Monday, July 6, 2015

Jefferson Hart: Of Music And Baseball

For many years, Jefferson Hart has been involved in a number of bands in the Triangle area, and stays busy with a number of projects. However, if you’re a friend of his on Facebook, music is something that you don’t hear about very often. What you’re more likely to hear about is Hart’s other passion, baseball. Specifically the Baltimore Orioles, and baseball history. As a longtime baseball fan, collector and historian, and former ballplayer and sportswriter, seeing Hart’s posts is a wonderful rarity. A music fan that also follows baseball, who knows who Brooks Robinson and Dave Davies are, and holds them with equal regard. 

With the Orioles and Yankees (my longtime favorite team- yes, I know, nobody’s perfect) currently fighting for the lead in the American League East, it seemed like a good thing to ask some questions to Jeff about baseball, and where the two interests meet.

Daniel Coston: When did you first get into baseball?

Jeff Hart: I remember first playing in a horse pasture when I was about 6. From there, it was backyard ball with neighborhood boys who were old enough to already be in organized leagues. First World Series I really paid attention to was the '69 one. O's vs. Mets. At first, I was thinking I'd pull for the Mets as I liked their uniforms and hats, but the kids across the street made a good case for the O's (the two Robinsons and Boog, etc.), so I went that way.

Coston: Which team did you first root for?

Hart: Orioles from '69 onward.

Coston: Did you play Little League baseball? High school? College?

Hart: I played from age 10 to age 18. That included high school in Garner all three years. We beat a Charlotte team in '78 for the State title at Crockett Park for the State 4A Championship.

Coston: What came first, baseball, or music?

Hart: Baseball came first, but I was always a radio listener. I got 45s for Christmas from about age 9 to 13. A a great era for music, circa '70 to '74.

Coston: Growing up, did you feel any pressure from friends to be into either baseball, or music? Instead of both?

Hart: Was never any pressure. I just followed my heart. I was convinced I'd be a major leaguer until my senior year in high school. I was benched for a power hitting 2B guy and it broke my spirit. Had I sought out more advice, I really should have tried to walk on with a college or try out for some minor league team. From there, I turned immediately to music as my real #1 passion. Baseball is still close behind, but there was a decade or so that I let the game go.

Coston: How often do you follow baseball, and the Orioles these days?

Hart: Every day. I have satellite TV purely so I can see the O's on MASN each night. And I read the blogs every day of the off season.

Coston: What music are you working on these days?

Hart: Mainly playing live with my band (Jefferson Hart & The Ghosts of the Old North State) and Sad Magazine (I'm on bass). Kinksmen play about twice a year. Danny Gotham and I do have a baseball themed cd in the works. May be out by the playoffs.

Coston: Do you find that some people are surprised that you’re a big fan of music, and baseball? 

Hart: I think they're surprised I love the O's. I'm such a fan that people often assume I'm from there since in NC, it's been mostly Braves and Yankee fandom dominating in my youth.

Coston: What has been your favorite baseball and music crossover?

Hart: Not sure if I can really name any other than having friends in music who are big, big baseball fans. The Baseball Project may need another listen from me, but it didn't floor me as I'd have hoped on first spin.  

Coston: Coolest baseball players you have ever met, and coolest musicians that you ever met. Tell me about them.

Hart: Catfish Hunter visited my school the winter he signed with NY. His high school catcher married my science teacher. It was a huge day at North Garner Jr. High. I still have his signature somewhere. The other big one was Gayle Sayers at a meet and greet at a hardward store a year or so after he retired. I did see Brooks Robinson at his statue unveiling in 2012. Still my biggest baseball hero. But I didn't get to "meet" him. But hearing his speech and seeing the other O's Hall of Famers on hand was incredible. Musically, I got to open for folks like Roger McGuinn, Richard Thompson, Robert Earl Keen, Dave Davies and Warren Zevon. All were big, big thrills. Thompson was the nicest. Him and Glenn Tilbrook. 

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