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Friday, July 30, 2004
Updated: August 3, 9:40 AM ET
Old-timers groove at-bat

By Paul Katcher
Special to Page 3

It's not just in the weight room where modern major-leaguers resemble their counterparts in pro wrestling. These days, professional baseball players enter the game accompanied by their own theme music.

Mariano Rivera
When you hear "Enter Sandman" in the Bronx, it means the game will quickly be put to bed.
Padres closer Trevor Hoffman emerges from the bullpen to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." At Yankee Stadium, Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blares when Joe Torre calls on Mariano Rivera -- a signal for the visiting bus driver to hit the ignition.

Batters, too, stride to the plate feeling the groove of rock, rap, salsa or whatever soothes their nerves before facing Randy Johnson's slider.

The existence of entrance music might not be as appealing to former all-time greats as eight-figure endorsement deals or the thin air at Coors Field, but they probably would've dug it. Here's a look at how baseball's All-Century batters (voted on in 1999) might choose to come to the plate in 2004.


Page 3 will examine the connection between sports and music all summer long. Also, catch SportsCenter's music series all this week at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN.

  • MLB oldsters at-bat songs
  • The intersection of sports & music
  • Peter Gammons' musical bend
  • Bands who are fans
  • 10 best/worst stadium songs
  • Jocks vs. rockers: Who's got it better?
  • Singing at Wrigley no stretch
  • Sports' greatest hits and misses
  • Athletes who'll make your ears bleed
  • 10 BQs with Lloyd Banks
  • Bon Jovi rocks a new arena

    Coming up:
  • At-bat songs for all 30 MLB teams
  • The hip-hop and hoop connection
  • Catchers
    Johnny Bench: Just Johnny, Thanks
    Song: "Horse With No Name" by America
    Here's a Hall of Fame backstop with a common first name who is among the best-hitting, best-fielding and most-clutch players ever at his position. And what does he go by? Johnny. Were you people in Cincinnati asleep in the '70s or did it just not cross your mind that every all-timer is supposed to be tagged with a catchy nickname, so he can scrawl it under his autograph and sell it for an additional $35?

    Yogi Berra: Confusing Optimist
    Song: "It's Not Over ('Til It's Over)" by Jefferson Starship
    Famous for his eyebrow-raising one-liners -- the best-known being the song title above -- Lawrence P. Berra was one of the most ardent lovers of 20th century jewelry, collecting 10 World Series rings in 14 Fall Classic appearances. There might as well have been a "Be Home in November" sign hung on the Berra residence every season. (Honorable mentions: "You Know What I'm Saying" by Run D.M.C.; "Lord of the Rings" by multiple artists)

    First Baseman
    Lou Gehrig: Hometown Hero
    Song: "Boy From New York City" by Manhattan Transfer
    The venerable Iron Horse was born in New York, starred at New York's Columbia University and died in New York after 17 glorious seasons with the Yankees, for whom he teamed with Babe Ruth to form the most feared 1-2 punch in baseball history. Over a modern-season 162-game average, they each knocked in and scored 140 runs. And Mitch Williams wasn't even around back then.

    Mark McGwire
    "Musclehead" by Napalm Death could have been the best song to signal a Big Mac Attack.
    Mark McGwire: Big, Big, Big Red
    Song: "Musclehead" by Napalm Death
    Excuse the fact that Jimmie Foxx should be in this spot to begin with. About even in the power departments, the former Philadelphia A's and Boston Red Sox all-timer's batting average crushed Big Mac's by 62 points (.325 to .263). McGwire was riding a sport-wide lovefest when the voting was conducted at the turn of the century, a year after setting a single-season homer record that would not be broken ... for three years.

    Second Baseman
    Jackie Robinson: Agent of Change
    Song: "Break on Through" by The Doors
    If you're gonna set Robinson's video highlights to music, they'd have to be accompanied by rock 'n' roll. High energy and fearless, his debut preceded the Doors' first cut off their first album by two decades. He always was ahead of his time.

    Rogers Hornsby: National League Hitting Machine
    Song: "Leader of the Pack" by The Shangri-Las
    In a stretch of six seasons from 1920-25, the Cardinals second baseman dominated the NL as well, or better than, Ruth was doing in the AL. Each season, he led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, three times batting .400 or better (included a record .424 in 1924), three times leading in runs, four times in hits and RBIs, five times in total bases, twice in homers and once in triples.

    Third Baseman
    Mike Schmidt: Philly's Main Event Besides Balboa/Creed
    Song: "2000 Man" by The Rolling Stones
    We're going with this selection because while watching ESPN Classic, the 6-foot-2, powerfully built Schmidt actually looks like he could play in the current millennium. The others guys? Not so much. Hey, what's that Red Sox bat boy doing in center field? What, that's Fred Lynn?

    Brooks Robinson: Human Vacuum Cleaner
    Song: "Down on the Corner" by Credence Clearwater Revival
    The (hot) corner. It was where Willy and the Poor Boys played, and it was where Robinson swallowed up virtually every line drive and grounder, winning 16 consecutive Gold Gloves, from 1960-75. With only a .322 career on-base percentage, he probably would've been released if Billy Beane was his general manager.

    Cal Ripken, Jr.: Everyday Oriole
    Song: "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath
    This tune selection is in obvious deference to his incredible streak of 2,632 games played. Also because there's no song titled "Thank God A-Rod Moved to Third Base So People Remember Me in 25 Years."

