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.
In the spring of 1996, New York Yankees general manager George Steinbrenner was growing frustrated with his young shortstop’s lack of production in spring training. With veterans Pat Kelly and Tony Fernandez hurt, it looked like the team may need to make a trade for a proven veteran shortstop, delaying the inevitable rookie slump that he believed Derek Jeter would suffer.
The trade market wasn’t pretty, but he came across a Seattle Mariners franchise that was willing to deal 31-year-old Felix Fermin, a veteran of nine years. Fermin struggled in 1995 but had looked good in spring training, and he had hit .317 in 1994.
The Mariners weren’t asking for much. They wanted one of two right-handed pitchers from the Yanks: Bob Wickman or Mariano Rivera.
That’s right: The Yankees were ready to pull the trigger on a trade that would have sent the best closer of all-time, Rivera, to the Mariners for Felix Fermin, who would have at least temporarily blocked Jeter from making his big league debut.
If you are a Yankees fan, you’re breathing a sigh of relief that Joe Torre and a handful of scouts, including Brian Cashman, pleaded with Steinbrenner to reconsider.
If you’re a Mariners fan, well, you’re used to these kinds of stories.
As much fun as it is to imagine Rivera in a Mariners uniform, it’s hard to say if he would have become the pitcher he did. Would Seattle have kept him in the rotation, or would he have become a reliever like he did in real life? Would he have learned to perfect his cut-fastball, a pitch he had not yet mastered at the time this trade was rumored? How much better would he have been if he never had to face Edgar Martinez?
I’m here to ask the important questions, though: If Rivera did become an elite closer in Seattle, what would his walk-out song have been?
Mariano Rivera’s Top-Five Seattle-Based Walk-out Songs
Rivera famously didn’t have a say in the selection of Enter Sandman as his walk-out song. Instead, it was selected by someone working on the Yankees game-day operations team.
Let’s assume that, had this all gone down in Seattle, that operations staffer would have selected a Seattle-based song. After all, Seattle has a passionate love affair with its music scene, and combining it with baseball has been all the rage for decades.
Here are five songs that could have become the most recognized walk-up songs of all time, had Rivera and his elite skill set made their way to the Emerald City.
Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix
Perhaps the best guitar riff for perhaps the best guitar player of all time, I think it’s safe to say that Hendrix and Rivera would have gone exceptionally well together as a late-inning duo.
Voodoo Child’s electrifying guitar riff has been used plenty of times before, including by former Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen, but it could have been made even more famous—at least in the baseball world—had Rivera made his way to Seattle. Shame.
Even Flow – Pearl Jam
Now that we got Hendrix out of the way, let’s get into some grunge. There was no chance I could make it through this exercise without including some Pearl Jam, especially since Eddie Vedder is such a huge baseball fan.
Most Pearl Jam songs are too soft to be great walk-out songs, but Even Flow would work perfectly, with really fast lyrics, a steady bassline, heavy drums and some sexy guitar licks. It may not have had the impact that Sandman did, but Rivera and Pearl Jam could have made a great team as well.
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
For the record, for both Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I was tempted to go with deep cuts that I think might work better as walk-out songs. However, we are going for realistic here (sorta), and a game-day ops person would have picked a popular song like the Yankees person did with Enter Sandman.
Plus, Nirvana’s most iconic song, Smells like Teen Spirit, could function great as a walk-out song. The slow build-up into the chorus, the iconic guitar riff, and the opening chorus line “with the lights out” would have been a lot of fun.
Spoonman – Soundgarden
Let’s stay grungy, y’all. The obvious choice from Soundgarden would be Black Hole Sun, but I think the guitar riff from Spoonman would be a lot more fun, and the beautiful screeching from Chris Cornell sets the closer vibe better than Black Hole Sun, at least in my opinion.
Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins
For most of you, this is how you learned that Kenny Loggins is from Seattle. We try not to claim him, as he doesn’t really fit our grunge-rock vibe. Kenny G is also from Seattle, but we ignore him too.
Danger Zone is of course known almost exclusively from the soundtrack for the movie Top Gun, although some of you may know it from the show Archer as well. Having it be known as Rivera’s walk-out song would be, something, I guess. Not sure it would have carried the same cultural phenomenon that Sandman did, simply because it already had its place in pop-culture history, but it coulda been fun.
Any other suggestions? Comment or hit me up on twitter @andypattonSEA
Shameless plug: This article idea came from an episode of the Locked on Mariners podcast, which I host Monday through Friday that discusses everything Mariners related for 20 or so minutes. Check it out on Stitcher.
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: Mark Canha, Vogue (Madonna)
I’m all for originality, which means I am a HUGE fan of Canha using Vogue by Madonna. It was quite fun transitioning to a bunch of grunge songs to this while writing this article, as it greatly confused my wife (and my dog).
Regardless, I wouldn’t tell Canha to do anything differently, as he is having a breakout campaign at the plate with a .272/.394/.533 slash line and 23 home runs.
Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard, Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin)
Thor has entered to a lot of different songs in his career, but for a brief time in 2019 he was walking out to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song.
Immigrant Song may be Zeppelin’s most underrated “popular” song, in the sense that it’s well-known but never gets talked about in the way Stairway to Heaven, Black Dog, Whole Lotta Love and others do.
I’ll still always associate it with a scene in the 2003 movie School of Rock, but I’m glad Syndergaard brought it back to the forefront earlier this year.
(Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)