The Rotation: Denny McLain – MVP, Cy Young winner, Gambling Addict, Organ Player?
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.
You may know Denny McLain as baseball’s last 30 game winner, but did you know he was also an accomplished organ player?
Denny McLain was a lot of things. 30-game winner, Cy Young winner, World Series MVP…..embezzler, pilot, gambling addict, hustler, drug trafficker, underwear model, prisoner, talk show host, podcast host and – organ player.
McLain came up with the Tigers in the mid-1960’s and found immediate success in the big leagues, going 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA in the Year of the Pitcher – 1968 – earning MVP and Cy Young honors. He was the Cy Young winner again in 1969, but things began to unravel after that – it came out in 1970 that he was involved in gambling and bookmaking – which earned him a suspension from the league.
McLain went on to have all sorts of legal issues throughout the rest of his life, including accepting $160k to fly a wanted felon out of the country (oh yeah, he had his own plane).
Anyway, I could talk about McLain’s interesting life forever, but let’s talk about the music.
McLain learned to play the organ at a young age from his father. He chose to focus on baseball, but after having some success on the field he ended up signing an endorsement opportunity with Hammond Organ Company. He made musical appearances in Las Vegas, and his musical quartet was even invited to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show – along with his World Series opponent, Cardinals right-hander Bob Gibson.
McLain eventually released two albums of him playing the Organ with Capitol records, Denny McLain at the Organ (1968) and Denny McLain in Las Vegas (1969). His songs are available on Spotify for those interested.
Denny McLain stories are nearly endless. He missed a start once because he was at a dentist appointment, he flew his plane from his appointment to the game and got there in the fourth inning. This was an All-Star game. That he was supposed to start.
I could go on, but I’ll leave you with this for now, and let you know that he has a podcast called No Filter Sports that can be found wherever you get podcasts, if you want to hear more from this eclectic guy.
Walk-Up Songs of the Week
Note: If you want a playlist of all the walk-up songs of the week, go to Spotify and search “Pitcher List Walk-Up Jams”
Hitter: Adam Eaton, This is How We Do It (Montell Jordan)
This is my wife’s favorite song. Is that why I married her? No, but it’s damn sure why this song appeared on our wedding playlist.
Adam Eaton has been in the news for generally being an obnoxious dude in recent months, but I gotta give credit where credit is due and this mid-90’s banger is worthy of some love for the Nationals outfielder.
Dolla, dolla bills y’all.
Pitcher: Brandon Finnegan, Bump in the Trunk (Bone Thugs-N-Harmony)
Left-hander Brandon Finnegan’s career has not gone according to plan. After debuting shortly after getting drafted with the Royals, he has struggled with serious command issues for the Reds, and has not even sniffed the big leagues this season.
However, when he does, I’ll be watching – if only to hear this track from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony that reminds me distinctly of being the whitest kid in high school who blasted this on the way to school for some reason.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)