Is Dylan the Poet of the Pastime?

Is Dylan the Poet of the Pastime?

One of the best, and frankly, most underpublicized developments of the past year in baseball was the clear and present evidence that Bob Dylan is a baseball fan.

Between his work on satellite radio and an interview in Rolling Stone, it was clear that Dylan, the poet for a generation, whether he wanted to be or not, was heavily into the national pastime. You always believed that he was highly evolved, and this was proof beyond dispute.

In the Rolling Stone interview, Dylan appeared to suggest that his favorite player was Derek Jeter and his favorite manager was Ozzie Guillen. He said that it was difficult to follow a particular team because of the frequent personnel changes, and this is not an unknown fan complaint in the contemporary game. However, he indicated that he liked the Detroit Tigers.

What can we make of these comments? First of all, Dylan appears to be an American League guy, which is a reasonable option these days. But more than that, he was making the solid, intelligent judgments that a baseball human being would make.

With Dylan, you always search for the deeper meaning. For more than four decades, there has been a flourishing Dylan subculture -- "Dylanology" -- the intensive study of all things Dylan. It was one thing when everybody was scouring his lyrics searching for the true meaning of life. Maybe that was a natural inclination, but if you were looking for the meaning of life in "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?", you were in trouble.

Eventually, this got out of hand. Some people turned to rummaging through Dylan's garbage in an effort to pick up Dylan insights. More chance of picking up Dylan bacteria there, but people wanted to know, you know, more about Bob.

Now we come to this same sort of task, without the garbage, but with the knowledge that Dylan is a baseball fan. So we look again for the hidden meanings in his songs, but this time, for the hidden baseball meanings. For instance:

• "Nothing Was Delivered." We thought it was an angry song about unfulfilled promises, but it could just as easily be a multi-layered examination of the balk rule.

• "Don't Ya Tell Henry." The title could make this a theme song for Barry Bonds hitting home run No. 756.

• "I Shall be Released." Maybe it's a man contemplating a spiritual rebirth or the end of a prison term. But it could also be a guy realizing that he is about to be beaten out for the 25th and last spot on the roster.

• "Paths of Victory." It's an uplifting song of the long-suffering underdog's determination to see a better day. Kind of like the 2004 Red Sox or the 2005 White Sox.

• "Shelter From the Storm." Dylan obviously became inspired during the course of a rain delay.

• "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." All right, Dylan changed the lyrics practically every time he sang this song, but it could be a plea for franchise stability and honoring fan loyalty. (See "You're Gonna Make me Lonesome When You Go.")

" • "Too Much of Nothing." It's a powerful, declarative lyric message that clearly empathizes with the longtime plight of Chicago Cubs fans.

• "Going, Going, Gone." Sometimes even Dylan isn't that subtle. It's either an auction or a home run, and where is the proof of Dylan being an auction fan?

• "Chimes of Freedom." On the surface, it's a man finding transcendent, glorious symbolism in an electrical storm. On the other hand, it could anticipate Curt Flood, the striking down of the reserve clause and free agency. Dylan has always been pro-labor.

• "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)." Actually, this is one Dylan song that is clearly not about baseball, proving once again just how elusive great art can be.

• Dylan admires Jeter, but as a singer-songwriter/cultural figure, he has a lifelong outsider, underdog stance going. He would be more likely to write sympathetically about a small-market team, and maybe "When the Ship Comes In" is where he did that. Still, people who are both Yankees and Dylan fans can find solace in the fact that "Neighborhood Bully" is also not about the Yankees.

• "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35." The refrain "Everybody must get stoned" could easily be Dylan commenting on allegations of widespread amphetamine use in the game. That's all been taken care of now, we hasten to add.

• "Trust Yourself." This title clearly is too close to "trust your stuff" to be mere coincidence.

Of course, there are more. There are hundreds more and you can pick out your own baseball themes in that semi-limitless Dylan song list. True, something like "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," doesn't seem too promising, but just knowing that Dylan likes ball is of considerable comfort in these trying times.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.