Peter Gammons, Game On!, April 9, 2007
Peter Gammons turned 62 on April 9, the day before opening day at Fenway Park, and he celebrated across Lansdowne Street at Game On! by strapping on a guitar and playing a rock-and-roll set backed by the Gentlemen. It was cause for celebration on many counts, not the least of which was that the ESPN commentator and baseball guru is very much alive and well. He wasn’t quite so well when his Rounder CD, Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old, came out last July: he had just suffered a brain aneurysm. Promoting the album was not a priority.
So the Game On! party — a benefit for the Red Sox–related charity A Foundation To Be Named Later — served as an official relaunch of the CD. “I enjoy being on stage,” he said before the gig, “but I’m not going to pretend to be Prince.” Gammons, on guitar and vocals, was steady-on, mining the roots end of rock, kicking off with Richard Thompson’s “Feel So Good,” and hitting an ironic peak with Warren Zevon’s “Model Citizen.
“I’m elated!” said his wife, Gloria. “He’s always used music as part of his speech patterns covering baseball, and it’s always been part of our lives.”
Gentlemen bassist Ed Valauskas noted, “I don’t think rock and sports go together. But Gammons is the exception. He can sing and write songs, and he knows as much about rock as he does about baseball. It’s not a joke. It’s not shtick. He means it.”
Out in the crowd of 300-plus, folks mused about the relationship. Fenway Recordings owner Mark Kates: “There’s an energy between rockers and baseball players — they’d each rather be doing what the other one does.” Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, who co-founded the Foundation, at first had doubts about how one related to the other, but he settled on “a certain rhythm, timelessness.”
Gammons has something of a perfect life. During a pre-gig Q&A with the audience, he said he has another 15 years ahead of him before quitting. He’d just been out on the road with the Mets and the Red Sox, his two favorite teams, and now he was among friends rocking out on his birthday. How does he bridge the sportscaster/fan divide? “I will always be a fan.” He was referring to both baseball and rock and roll.
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