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08/29/2008 10:38 AM ET
Bound by bluegrass and baseball
Album details a small-town and its local lore
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
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The cover of the latest Gibson Brothers album, Iron & Diamonds, shows very clearly what the hardscrabble Adirondack community of Lyon Mountain, N.Y., has always been known for: iron ore mining and the prolific tradition of town baseball.

The artwork and the album's title track serve as the perfect introduction to the timeless American bluegrass music played by Eric and Leigh Gibson, who were raised in nearby Ellenburg Depot, N.Y., and have been obsessed with local lore and the National Pastime since they were children.

"The mines were in operation from turn of the century to the late 1960s," says Eric, who sings and plays banjo alongside singer and guitarist Leigh.

"And Lyon Mountain's also known for its baseball players. We felt it was a powerful image, the coming out of the darkness of the mines into the sunlight of the baseball field. It works well for a song and an album."

The song's chorus spells it all out clearly: "Around the horn, a can of corn, a ground ball will get you two/ A life of iron and diamonds is all the miners knew."

And for a while, it's all the Gibson Brothers knew.

Eric and Leigh both played for the Lyon Mountain Miners out of high school and witnessed a juggernaut of a team, a perennial league championship contender with some serious Major League ties.

The local Kowalowski family, for example, had several players on the team, including Tom, who was signed by the Yankees, although he never made it to the Major Leagues.

"He coached my team and had tons of stories," Eric says. "Like getting to catch Whitey Ford and hitting a home run off Don Drysdale, who yelled at him and knocked him down the next time he was up."

Eric says there's a local legend that the Yankees tried to get in touch with a few other Kowalowski boys for tryouts, but the mining company got the letter and never gave it to them.

"I don't know how true that is," Eric says, "but it's still a good story."

When referencing this town and its many characters and traditions, Eric says the brothers were brought back to a simpler time when the area, about six hours north of New York City, was extremely remote and didn't even have the New York State "Northway" highway running through it up to Canada.

"It's all local flavor and we like to write about things of the area," Eric says. "And the song has gotten a lot of attention, not just around here, but quite a bit across the country, too."

Eric says his baseball playing days continued at Ithaca College, which is in the same upstate New York town as Cornell University.

"I played first base, and I was a right-hander, but I wish I was a lefty," he says. "I threw just hard enough that I could have been a crafty lefty. I hit the low 80s, but I just didn't quite have enough oomph behind it."

His ball-playing days might be over, but he says he still plays with his kids when he's not traveling around the country playing music.

And he's well aware that the Gibson Brothers are not the only bluegrass artists to have loved baseball. In fact, the Father of Bluegrass Music himself, Bill Monroe, was a hardball fan, too.

"He'd field a team of his band members on the road," Eric says. "It seems like there's definitely a common thread throughout bluegrass history with baseball. I don't know what there is about it, but in a lot of ways, it's a simple game -- you catch it, you throw it -- and bluegrass is simple music.

"It's a natural, organic kind of music. There's something about baseball that makes you hearken back to simpler times. And there's a lot of that in bluegrass as well."

When the Gibson Brothers are home or on the road these days, they're checking out the box scores of their favorite team, the Yankees.

"We fell in love with them in 1977, and once you're brainwashed as a kid, you can't leave that team, no matter how they're doing," Eric says.

He adds that the brothers are trying to hit as many Major League stadiums as they can when they're on the road, and they recently caught one at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and another at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

His favorite baseball moment was a very popular one to Yankee fans everywhere: Aaron Boone's 2003 American League Championship Series-winning, Red Sox-beating homer in the 11th inning of Game 7.

"My dad spent that whole game groveling about the Yankees, but I had a feeling that they were going to come back," he says. "When Boone hit that ball, my dad jumped out of his chair and yelled'Boonie!' It was such a euphoric moment.

"Baseball is such a universal thing for sons and fathers. When there's nothing else left to talk about, there's always baseball."

Doug Miller is a Senior Writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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