Scott McCaughey on Henry Aaron: "So much of it was manufactured. It wasn't him."
But as one of the great multi-taskers in rock music, McCaughey has somehow balanced his love of the sport and his prolific work as a musician. This weekend Mcaughey (who lives in Portland, where there isn't even a minor-league team) returns to St. Louis with a five LP Minus 5 box set in tow for show at Euclid Records for Record Store Day, a house concert and a headlining show with the Minus 5 at Off Broadway on Friday, April 18. Senior Writer Roy Kasten caught up with the musician in this week's issue, and in these outtakes from the interview, McCaughey explains how the Baseball Project works and how he approached writing about one of the game's greatest players.
Roy Kasten: I imagine that as a songwriter it's good to have parameters, where you have a theme like baseball that you can just focus on, rather than relying on pure inspiration.
Scott McCaughey: The Baseball Project is a little more journalistic in its approach. It also helps to have a deadline, which for us is when we book time in the recording studio. The Baseball Project is somewhat like that for us. It's not that I don't get ideas throughout the year, but when it really comes down to it it's good to have a deadine and Steve [Wynn] and I will really hit it. Steve is from a journalistic background. He was a sports writer in high school, and he thought that was what he'd become. And I've written in magazines for years. So it's much less like sitting around waiting for inspiration. It's more like let's tackle this and get down to work, but it's still really fun. We're writing about things that really please us.
I especially like how you approached writing about Hank Aaron, and the idea that people really don't understand the real Henry Aaron.
So much of it was manufactured. It wasn't him. People wanted him to fit into this niche and be this guy. He was never called Hank in his entire life. Nobody who knew him would ever call him Hank, and they immediately made him "Hammering Hank," just like when Roberto Clemente came up, he was 'Bobby Clemente.' That was not him. That's the kind of thing that was foisted on these guys, especially in the '50s if they weren't white. Aaron didn't want to be a well-known person. He's a pretty private guy. He didn't make a stink about these things. He didn't want to deal with them, so he let them go on. In hindsight, he felt that people didn't really understand him as a person. That's what I was trying to get at in the song.