For sports writer Larry Fleisher, Pearl Jam and baseball have a 20 year (‘Yield’) history

Art by: Joey Feldman

About two weeks ago, we recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam releasing Yield.

Yield was its fifth album and the one that got me really going with getting into Pearl Jam.

Believe it or not, I was what you might classify as a casual fan of the band, meaning I knew the big hits, “Alive”, “Even Flow”, “Daughter” and so on. Heck, I didn’t even know No Code existed and this is a year and a half after it was released in Aug. 1996.

So, how does something like this happen, especially to someone who credits himself as attending a show even if he heard it all from the outside of the Great Lawn at Central Park?

One answer is age.

In 1998, I was 19 working a student job in college and starting to get involved in college radio. I only knew Pearl Jam had a new album because one day a family member happened to hear “Wishlist” on the classic rock station and said he liked it. He asked me if I had heard it and I said I hadn’t.

Back then, the internet was kind of its infancy, so immediate knowledge of new albums was not easily available as it is now. And being 12, 14, 15 and 17 when Pearl Jam’s first few albums emerged, money was not readily available for CD or cassette purchases.

Of course, I could have done a better job of following the band than I had. I guess I could have tuned in, but I tuned out for whatever reason.

So, a few weeks later, I heard the song again and I was hooked even if it’s not my favorite song from the album. Then a few weeks later, I’m producing a baseball game for college radio and we get to a lengthy rain delay.

I could have decided to talk for a while on the air and I might have, but as the rain delay goes on, there’s only so much you can talk about. So, what’s laying near me in the vicinity?

A copy of Yield.

And for the next 45 minutes or so I put the CD in and played it from start to finish. Since it was a station that couldn’t be streamed on the internet and only heard on the cafeteria and in the parking lot and it was mid-May, I wasn’t too concerned when there the word “Fuckers” appeared during “Given to Fly”. In my defense, I might not have realized there was a profanity as it was probably the third or fourth time I heard the album.

Photo by: Michael Young

Doing this affirmed how good this album was and how good it was to hear it. So, a few weeks later, I headed to the library, found a copy of the CD and immediately transferred it to audio tape and then I found No Code.

The songs that really resonated with me was “Smile”. I’m not sure of the reason, maybe because how much it sounded like a Neil Young track and how hearing that brought back memories of seeing Pearl Jam and Neil perform together at the 1993 Video Music Awards, something I taped on the VCR while I was on a family vacation.

So somewhere, there’s a black audio tape with probably a low-quality recording of Yield and some of No Code on it. And it affirmed I was fully invested in enjoying the band, even if it took a while to get to a concert and still required me to do some catching up.

~Larry Fleisher


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