Welcome to The Rotation! This is a weekly column, written by yours truly, that talks about the wonderful blended worlds of baseball and music. These two have been staples of Americana for centuries and are as big a part of our culture as apple pie and Chevrolet. My goal is to pick a different topic between the beautiful, unified world of baseball and music and write about it each week.
Today’s topic is a fun one. While there are many baseball players who double as musicians, like Bronson Arroyo, Bernie Williams, Denny McLain, and Barry Zito, there are many others who some might think lead double lives. In reality, they just happen to share a name with a famous musician.
Name Twins: Baseball and Music Edition
Here is a list of 10 ballplayers who happen to share a name with a famous musician, with rankings on who is more famous/successful.
Perhaps the most famous of the name twins is Carlos Santana. In most cases, as you’ll see below, either the baseball player or the musician is extremely well-known, while the other is not. In this case, both legendary musician Carlos Santana—most famous for his band of the same name, Santana—and All-Star Indians first baseman Carlos Santana are well-known.
I’d give the edge here to musician Santana, as he won 10 Grammy Awards, is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and had one of the best selling albums of all time, Supernatural, which actually came out after he had already been inducted into the Hall.
No disrespect to the Indians’ Santana, who is coming off his first All-Star Game and has a career bWAR of 29.3, but musician Santana is truly one of the GOATs, a title that baseball Santana cannot claim.
Pop star Michael Jackson is without a doubt the most well-known person on this list, but did you know that baseball had its own Michael Jackson, who played from 1986 to 2004? That MJ pitched for eight different teams during his 17-year career, racking up a 62-67 record with 142 saves and a 126 ERA+. He was never an All-Star, although he did finish 21st in MVP voting in 1998 with the Indians.
This one pretty clearly belongs to musician MJ, putting musicians up 2-0 over baseball players so far.
Jim Morrison was the lead singer of The Doors, an immensely popular psychedelic rock band in the 1960s. He was a notorious rebel and eventually became the face of the counterculture movement from that era. His untimely death helped make him a true icon and superstar, and one of the most well-remembered frontmen in rock and roll history.
Infielder Jim Morrison will not be remembered quite as well, after a fairly nondescript 12-year career that saw him hit .260 with 112 home runs and a 98 OPS+ while playing with five different teams from 1977 to 1988.
Looks like the musicians are holding on to the sweep, 3-0.
Brian Johnson took over as the lead singer of the rock band AC/DC after the tragic death of Bon Scott. He was with them for the Back in Black album all the way until 2016, even getting inducted with them into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
Although there are two Brian Johnsons who suited up in the big leagues, including the left-hander who currently pitches for the Boston Red Sox and the journeyman backup catcher from 1994 to 2001, their total career bWAR is 2.4, so this looks like another victory for the musicians.
I’ll never forget streaming Brian Johnson for his complete-game shutout a few years ago in an AL-only league, but alas, that’s not enough to get him a victory here.
Like Brian Johnson, there are two Bobby Browns who played in the big leagues. They posted a combined 8.6 bWAR, with the Brown from the 1950s earning 6.6 of it for his eight-year career with the Yankees.
Still, it’s hard to top Whitney Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, who has had an accomplished career as an R&B star, although he is far more known for his relationship with Whitney and addiction to drugs.
This one is a tad closer, but I’m still taking the musician Bobby Brown to make it 5-0 for the musicians.
While we are on the topic of controversial musicians with the last name Brown, our next name twin is a current R&B superstar who is in the news more often for legal issues than his music. Still, Chris Brown is an extremely well-known artist, with 16 Grammy nominations, over 100 million albums sold and his own record label.
Despite not having a checkered legal past, former All-Star third baseman Chris Brown is considerably less well-known than his R&B counterpart. Brown played from 1984 to 1989, making the All-Star team in 1986 as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
He finished his career hitting .269 with a 6.0 bWAR, retiring at the age of 27.
6-0 Musicians. Will the ballplayers manage to steal a victory?
If you’re like me, this is may be the first name you’ve seen where you thought of the baseball player over the musician. Ian Stewart played parts of seven seasons in the big leagues from 2007 to 2014. He was at his best in 2009 with the Rockies, when he blasted 25 home runs despite a .228 batting average and a 95 OPS+.
