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October 16, 2013

The Lineup Card

11 Postseason Ads, Slogans, and Theme Songs That Are Still Stuck in Our Heads

by Baseball Prospectus

1. We Are Family
The 1979 World Series is the first one I can really remember at all. That’s largely because it had a theme song. I knew the tune by Sister Sledge, which was co-written by R&B legend Nile Rodgers. It was very popular, having gone to no. 1 on the R&B charts and no. 2 on the pop charts that year. When the Pirates—really paterfamilias Willie Stargell, who also doled out those gold stars (excuse to link to image of Kent Tekulve) and maybe also amphetamines—adopted it as their theme song, I guess I just assumed all championship teams had one. From what I can recall, though, it didn’t happen again until the 2005 White Sox latched onto Journey’s warhorse “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but that song didn’t have the same zeitgeist feel—it was released in 1981, much closer temporally to the “We Are Family” Pirates than Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox. In any case, its associations aren’t exclusive, as any Sopranos fan can tell you.

If one of the remaining teams in the post-season takes on a theme song this month, I’m hoping they choose one of the tracks off of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, preferably “Get Lucky.” The song was a ballpark staple all summer, but that’s not the only reason I hope it’s chosen. It’s also because “Get Lucky” was co-written by Nile Rodgers. —Adam Sobsey

2. Frank TV
2007 might have been the worst full postseason in baseball history, but at least it leaves some lasting memory with us. The lackluster debut effort of TBS, which had just acquired postseason rights, came with a barrage of ads for a new program called Frank TV. Impressionist Frank Caliendo as a bunch of characters including John Madden, George W. Bush, Charles Barkley, Bill Clinton and, well, more of those same guys.

We were beaten over the head with those impressions. There was nothing really basebally about it. But it made me wonder what would be the cornerstone impressions you’d have to master to do a baseball impressions show. Bud Selig was the first to come to mind, but he doesn’t really talk in public enough to be impressionable and his only trademark phrase is his pronunciation of “Los Angeleeze.” My four must-learn impressions for active baseball people would be:

  • Tim Kurkjian – It’s very much played out, but it feels like a staple.
  • Hawk Harrelson – An impressionist’s job is rarely getting the silence right, but that’s such a huge part of the schtick.
  • Pedro Martinez – This would have been vital 10 years ago when he was in the spotlight, but something tells me his performance on TBS this year will make this a must again.
  • John Sterling – “THUUUUUHHHHHHH” is the easy part. Mastering the bewilderment and more subtle mannerisms would set this one apart.

Who else would be in your four? —Zachary Levine

3. There's Only One October
I'm not a hater on Dane Cook. I don't find him particularly funny or particularly annoying, but I will always have his voice stuck in my head every October from here until I shuffle off this mortal coil. And I guess I owe him one. In 2007, MLB hired Mr. Cook to be their pitchman for a series of commercials in which he summarized some matchup that was going on (Hey look, it's the NLDS!) and he would end with the tagline "There's only one October!" It happened that in 2007, my hometown Indians were in the playoffs, and it was one of the few times during the year that I could actually watch them play (I was living in Chicago at the time and was living on a grad student salary, so this was before MLB.TV was an option for me). Plus... playoffs.

It was also the first time that my wife had watched baseball extensively. At that time, I was getting ready to defend my dissertation in November, and applying for training internships for the next year. I should have been working on those, but I was spending all my spare time watching the playoffs. She always knew I was a little baseball crazy, but she decided that she was finally going to figure out why. Of course, "There's only one October!" soon became a catchphrase in our house, as it remains to this day. I remember that post-season fondly because it got my wife really into baseball, but that ad also had another effect on my life. The next year, during the 2008 playoffs, we were discussing whether we should try having a baby or to put it off for a few months. At one point we looked at each other and said "There's only one October!" My oldest daughter was born a little early in mid-June of 2009. So, thank you to Dane Cook and MLB for getting my wife into baseball. And for my daughter. —Russell A. Carleton

4. The Rally Monkey
Before there were countless memes strewn about the Internet, the Angels used a non-sequitur video clip (kind of like a GIF but with sound) to energize the fans: a cute little monkey that hopped up and down. No, not David Eckstein! When the team was down in games, notably World Series games against the Giants, they showed a clip of a monkey dancing around and because baseball is a science grounded in magic, that was enough for the team to rally and win.

The Rally Monkey then became the basis for the Rally [Animal] template of promotional critters responsible for spurts in offense, notably the 2011 Cardinals' Rally Squirrel and on a lesser scale, the 2013 Indians' Rally Chicken. Of course, the latter two animals actually appeared on the field for those clubs. The original Rally Monkey was simply a pet of Ace Ventura's, and the hopping was from a clip when he figured out the Dan Marino kidnapper was a corrupt transvestite police chief. Spoiler alert. —Matt Sussman

5. Lopez Tonight
During the 2009 postseason, TBS took the opportunity to throttle viewers with endless Lopez Tonight promos—much as they did in 2007 with Frank TV. This, predictably, became an annoyance. Neither show lasted more than two seasons, and yet baseball fans will remember them for a long time to come. —R.J. Anderson

6. A: The New York Yankees. Q: Who is your daddy?
Except for Manny, Bonds, and a certain four-legged third baseman, Pedro Martinez is responsible for some of the most notoriously iconic moments in recent baseball history. The Don Zimmer Throw (now an Olympic sport, I believe) and his imperfect perfecto immediately jump to mind, but nothing made the baseball world giggle quite like his admission in 2003 that the New York Yankees were, in fact, his “daddy.”