    Ernie Banks
    How about "Diamond in the Rough" for the Cubs' Lovable Loser, Ernie Banks.
    Ernie Banks: Lovable Loser
    Song: "Diamond in the Rough" by Shawn Colvin
    In 13 of his first 14 seasons with the Cubs, Chicago suffered more losses than wins. Sandwiched in there were five 40-homer seasons, back-to-back MVP awards in 1958-59 and an infectious attitude that made him the darling of Wrigley Field's faithful. Mr. Cub loved to play two, even if his team was happy to just get a split.

    Honus Wagner: The Good Died Old (81)
    Song: "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant
    "Don't drink, don't smoke. What do ya do?" Um, win eight batting titles and bloody up a sliding Ty Cobb in the 1909 World Series with a hard tag in the grill. Apart from his hitting prowess in the dead-ball era (talking 1897-1917, not the 1993 Mets), Wagner was best known for his clean living and objection to his image being used to market cigarettes on early 20th century baseball cards. Production of Wagner's T206 card marketed by Piedmont Tobacco was halted, making it the rarest and most sought-after sports collectible.

    Babe Ruth: Original Sultan of Swing
    Song: "Simply the Best" by Tina Turner
    He got more votes than anyone for the All-Century Team, and with good reason. Ruth soared so high above his contemporaries that he might have won 10 MVPs and one Cy Young Award had he been eligible in each of his seasons. And think of the economic impact he created at the park, what with the elevating attendance figures and his own affinity for hot dogs.

    Hank Aaron: Home Run King
    Song: "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher
    Maybe it's unfair to always link a man with the credentials of Hank Aaron -- top three all-time in homers, RBIs, hits, runs and more -- to Babe Ruth, but that's the way it goes in any sport. Wayne Gretzky was the Babe Ruth of hockey. Michael Jordan was the Babe Ruth of basketball. Wilt Chamberlain was the Babe Ruth of extracurricular activities. It's not such bad company to be in.

    Ted Williams: Ring, ring? Ring, ring?
    Song: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2
    The greatest baseball player to have never won a World Series -- though it's arguable Barry Bonds' eight Gold Gloves and 500 steals make up for a 46-point difference in career batting average -- the Splendid Splinter was No. 16 on ESPN's SportsCentury list, receiving the highest ranking of anyone who didn't once reach the apex of his sport.

    Willie Mays: The Perfect Ballplayer
    Song: "Centerfield" by John Fogerty
    Someone's gotta be awarded this classic baseball tune, so it might as well be the Say Hey Kid, who played the sport the way it was supposed to be played: combining genuine exuberance with respect, never betraying the fans' love of what is essentially a kids' game played by hard-working but also fortunate professionals. It's really not that bad of a life, is it, Mr. Bonds?

    Joe DiMaggio
    What's a better song for the dude who got with Marilyn Monroe than "We Are the Champions"?
    Joe DiMaggio: Baseball Royalty
    Song: "We Are the Champions" by Queen
    Yeah, the song might be a little pompous, but wasn't Joe D. pompous, too? He was great, and so were the Yanks, and he wasn't ashamed of either his or his team's success. And he got with Marilyn Monroe when she was the No. 1 babe out there, so he's got a right to brag.

    Mickey Mantle: Hard-Drinking Okie
    Song: "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks
    Bill Martin and Whitey Ford were just two of The Mick's teammates who could lend back-up vocals on the chorus. Together, the whiskey drowned and the beer chased their blues away -- 'til a 1957 brawl at the Copacabana chased Martin away from the Yankees to Kansas City in a trade. (Honorable mentions: "Tequila Sunrise" by The Eagles, "Livin' on the Edge" by Aerosmith, pretty much anything by Hank Williams, Jr.)

    Ty Cobb: Hall of Fame Jerk
    Song: "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks
    Irritating, vile and racist, Cobb was the Georgia Peach who was anything but. He didn't fully appreciate his on-field success unless his opponents were either humiliated or injured in the process. Good thing Pete Rose broke Cobb's all-time hits record, so that a louse doesn't have his name attached to that hallowed mark.

    Ken Griffey, Jr.: His Sky Found a Limit
    Song: "What Might Have Been" by Little Texas
    Junior's 2004 resurgence might prove this song selection irrelevant, or it might shine an even brighter light on his first four years in Cincinnati, in which Griffey was hardly among the best active outfielders, let alone the all-timers. In 1999, his final season in Seattle, The Kid bashed 48 home runs, stole 24 bases and won a Gold Glove, a spectacular but hardly surprising performance for the then-30-year-old. From 2000-2003 combined, Griffey hit only 83 homers, stole just eight bases, never won a Gold Glove nor garnered a single MVP vote.

    Pete Rose: Disgraced All-Time Hit King
    Song: "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers
    Clearly the easiest song assignment of the bunch, Rose didn't know when to fold 'em, admitting 14 years too late that he gambled on baseball. If only he'd given reporter Jim Gray a straight answer after receiving a standing ovation before Game 2 of the 1999 World Series, he might've already delivered his acceptance speech at Cooperstown. The fans' goodwill has since run dry, and Chad Curtis has to be wondering if that protest to not talk with Gray after his Game 3-winning homer was worth it. (Honorable mentions: "Lyin' Eyes" by The Eagles, "Paperback Writer" by The Beatles.)

    Stan Musial: Pride of St. Louis
    Song: "A Little Less Talk (And a Lot More Action)" by Toby Keith
    St. Louis' silent assassin was a typical Midwestern hero who valued substance over style, a main cog in the second-most successful franchise in major-league history. Stan the Man was a three-time MVP, a three-time World Series champion and is among the all-time leaders in almost every major hitting category. Arguments have been made that Musial, who received only the ninth-most votes for outfield on MLB All-Century Team, is the most underrated player in baseball history.

    Paul Katcher is a freelance writer based in New York City. He welcomes questions, comments and web links to interesting sites and news items at