major League sports. Formerly, they represented at the AAA All-Star Game, which doubled as a scout journey for Wynn’s team.
“Kyle Hendricks came in to pitch — I had never heard of him before as he’d been in the adolescents — he was lights out, ” Wynn says. “I said,’ I’ve got my eye on this guy.’ I was waiting for him. I grabbed him like a week afterward when he came to the Cubs and he had a great finish to the season.”
Also like a lot of myth conferences, one of the most important functions of The OGA is keeping longtime friends in impres, especially when they’re hectic with their vocations. Even when not frisking sees, the league’s players live all over the United States, from Portland to Atlanta, New York to Los Angeles.
“One of my oldest organizations is a bunch of friends from Georgia who all used to live in either Athens or Atlanta and then kind of dispersed around the Southeast, ” says Mills, who lucked out last year with JD Martinez in the second round, but not with Cody Bellinger in the third largest. “Guys don’t frequently pick up the phone and summon one another. Sometimes we do, but this is an easy way is necessary to stay in contact and that’s very much the dispute with The OGA.”
True to constitute, Malkmus has a more sarcastic take over the league’s bonding constituent.
“That’s what you tell your wife I approximate, ” Malkmus says. “I used to be really into fiction football in the early 2000 s when I firstly detected it. I’d waste a great deal of time on a Sunday looking at my phone and shit like that. That’d be my pretext –‘ These are my friends! This is how adults keep in touch in this modern date and age! We don’t like to get too personal and we find this target thing that’s in between us — athletics — and then talk about it! ’”
The love of baseball, peculiarly fantasy baseball, is more widespread in the music society than one might recall. Many of The OGA’s members are in leagues with other influential craftsmen. Wynn is in a big group chat centered on baseball with Jason Isbell, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, and Rhett Miller of the Old 97 ’s( alongside Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel and other “baseball people” ). McCaughey was in a short-lived ESPN head-to-head conference a few years back run by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.
“It was a little bit of a stigma being a sports fan because so many jocks were the assholes you hated in high school, ” Mills says. “They were the ones who seemed down on the eccentric because they were the super popular jocks. And of course, they’re now selling coverage somewhere and we’re having fun playing music — not that there’s anything wrong about selling assurance. But now, the situation is slackened up and we’re all out of the closet, as you were.”
The OGA illustrates how fantasy baseball and indie cliff are perhaps a natural pairing. Both are awfully inexplicable at times, although baseball’s array of statistics realise, perhaps, slightly more appreciation than Malkmus’ cryptic melodics. And the process of discovering overlooked musicians on the waiver cable is talking about craftsmen who often have depleted their jobs grinding to make a living out of something they love.
“I speculate baseball is the various kinds of boast where you can be a feelings songwriting counterculture misfit hipster — whatever you is intended to be — and still like it, ” Wynn says. “We could write about stats and container compositions too, but we write about when mortal was a twinkle in a wash and their own lives didn’t used to work the route they thought it would, or somebody who surprises all of the naysayers and succeeds.
”All of the things that motivate good songs.”
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