The Secret History of Baseball: Closers
Today’s definition of a quality start is a pitcher going six innings or more, giving up no more than three earned runs. This is a “quality” start in the same way there’s a “Quality” Inn. Because while it is certainly important to build a bridge to the 9th inning, it’s still the closer that gets the spotlight and glory.
The modern closer is often a menacing man, experimental in his use of facial hair, mean-spirited, and icy veined. But most importantly–he gets to enter to his own song.
Mariano Rivera takes the mound to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Jonathan Broxton starts his brief work day with “Iron Man.” But here are 3 lesser-known closers and the music that made them.
The first relief pitcher to enter to music was Carmine DeSantis of the 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers, known to his friends as “Ham Fist.” This was attributed to his habit of doctoring balls with pig fat from the butcher shop that was his day job. DeSantis would enter with a mustachioed organ grinder and a monkey in a bellhop’s hat. He wouldn’t throw a pitch until the monkey had collected at least two bits from other players, opposing or his own teammates’.
One of the more challenging “songs” a pitcher has ever entered to was entitled “Thump.” It was the calling card of Heinz Mueller, a short-lived reliever for the 1976 Oakland A’s. The track featured eight minutes of the sounds of a bundled dog being struck with a pipe set to atonal synth hits. Eventually, it was banned for its obvious cruelty to both animals and humans, though it did peak at #4 on the German pop charts.
Lastly, the most flamboyant of entrances belonged to the late Diggy Schumbert. He played in only eight games for the 1983 Milwaukee Brewers, each time walking in to a song of his original composition. He would perform custom tunes on his stroll to the mound. Songs like, “Boy Folks, I Hope This Goes Well,” “Let’s All Just Go Home” and “(Always Giving It) The Best I Can.” What could have been a lackluster career in pitching and lounge singing alike was cut short when Diggy was brutally assaulted by his own teammates.
TJ Jagodowski used to play on the stages of Second City and on the baseball fields of Holyoke, Mass.