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Raise Your Homer Hanky to 37 Years of Twins Novelty Tunes

As the 2024 season begins Thursday afternoon, let’s remember some past bangers about our boys of summer.

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Edouard Julien, Kirby Puckett

For Minnesota Twins fans of a certain age, memories of the team’s two world championships in 1987 and 1991 are interwoven with a handful of novelty songs from that same time. Over the past 33 years, championship seasons may have been in short supply, but the songs kept coming. 

Britannica defines a novelty song as a “popular song that is either written and performed as a novelty or that becomes a novelty when removed from its original context,” but that’s a little too self-referential for my tastes. Let’s just say you definitely know one when you hear one. 

“My Baby Waves Her Homer Hanky,” a parody of (homage to?) “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells, was everywhere in 1987. Yet I can’t find any reliable attribution for who recorded it or any backstory, which is unfortunate. It was 21 years between “Hanky Panky” and “Homer Hanky,” and it’s been 37 years since. No, that isn’t messing with my mind, why do you ask?

On the other hand, the folks behind the “Berenguer Boogie,” a 1987 glow-up for setup man Juan Berenguer, aka Senor Smoke, seemed to anticipate that someone would want to unearth the official story years in the future. When watching the "Berenguer Boogie" music video (posted below, with its accompanying behind-the-scenes short from Paisley Park) today, it’s important to remember two things: The Chicago Bears had produced the "Super Bowl Shuffle" less than two years earlier, and irony wouldn’t be invented until 1993. 

Since I was 11 when all this was going on and the internet didn’t yet exist, there were also a couple of gems from 1987 that I wasn’t aware of at the time. First off, a contemporaneous Strib column by Jon Bream tells the story of “Win Twins Win,” a by-the-numbers knockoff of AC/DC’s TNT which was written by KJJO DJ Dan Hatter and recorded by costume-metal band Slave Raider. Bream’s column also posits the existence of a “Johnny B. Goode” parody called “Twins Be Good,” written by Mark Curtis and performed by Bruce Henry and the Rupert’s Orchestra, but I couldn’t persuade the world wide web to vomit that one up. 

And last but certainly not least, some St. Louis radio DJs decided to fat-shame Kirby Puckett during the ‘87 Series by cutting “The Ballad of Kirby Puckett,” set to the tune of Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” (which could itself be described as a novelty song). Sample lyrics: “He’s built kind of stocky with short dark hair/And a colossal mound of derriere/Big Butt.” Supposedly Puck got a kick out of it, though, so I guess it’s all good. 

In the dark roughly-a-decade that followed the ‘91 World Series title, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth in Twins Territory, but no novelty tunes of note. I feel like I need to self-report myself for googling “songs about Ron Coomer” and “songs about Marty Cordova” while stone-cold sober. 

The Twins had a good (regular-season, natch) run in the Metrodome’s waning years and in the early Target Field era, and that was represented by an uptick in team-related content. The Minnesota Sports Band released a whole album of Twins- and Vikings-themed songs in 2009, GB Leighton had Twins Territory in 2010, and celebrated once-local Craig Finn’s The Baseball Project released Don’t Call Them Twinkies in 2012, but none of them really had that novelty-song kick. Joe Mauer inspired several songs, but they’re all Just. So. Fucking. Earnest. Johan Santana inspired an “O Susanna” knockoff titled Oh Santana,” but that didn’t happen until after he’d been traded to the Mets and pitched a no-hitter, so I don’t think that counts. Somehow the 2019 Bomba Squad came and went without a single song being released about them. 

Which brings us to the present day, and to everyone’s favorite Auburn-educated Quebecois plate-discipline savant, Edouard Julien. Davy Andrews of Fangraphs wrote an article about the 24-year-old infielder in late January that ended with a catchy little ditty titled “Edouard Julien Are You Gonna Rule Again.” “He’s a god/From the land of poutine/Where it’s cold/And nobody’s mean.” That’s the straight dope right there, folks. 

Andrews, reached via the magic of his Twitter DMs, expanded on his inspiration: “Whenever I think about [Julien]. I get the Wckr Spgt song “Francois Mitterrand” stuck in my head, just because both names are French and they have the exact same scansion.”

He wrote the article first and had abandoned hope of including the song as part of it, but a fortuitous posting delay gave him enough time.

“I spent most of the weekend working on a full band version, [but] I couldn’t get the vocals right,” Andrews related. “I can’t sing like Wckr Spgt. There’s something very special about that song. I listened to the acoustic version again, and it had grown on me a bit. I quickly added the piano and backup vocals and started working on the video. I sent it to my editors in the morning, and, surprisingly, they were enthusiastic about it.”

It’s pretty clear that 1987 reached heights in the Twins novelty-song realm that haven’t been approached since. But it just takes a combination of one moderately interesting player and one weirdo songwriter for lightning to strike again. 

I’ll close by attempting to speak some of these ideas into existence: a Grateful Dead parody featuring noted hippie bike-nut Joe Ryan; “99 (Injury) Problems” about oft-dinged-up stars Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis, and it’s too on-the-nose, but the 1999 Grammy-winning smash hit single “Smooth” by 1B/DH Carlos Santana. Go Twins!

Postscript: I didn’t know where to include these, but Louie Opatz put out two blogs/songs on Twinkie Town in 2021, one about Randy Bush and one about Jim Kaat, and they’re both great, especially walking through Bush’s pinch-hitting progression as the innings advance: “Randy Bush/We need a push in the tush.”

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