Strikes and Mics (Dulli interviews Jack McDowell)
Greg interviews Cleveland Indians pitcher Jack McDowell.
In a tribute to the World Series, Afghan Whig Greg Dulli takes a seventh-inning stretch with pitcher and rocker Jack McDowell
Long before Queen and Van Halen started pouring out of the PA systems at major-league sporting events, and many years before the marketing of “exer-tainment,” the dividing line between sports and rock ‘n’ roll was on its way to the showers. Two fans of both music and the mound are Afghan Whigs front man Greg Dulli and Cleveland Indians ace pitcher – one of the highest paid In baseball – Jack McDowell. Though Dulli may never have lived out his dream of, say, throwing out Rod Carew at home plate, McDowell is a fin de siecle Renaissance guy who spends his off-season playing the bass Instead of baseball. His latest album, Just a Thought (Monster Disc), recorded under the banner of his band, Stick Figure, conjures up the best of Neil Young’s and R.E.M.’s alternative Americana, winning fans both in and out of the ballpark. As the World Series approaches, we asked Dulli to speak with one pitcher who might not mind a hit.
GREG DULLI: Are you related to Roddy McDowall?
JACK McDOWELL: No. Different spelling, I believe.
GD: What about Malcolm McDowell?
JM: No relation to any famous or semi-famous McDowells.
GD: You’re from California, right?
JM: Yeah. I was just your basic Valley dude growing up, but I’ve been living in Chicago ever since I played for the White Sox.
GD: You know, Pearl Jam used to be called Mookie Blaylock [after the Atlanta Hawks basketball player]. What if someone called a band “Jack McDowell”?
JM: Someone did. They called a band “Big Pants McDowell.”
GD: I was convinced I was going to play pro baseball right up to the eighth grade, when people started throwing curveballs. How is it to play in the majors?
JM: It’s funny. It’s like, now that I’m in the big leagues, they’re not big. It was cool when I first broke in and there were still a handful of guys playing that I had watched while I was growing up. But, you know, [Carlton] Fisk retired in 1993 and then Dave Winfield, and it just wasn’t the same.
GD: So what do you think of the music scene these days?
JM: Are there some weird-ass bands out there or what?
GD: I can’t watch MTV anymore. I don’t feel part of it. It’s like, at thirty I’m over the hill, and I just don’t think that’s the case.
JM: I’ve got a couple of thoughts on that. Everything today, all the entertainment, even sports, is so bullshit. When you hear about media coaches telling Olympians to cry on the stand because it will endear people to them and help them get commercials, it makes me want to not play sports. At that point it’s not real anymore, and that’s not what I play for. It’s the same thing with music when it’s just manufactured and hyped. It’s all PR crap and you can barely find good solid stuff to listen to.
GD: Do you think the indians will make the World Series this year?
JM: Tough to tell. I can’t make any claims because the playoffs are the playoffs. You know, if someone, like an opposing pitcher, really goes off, you’re done.
GD: As a pitcher, are you glad you don’t have to hit? [McDowell plays In the AmerIcan League which allows a designated hitter to bat for the pitcher, unlike in the National League, which does not.]
JM: I wouldn’t be thrilled to hit now after not hitting for so long. At the moment they’re talking about inter-league play [a proposal under discussion in which teams from the National and American Leagues would play each other during the regular season], and then I’d have to go hit. It just pisses me off because maybe four of my starts next year are going to depend on whether or not I can get a bunt down.
GD: I think interleague play would take away from the mystery of the World Series.
JM: It would. But it’s the same old story: How can we market the game? You don’t need to market the game. Just let the game run, the game’s cool.