Almost instantly, posters, t-shirts, and Pedro-esque infant dolls were available for sale. Ten years after the fact, one of those posters still hangs in my bedroom: Pedro looks skyward, seemingly in victory, only to have his gaze interrupted by an unflappable, Curse-wielding Babe Ruth. “Who’s your daddy?” fever was so infectious that yours truly dressed as Baby Pedro for Halloween. (It was not my proudest moment.)

Perhaps the most delectable part of Pedro’s quote—for Yankees fans, at least—is its longevity. After his many playoff runs with the Red Sox, Pedro found himself playing postseason baseball in the Bronx again in 2009, this time wearing a Phillies uniform. The sartorial change, however, made little difference. The Yankees won both of Pedro’s starts, prompting the ever-so-kind Yankee faithful to chant “Still your daddy!” as he was relieved in Game 6.

Leave it to Pedro, though, to turn such a silly phrase into a self-deprecatory badge of honor: his “Who’s Your Daddy?” features are arguably the most entertaining segments of this year’s postseason broadcasts on TBS . Such a great guy, isn’t he?

(Silent grumbling.) —Nick Bacarella

7. #Mup
I'm on fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire.

This year's playoff theme happens to be the same one the Stanley Cup used, so hockey fans have had double the opportunity to get it burned into their head. Certain of them decided that "light 'em up" sounds like "light a mup," so now #mup is the latest trend with the kids these days. And by kids I mostly mean Jason Wojciechowski.
As yet undetermined is what the bizarre chanting during the intro and then in the background is or is supposed to mean. I mean, I can't even Google that stuff. Google doesn't know! My entire world has been turned upside down. —Colin Wyers

8. "You're risking a patient's life!" and "His father is the District Attorney!"
As annoyed as you might be by #mups, as sick as “Written in the Stars” still makes your stomach, as often as you’re plagued by “This Girl is on Fiyahhh” flashbacks, nothing compares to the October torture we were subjected to by the ads on Fox’s baseball broadcasts in the early 2000s. Each fall, the network would bombard us with promos for an upcoming show:

2002: Girls Club, Boston Public
2003: Skin
2004: House

The promos ran frequently, and because this was an era in which only the earliest of adopters had DVR, there was no escape. The repetition was the price we had to pay for the postseason. It got to the point that by the time each ad break was over, we were truly happy to hear Tim McCarver.

Two climactic lines from those promos were burned onto my brain, and probably yours: “His father is the district attorney!”, from Skins, and “You’re risking a patient’s life!,” from House. The former was already on YouTube.

The latter, surprisingly, was not. So I just tracked down the episode, captured that line, and added it to the internet.

Now I know how Pandora felt.

At least House ran for eight seasons; Fox pulled Skin after three episodes had aired, so our suffering went to waste. Except for an occasional girlfriend-inflicted House repeat toward the end of its run, I never gave any of these shows a shot. Maybe I wouldn't have watched anyway, but for me, at least, Fox's saturation bombing approach to promotion had the opposite of its intended effect. —Ben Lindbergh

9. That's Bush League, bro

According to this site, the avocado ad aired 51 times, mostly recently on October 18, 2012. (Almost one year clean!) Here's some other info about it from the same site:

After the 40th viewing, "Funny" is not thedescription that would've come to my mind. —Ben Lindbergh

10. Déjà, déjà, Déjà, Déjà vu

Not only have I had it, I'm experiencing some now. —Ben Lindbergh

11. Written in the Stars
The “Written in the Stars” campaign from 2011 is the first one of the postseason theme songs I really remember. Sure, I can vaguely recall Bon Jovi and Kid Rock from previous years, but “Stars” stands out. Even with Bruce Springsteen flooding our TVs in 2012, it’s still my go-to reference for incessant playoff ads. And I won’t lie: I kinda liked it.

The song is as catchy as all get out, and I can remember singing it throughout October every time it came on, as well as when I was walking the dog, shopping at the grocery store, or even waiting out a pair of rain delays in Arlington. I was also humming it during a rainy night in my hotel after the postponement of Game 2 of the 2011 ALCS. It was definitely my October 2011 theme song.

“Stars” is by English rapper Tinie Tempah, and it served as his US breakout single. And that’s where the twist comes in. The little ditty you either hated or couldn’t help but love features almost zero Tempah save an echoing of Eric Turner on the words “come and go” and “won’t change.” The song features Turner doing the chorus and playing piano, and he also co-wrote it, so he contributed quite a bit to the final product. But it was his chorus that carried the 30-second ads, and you could make a case that he actually got short shrift on the ones that listed the credits, since most of us just assumed we were hearing Tempah. —Paul Sporer

Related Content:  Playoffs,  Television,  Postseason

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