It’s no secret that Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder is a lifelong baseball fan, and when the singer recently spoke to Billboard for a PJ cover story about the band’s new album, “Lightning Bolt” and its deal to soundtrack the 2013 World Series (beginning tonight with the Boston Red Sox battling the St. Louis Cardinals), the conversation naturally turned to the game.
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While Pearl Jam have 48 songs (including the new album) being used extensively throughout this year’s Fox Sports World Series broadcast, Chicago native Vedder’s beloved Cubs not have played in a World Series since 1945, 19 years before he was born. But the singer himself did unexpectedly get to witness one game in 2009.
“I never went to a World Series, I was waiting for the Cubs to get in,” Vedder tells Billboard. “Then a few years ago, when we [PJ] played the [Philadelphia] Spectrum the last night, it was quite a confluence of events. It was the last night of anything in the Spectrum and they were going to blow it up after the show, and it was Halloween, and the World Series was going on across the street, Yankees and the Phillies. The next night I actually went to the Phillies/Yankees World Series. That was it. But I’m going to go to a Cubs World Series game — and I’m taking care of my health in order to do so.”
Vedder’s Cubs fandom runs all the way back to his early childhood, and on July 19 he got a double-header of baseball dreams come true: Pearl Jam played an epic Wrigley Field show that went until 2 a.m., and one of his heroes, Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks, made an appearance and took home Vedder’s boyhood mitt.
“Ernie, he kept my glove,” Vedder says, explaining he’d had it since he was a grade-schooler, “I’ve got pictures of me when I’m about six.” He took it to Chicago from a place of honor in is home next to the glove of a dear friend. “I have Johnny Ramone’s baseball glove [from] when he was a kid, so I had them sitting next to each other in a little spot in the house. Then I brought [mine], just to bring it to Wrigley, I just wanted it to be there.”
Backstage at Wrigley that night, the PJ frontman’s glove drew Banks’ attention.
“Ernie saw it and then he put it on, and he said, [adopts an Ernie Banks voice] ‘I really like this glove… It’s a good mitt. There’s love in this glove. I really would like to have this glove. This would be a connection between you and me to have this mitt,'” Vedder explains. “I said, ‘Well Ernie it’s my first mitt as a kid.’ And his friend was looking at me going, ‘Oh no you’re never going to see that again,” he laughs. “I said, ‘You can absolutely have my mitt.’ Because if you go back and realize some day Ernie Banks might ask for your mitt, you f*cking give it to him — Mr. Cub, the hero that you watched as a kid.”
Vedder also mentions another Cub –whose jersey he wore at the Wrigley show– that has meant a lot to him and who reminded him of one of his favorite music groups when he was little. “José Cardenal, number one, he was my other hero,” he says. “The guy with a big afro and big smile. He was the member of the Cubs that looked most like a member of the Jackson 5. [At] five years old, all those things went together. He’s become a great great friend.”