What's better than great closer entrance music? Awful closer entrance music, of course.
I once compiled a list of such music. There are 71 songs on that list, which mostly holds up seven years later, but which is missing some excellent material. It also contains only snappy (or not-so-snappy, depending on your tastes) one-liners, and is devoid of the thorough analysis such an important topic deserves.
To remedy this unfortunate situation, here is a deep dive into five additional songs, along with a more considered discussion of their merits.
“Don't Let's Start,” They Might Be Giants
First, the obvious: If you are coming in to close, you are by definition not starting. So while “don't let's start” could be practical advice in normal circumstances, in context it is entirely unnecessary, unless you are the sort of person who wears a belt and suspenders just to be safe.
That being said, the riff is catchy. A quick electronic drum burst is followed by organ, then guitar, leading into an up-tempo number that gets the adrenaline flowing. For 19 seconds this almost works, but then the lyric undermines a closer's intent when singer John Linnell admits, “I've got a weak heart.”
On the other hand, an argument can be made that the pitcher in question is all the more heroic for doing his job despite said weak heart. After all, it's easy for the strong to dominate. To admit fallibility, acknowledge that one's constitution doesn't lend itself to this line of work, and then get out there and do the job anyway requires a kind of courage that most of us will never know.
As Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley once said, “fear of failure is a major motivator.” Admit that you've got a weak heart. Get motivated. Save that ballgame.
“Forever in Love,” Kenny G
Trevor Hoffman had AC/DC's “Hells Bells.” Mariano Rivera had Metallica's “Enter Sandman.” Heavy metal lends itself well to closer entrance music. Raw, naked aggression pumping through the stadium PA is enough to whip everyone into a frenzy—provided they don't have a weak heart, of course.
Metal is dominated by distorted guitars, but in fact, most guitars are made of wood. You know what's made of actual, honest-to-goodness metal? Kenny G's saxophone. The instrument gets extra bonus irony points for being part of the woodwind family. It's like how Iceland is green and Greenland is icy.
And while Kenny G might not inspire the same emotions that, say, Queens of the Stone Age or Mastodon would, he's made a lot of money with drippy, accessible melodies. Similarly, a closer who converts saves can also make a lot of money. The correlation is as real as it is relevant, which is to say it is neither.
“Marble Halls,” Enya
This song was first performed as part of Michael W. Balfe's opera The Bohemian Girl in November 1843—not by Enya, in case you're wondering. Two verses appear in James Joyce's “Clay,” which was published in 1914. Laurel and Hardy starred in a film version of Balfe's opera 22 years after that.
On February 16, 1936, a mere two days after Laurel and Hardy's film opened, Don Landrum was born in Santa Rosa, CA. Landrum spent parts of nine seasons in the big leagues, including a cup of coffee with the 1960 Cardinals. One of his teammates there was Bob Sadowski, a utility player who had an illustrious minor-league career but only played 184 games at the highest level. Sadowski's final taste of the bigs came in 1963, with the Los Angeles Angels.
That same year, in Milwaukee, a different man named Bob Sadowski arrived in the bigs. On June 19, the new Sadowski made his debut at home against the Pirates. He didn't fare well and the Braves lost 6-2, but his catcher was none other than Joe Torre, who later managed the Yankees and moved a promising young starting pitcher to the bullpen. That pitcher's name was Mariano Rivera, who went on the become the great closer baseball has yet seen.
The odds against this sequence of events occurring in the exact manner they did are incalculable. The connection is clear. Enya FTW.
“My Pal Foot Foot,” The Shaggs
Frank Zappa once infamously claimed that the Shaggs, a band comprising three sisters from New Hampshire, were better than The Beatles. What Zappa failed to mention is what they were better at.
This song sounds like random noises made by people who have no understanding whatsoever of how music is supposed to work, but sounds can be deceiving. However, in this case they aren't.
Lyrically, where “Don't Let Start” admits to feelings of weakness, “My Pal Foot Foot” speaks to a more profound existential crisis:
"I've looked here, I've looked there I've looked everywhere Oh, Foot Foot Why can't I find you?"
The question remains unanswered. The devastation arising from such lack of resolution is reflected in the music itself, which similarly offers no hope for humankind.
And if all that isn't enough to leave batters demoralized beyond repair before the closer even reaches the mound, I don't know what is.
“Oops!.. I Did It Again,” Britney Spears
I stand corrected. This might leave batters more demoralized. Aside from the general gravitas and badassery that the former Mouseketeer brings—a Samuel L. Jackson of song, if you will—this piece might be the ultimate smackdown.
The verses are full of the word “baby,” which serves to infantilize the opposition, insinuating that batters who dare face the incoming closer are helpless against him. Spears wields the word “crush” four lines in, almost immediately after the first baby appears.
She would crush babies.
It all builds to the chorus, which provides a vicious reminder of who exactly holds the power in the battle that is about to ensue:
"Oops, I did it again I played with your heart, got lost in the game"
She did it again. There is some ambiguity about what “did it” refers to, but in context it seems reasonable to equate it with “beat you.” She then admits that she was playing all along. And though “lost in the game” sounds like a negative, the word “in” suggests otherwise. She didn't lose the game; she got lost in it. Also, “got lost” is only a verb tense away from the colloquial “get lost,” which is a further dismissal of the previously infantilized and beaten opposition.
To summarize, this song is about repeatedly crushing babies and then claiming it's all just some game. Fear the closer that enters while it's blaring through the stadium. Very bad things are about to happen, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Again.
*** Geoff Young is a writer who enters writing places to the sounds of Celine Dion. You should follow him on Twitter.