Ian Stewart is also the name of the original keyboardist in the Rolling Stones, although he was kicked out of the band way back in May 1963 for not “fitting the band’s image.” He ended up touring with the Stones as a road manager, and contributed heavily to many of their other albums. He did end up getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the band in 1989.
Maybe I just want to avoid the baseball team getting skunked, but I’m going to take baseball player Ian Stewart in this one. I think a lot more people know the Rolling Stones (obviously), and Stewart is a HOFer, but more people will associate that name with the former Rockies infielder than the Rolling Stones’ road manager.
Three players appeared in a major league game with the name Joe Walsh. They played in a combined 35 games, posting a -1.0 bWAR.
Joe Walsh the guitar player is a five-time Grammy winner, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist and as a member of The Eagles, and was a part of the Foo Fighters and the Beach Boys at one point.
That’s an easy one. 7-1 musicians.
Ron Dunn played infield for the Cubs from 1974 to 1975, hitting .241 with three home runs and a -0.4 bWAR in 112 at-bats.
Ronnie Dunn (I cheated on the name a little) is a country music legend, having been half of the legendary duo Brooks and Dunn for 20 years. Brooks and Dunn sold over 30 million albums, and were inducted into the country music Hall of Fame.
Dunn has since began a successful solo career as well, and all told he’s been nominated for 15 Grammys.
Ed O’Brien is the guitar player for Radiohead. He was named the 59th-greatest guitar player of all time by Rolling Stone in 2010, and was inducted along with the rest of Radiohead into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.
Eddie O’Brien played for the Pirates in the 1950s, racking up a .236 average in 231 games played with a -2.3 bWAR.
However, I wanted to shout out Eddie O’Brien, as he and his brother, Johnny O’Brien, both played at my alma mater, Seattle University. They played baseball and basketball—where they were on a team with future NBA legend Elgin Baylor.
The O’Briens are still household names around Seattle University, and Eddie was the school’s athletic director for many years. In fact, the athletic department office building is called O’Brien after him.
Regardless, this one still goes to Radiohead’s guitarist, making this a 9-1 slaughter at the hands of the musicians.
Maybe I could have tried to find obscure musicians from bands no one has ever heard of who happened to have names like Randy Johnson, Andruw Jones or Eddie Murray, but this felt like more fun.
If you can think of any that I missed (and I’m sure there are plenty) let me know!
Walk-Up Songs of the Week
Hitter: Byron Buxton – Return of the Mack (Mark Morrison)
If you read my column, you know that I almost always feature mid-90s R&B songs in this space. From Pony by Ginuwine, to Party Up by DMX and Let Me Clear My Throat by DJ Kool, the mid-90s truly produced some of the most memorable walk-up bangers.
Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, who was born in 1993, knows the deal. He went with Mark Morrison’s 1996 classic, Return of The Mack. This song not only charted at No. 2 in 1997—behind MMMBop—but it has also been covered numerous times, including by Mann in 2011 (featuring Snoop Dogg) and by Nevada in 2015, featuring Fetty Wap.
Buxton’s career has not blossomed as many had hoped, but at least he gets credit for a jamming tune when he steps up to the dish.
(Thanks to Patreon supporter Dan Berman for the tip)
Pitcher: Clay Buchholz – Hold the Line (Toto)
I don’t think Clay Buchholz still uses this 1970s classic, as the MLB’s website lists his two walk-up songs from this year as Simple Man by Shinedown (a good one) and Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider
Still, there was a time when Buchholz used to jog onto the field to Toto’s other classic, Hold the Line, and I love everything about it. Toto is famous, of course, for the legendary song Africa, but Hold The Line is a musically beautiful song that deserves more love, and dammit we are going to provide that love, even if Buchholz is the avenue we have to use to get it out there.
I don’t know what year Buchholz used Hold the Line, but considering his 6.57 ERA is considerably higher than his 4.38 K/9 this season, perhaps he should give it another shot.
But you do you, Clay. After all, it’s not in the way that you look; or the things that you say that you do.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)