Did Belle and Sebastian See Mike Piazza in San Francisco?

In the song “Piazza, New York Catcher” from their album Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle and Sebastian (and frontman Stuart Murdoch, specifically) make specific references to a Mets-Giants game.

Question: are Belle and Sebastian referring to a real or imagined Mets-Giants game? And, if it’s the former, can we identify which game?

First, let’s consider what we know — both from information in the song and with regard to Piazza himself.

We know:

1. That, owing to references in the song regarding Piazza’s sexuality, that it (i.e. the song) was almost certainly written after May 22, 2002 — i.e. the date on which Piazza held a press conference (following a New York Post story) to declare his heterosexuality.

2. That the song was written before October of 2003 — i.e. when the album was released.

3. That, owing to invocations in the song of San Francisco and the Tenderloin (a neighborhood in San Francisco), that the game was played in that city.

4. That Piazza, as noted in the song, was batting either .318 on the season at the time of the game — or for his career at the time of the game.

Using Baseball Reference, it’s possible to identify seven games that would fall within the timeframe established above: three games between August 20-22 of 2002 and four between May 15-18 of 2003.

While both timeframes satisfy the first three points established above, neither satisfies the fourth. Piazza ended the 2001 season with a .325 career average. By the beginning of the August 2002 series, he’d recorded 140 hits and 370 at-bats, putting his season average at .281 and career average at .322. Piazza ended the 2002 season with .321 career average. By the beginning of the May 2003 series, he’d recorded 35 hits in 107 at-bats, for a .327 season average and (still) .321 career average. No matches in either case, in other words.

Piazza’s May 16th game in San Francisco of 2003 was actually his last for three months, as the catcher sustained a right groin tear. Upon his return, he was less effective, slashing just .244/.338/.366 for the remainder of the season (123 AB). After a 1-for-5 on September 20, 2003, Piazza would have had his lowest career batting average during the time period in question: a mark of .318642 — as close as he’ll have gotten to .318, even if rounding would have made it otherwise.

Another consideration: while we don’t know where the members of Belle and Sebastian will have been every day of the time periods being considered here, we do know when they would have been playing shows. According to the band’s official site, the group had no live shows scheduled during the relevant timeframe in August of 2002. They did, however, play a show in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 17th of 2003 — i.e. on the third game of that May four-game series (and the day after Piazza’s groin injury). As such, we might say that it’s possible, but unlikely, that Murdoch and Co were attending any Giants games in San Francisco on May 15 or 16.

In conclusion, we find that Belle and Sebastian are probably referring to no specific Mets-Giants game — or, if they are, it’s most likely a game from August of 2002, with a reference to a batting average from a different date.



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Matt Sullivan
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Matt Sullivan

One of the great baseball songs of all-time, even if baseball is a relatively small part of the song. No catcher has hit for exactly .318 for their career, but 20 catcher have hit that number for a single season, including Piazza, who did it in 1993 with the Dodgers. He played the 3rd highest number of games of any catcher on that list as well, so he fulfilled the “catches everyday” line fairly well to. I have often wondered who the pitcher referenced is. Koufax is famous as one who ” puts religion first and rests on holidays” but he didn’t exactly let the “drink effect his speed.”

Jeffrey Paternostro
Member
Jeffrey Paternostro

“The catcher hits for .318 and catches every day” is most likely a reference to Roy Campanella’s 1955 season (even though it was ’53 when he set a career high for games caught with 144), considering that the next couplet is clearly a reference to Sandy Koufax (who of course was barely a rookie in ’55). All told, Stuart Murdoch was clearly not consulting baseball-reference when he wrote this song, instead electing to use some artistic license.

Rib-eye
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Rib-eye

How come noone gave them a place to stay in Tenderloin? Buncha jerks

dp
Guest

Given that rumors concerning Piazza’s sexuality date back to his days with the Dodgers & his proclivity to wear matching acid wash denim ensembles w/ then-housemate Eric Karros, it is also plausible that the game in question (if extant) could have occurred prior to the time period you’ve identified.

george burdell
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george burdell

I always thought the pitcher being reference in the song was Todd Jones.

Roto Wizard
Member
Roto Wizard

Actually, he would have been hitting .318 at the time the song was written. Not when the game was played.

DEoA
Guest
DEoA

Regarding the line “The statue’s crying too and will he may” – I always hear the last bit as “Willie Mays.”

RationalSportsFan
Guest

I believe that is an intentional reference to the Willie Mays statue in San Francisco.

DEoA
Guest
DEoA

I figured it was intentional word play but I did not know there was a statue. Thanks.

olethros
Member
olethros

The entire first verse could almost be about Joe D. and Marilyn.

The last line is almost certainly a reference to the Musial statue in St. Louis.

The “knows the drink affects his speed…” through “life outside the diamond is a wrench” sounds like Mantle.

tylersnotes
Member

reading that this song is nearly 10 years old is a great reminder that we are, all of us, soon to die.

Byrne
Guest
Byrne

Jack Rabid of the Big Takeover interviewed Murdoch during a game at Shea Shadium…though I don’t recall when that was.

Not Ron Hassey
Guest
Not Ron Hassey

That interview was in Big Takeover #53, which came out in the second half of 2003. There was an interview done at a grapefruit league game around the same time, but I can’t remember who wrote it.

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