AUGUSTA — The Masters is one of my favorite sports events of the year, not just because of the tournament but also for the Wednesday night before the opening round when a bunch of AJC writers and assorted pals get together for our annual pre-tournament fantasy draft and dinner.
Several years ago, I became friends with R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, a long-time Athens resident and die-hard Atlanta sports fan. He attends the Masters every year. So it seemed only logical that Millsy would become a regular attendee of our draft, which I’m assuming makes us the only annual Masters draft that includes a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and three-time Grammy winner.
After Wednesday’s draft, WSB-TV’s Zach Klein and I invited Mills into our palatial recording studios — the dining room of the AJC’s rental home — for this week’s, “We Never Played the Game” podcast. We could’ve kept Mike for hours talking music, sports and politics but we kept the show to about 45 minutes.
The audio is embedded here. All podcast episodes can be downloaded and heard via iTunes. Recent episodes, including one with former Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, also can be found in the on-demand link of the WSB Radio website.
Mills isn’t just a big sports fan, he also has somewhat of a sports fantasy league addict. It’s not uncommon for him to be in a dozen sports leagues at once. He currently is in seven baseball leagues and he’s in the championship of his NBA league.
A few bullet points from the podcast:
• On his original career dream: “I wanted to be a baseball player. I played little league baseball and I was an All-Star two years. I think that puts me in the top 50 percentile in the entire universe of kids.”
• On his two loves in life, sports and music: “Every thing I love about sports and music came out of my Sinclair Dino the Dinosaur transistor radio. I would listen music during the day and at night I would turn to WSB to listen to Braves games at night. Back then they were in the National League West. I got no sleep growing up because I had the radio on my pillow and the (West Coast) games ended at 1:30 in the morning.”
• On when he realized R.E.M. would make it: “There’s a moment stuck in my head. I was walking down the street in Athens, Georgia. Peter (Buck) and I just looked at each other and said, ‘You know what? We’re not bad at this.’ For the money we were making, we could pay the rent, drink beer and eat pizza, and that was making it. We weren’t thinking past six months but that was fine.”
• On living the rock and roll life and women flocking to him: “There was no flocking. We would laugh about the fact that we got girls who wanted to read us their poetry.” (Seriously, there was flocking.)
Mills also talks about flying back and forth from Europe, where he was on a R.E.M. promotional tour, so he could attend the World Series between the Braves and New York Yankees in 2006, and that moment when the Braves lost Game 6.
There’s a ton of great stuff on the podcast but I’ll leave you with this. My old high school pal Steve Wynn, formerly of the “Dream Syndicate,” in later years started a group called the “Baseball Project,” with Buck, Scott McCaughey (often referred to as the fifth R.E.M. member) and Linda Pitmon. They pooled their love and knowledge for baseball to write some really cool songs and I’d encourage you to check them out on iTunes, YouTube or, dare I suggest, a music store.
One song off the group’s first album was called, “Yankee Flipper.” It was about former pitcher Jack McDowell, who had such a horrible start when he was with the New York Yankees in 1995 (nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings) that he was booed by home fans as he was taken out of the game. McDowell responded by flipping the crowd the bird as he walked to the dugout. Hence, “The Yankee Flipper.”
Some background: McDowell had gone out with Mills, McCaughey and the Smithereens’ Dennis Diken a couple of nights before that ill-fated start and he got hammered. So McCaughey wrote a song about the night, accepting blame with Mills. Mills talks about that night in the podcast. Here’s the song, with McCaughey (left) and Wynn (right) on vocals and Mills between them.
Subscribe to the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast with the AJC’s Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. Episodes also can be downloaded from on-demand link on WSBRadio.com.
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