In the first part of this two-part series, I explained why relievers should consider a non-traditional approach when selecting their entrance music. Here, I'll conclude with the five best closer songs.
5. Master of Puppets - Metallica: This is my nod to the traditional approach to closer music, mostly because I'm amazed no one (as far as I know) has picked it yet. How have multiple closers chosen "Enter Sandman" and none picked this song, from the better, Cliff Burton-era incarnation of Metallica? "Obey your master"? Could there be a more obvious, more overlooked choice? Sure, it's about drug addiction, but there's no need to mention that on the scoreboard.
Would "Master of Puppets" be the most inspired, original choice? Far from it. But for a pitcher looking to tread on familiar ground while simultaneously paying tribute to Metallica's best lineup and reminding opposing hitters that he's pulling their strings, this is the easy answer.
4. Keep Their Heads Ringin' - Dr. Dre: On Monday, I wrote that "hip-hop is woefully underrepresented in the realm of closer music," and this, to me, is the perfect choice to even the score a bit. Starting right from KRS-One's "buck, buck, buck, buck" bit up top, this song is straight intimidation, with Dr. Dre posturing in all sorts of closer-applicable ways.
Apart from the lyrics, I love imagining how "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" would fire up a crowd. I've long held that Dr. Dre, as a producer, is one of the best and most underappreciated musicians of the past twenty years. The bassline here is classic Dre: Straightforward and simple, but so thick and so funky. One of the first lyrics of the song exhorts listeners to get up off their chairs, and I can't imagine there'd be any trouble getting a stadium full of fans to follow those instructions. It's the ninth inning, and this baseball game has now become a throwdown. Yield, opposing batters: You're about to get smoked, or waxed, or popped, or jacked, or verbed in some other Dr. Dre-inspired way.
3. 4'33" - John Cage: Cage's piece, for the unfamiliar, consists of four minutes and thirty three seconds of no music at all -- not to be confused with complete silence, since Cage intended his audience to focus on the concert hall's ambient sound. It's a groundbreaking work in avant-garde music, and one Cage called his most important. But that's not why it's listed here.
This would require a whole lot of fan participation. If everyone -- every fan, every vender, every usher, every bathroom attendant -- could remain silent while the pitcher walked in from the bullpen and threw his warm-ups, well, that'd be about as badass an entrance as I could imagine. Is it too much to ask? Hardly. We already keep mum for the Star-Spangled Banner.
Think about how completely overwhelming it would be to an opponent watching the fireballer in question get ready, the only noise in the entire stadium the sound of fastballs smacking the catcher's mitt. Could the outlook be any more bleak?
The obvious downside to this choice, of course, would be when it started going wrong. Just a few boos would echo throughout the stadium if the loyalists remained silent, so Cage's work should be reserved for a true shutdown guy.
2. Ave Maria - Franz Schubert: This has got to be the saddest song of all time. It's quiet and it's usually sung by a lone woman, so it's not exactly Metallica in terms of angsty browbeating. But choosing "Ave Maria" would bring an entirely different type of intimidation, especially when you consider that the song is often used at Catholic funerals. In a stadium, it's the death knell for the other team's chances of winning.
I've mentioned this choice to some friends, and I can't get any to agree with me on how terrifying this would be to opponents. The closer is coming in and it's beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. I'm picturing something along the lines of when the non-Elijah Wood, non-Rudy hobbit guy sings in Lord of the Rings. The song makes the battle scene totally epic. And speaking of which:
1. Ride of the Valkyries - Richard Wagner: This option, to some, seems so natural that it was deemed a cliché in the very entertaining Baseball Think Factory thread discussing songs 6-10. But as far as I know, no closer has even considered something classical and so, while using "Ride of the Valkyries" to herald impending doom a la Apocalypse Now may be old news in some settings, on a baseball field it'd be brand new. And triumphant.
I considered several massive, horn-heavy classical pieces for this spot, but Wagner's iconic work wins for familiarity and fit. The bullpen doors open to the sound of tense strings. As the closer emerges, the trombones kick in with the theme. He proceeds slowly to the mound as the song builds and by the time he's throwing his warm-ups, the stadium is engulfed in a dark, awesome world of musical gravitas. Note: It would help if the closer in question is about 7-foot-5 and 350 pounds or so. (Note, pt. 2: The arrangement linked above is conducted by Wilhelm Furtwangler for the Wiener Philharmoniker. No joke.)
Honorable mentions: I contemplated a whole lot of music for this list, including but not limited to War's "Why Can't We Be Friends?", Billy Ocean's "Get Out of My Dreams, Get into My Car," Aqua's "Barbie Girl," and Tom Jones' "She's a Lady."
My father, who knows how much I hate Rod Stewart, suggests Stewart's version of "Can We Still Be Friends?", which I must admit would be hilarious.
Tom Boorstein tells me that a Columbia reliever used to enter games to Civil War hymns, which would be awesome if I didn't suspect the Ivy Leaguer of unironic, deferential usage.
Finally, on the BBTF thread linked above, someone named Pastor Toastman suggests Canadian crooner Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch." I note that because, had I considered it before writing this column, it almost certainly would have cracked the top 10, and because the time I spent writing this column probably marks the longest span I've ever gone without considering, in some way, Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch."