My interview with Ira Kaplan of the defining indie-rock trio Yo La Tengo begins with me stammering about the momentous cultural significance — the astute and poetic American symbolism — of the band’s name.
The Hoboken-based group, which formed back in 1984 and whose first album came out two years later, named itself after what New York Mets outfielder Richie Ashburn (in the expansion team’s first season) would yell to Spanish-speaking teammate (and former Red) Elio Chacon to call him away from fly balls.
It means “I’ve got it” and was meant to avoid collisions between the two. Legend (and Wikipedia) has it that Ashburn once yelled it to Chacon only to have non-Spanish-speaking outfielder Frank Thomas plow into him.
“What the heck is a yellow tango,” Thomas reportedly said.
Patiently, I explain to Kaplan how that anecdote encapsulates so much about the best of modern baseball history — the coming-together of the Mets from cast-offs to champions; the inclusion and acceptance of Spanish-speaking players in the league.
Yo La Tengo plays the Southgate House with Wussy Saturday.
Read Steve Rosen's full interview with Yo La Tengo and get show and club details here.