Everyone should have a leitmotif. Like healthcare, food, clothes, and shelter, this should be considered a basic human right. Unfortunately, though, the vast majority of us are not lucky enough to have our presence announced musically (lest we take the task upon ourselves and risk looking mentally unstable by humming the same tune every time we enter a room).
A list of people who are among the privileged few to have leitmotifs:
1. Characters in films, television shows, and plays.
2. Professional athletes.*
*It should be noted that I consider professional wrestlers both of these things.
Indeed, there is perhaps no athlete to whom the leitmotif is more important than the closer in baseball. It has been scientifically proven that the last three outs of a baseball game are the hardest ones to get and it has also been scientifically proven that having a bitchin’ theme song is more valuable to a pitcher than any 100 MPH fastball when attempting to record these outs.*
*It should be noted that science has proven neither of these things.
Eric Freeman of the AV Club recent wrote a nice piece entitled “Prelude to a save: A closer’s guide to choosing the right entrance song,” which I missed when it was originally posted the week before last but was alerted to yesterday by this short post from the fantastic Grant Brisbee. Freeman provides the following rubric to assist closers in choosing the perfect entrance song:
-Pump up the crowd.
-Establish a brand.
-Leave the metal womb.
-Sound isn’t the whole story.
-Know your source.
Naturally, this article got me thinking about heretofore unused songs that would make good leitmotifs. Below I have listed five such songs along with skillfully embedded youtube clips and the current closer for whom I believe the song represents the best fit.
1. “Ante Up,” MOP
I am simply unable to listen to this song and not get pumped up. One minor concern is that playing Ante Up over the stadium public address system could lead to thousands of neck injuries resulting from excessive head nodding.
Closer of best fit: Heath Bell
2. “Ride of the Valkyries,” Wagner
The menacing horns laid over the swarming strings in “Ride of the Valkyries,” would strike fear into the heart of even the most courageous hitter. It certainly helps that this piece will forever be associated with the iconic helicopter raid scene in Apocalypse Now. “I love the smell of splitters in the ninth…Smells like victory.”
Closer of best fit: Jose Valverde
3. “People Get Ready,” The Impressions
This one breaks Freeman’s first rule, but it makes a lot of sense if you think about it:
People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
The song is all about salvation — which happens also to be the closer’s job. It might not pump the crowd up, but this smooth classic should give them peace of mind.
Closer of best fit: Ryan Madson
4.”‘Round Midnight,” The Miles Davis Quintet
In my humble opinion, this is one of the greatest jazz recordings ever released, by one of the best jazz bands ever assembled. Davis takes Thelonious Monk’s standard and puts his always cool, calm, and collected touch on it. Again, this one eschews Freeman’s first rule, but trades the pump up factor for straight-up coolness.
Closer of best fit: John Axford
5. “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta,” Geto Boys
From the mellowed out beat, to the lyrics, to the Geto Boys’ laid back delivery, this track is simply the musical embodiment of self-confidence. “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta” is the perfect choice for a dominant closer who knows he’s dominant and wants to say to the crowd “Chill, I got this. And by the way, I just have to tell you: it’s awesome being me.”
Closer of best fit: Mariano Rivera
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