Forecast to lose 90-plus games this season, your Texas Rangers may be unwatchable. Thanks to elder statesman Elvis Andrus, they also might be unlistenable.
Andrus, the affable, comedic shortstop who suddenly is the longest-tenured Ranger, will turn “walk-up music” on its, um, fin this season when he approaches the plate to the tune of … wait for it …
Bay-BEE shark, doo doo duh doo doo doo!
Baby shark, doo doo duh doo doo doo!
Baby shark, doo doo duh doo doo doo!
That’s right, Andrus is vying for worst Rangers theme music ever by choosing Pinkfong’s annoying nursery dance hit, “Baby Shark.” Or, on second thought, is he actually vying for best Rangers theme music ever by choosing Pinkfong’s addicting nursery dance hit, “Baby Shark"?
For now – at least in the season-opening series against the Chicago Cubs at Globe Life Park – Andrus says he’ll stroll to the plate humming the stupidly seductive sensation because, simply, “It’s my son’s favorite song.”
Always fun to blame a 20-month-old. So thanks a lot, Elvis Jr.
Shark bop be damned, baseball is a game of sounds. The crack of the bat. “Hot dawwwwwwwgs!” Cotton-Eyed Joe. And, of course, walk-up music. It’s a chance for fans to get a listen into the soul of their favorite player, and for batters to get amped before they dig into the batter’s box to face an array of 98-mph fastballs and 77-mph bendy things.
“It all started with organists at games, playing a little tune while hitters walked to the plate,” says Chuck Morgan, Rangers’ PA voice and music czar since 1983. “But it’s ballooned into this whole phenomenon. Some players are serious about it and use it to get in the right frame of mind. Others just have fun with it. Either way, the fans seem to love it.”
Once upon a time, Morgan selected the songs for the players. But these days — as with Andrus — walk-up music is merely an extension of the players’ iPods unplugged.
Through the years there has been the instantly recognizable, like Ian Kinsler’s “Black Betty” (Ram Jam), Michael Young’s “So What’cha Want” (Beastie Boys) and Matt Treanor’s theme from The A-Team.
Because he’s become adept at finding censored or even karaoke versions, Morgan says he’s never vetoed a song. But he has been strongly persuaded to call audibles on selections. To goof on Young and enhance his “Rangerman” nickname for the popular captain, Mike Napoli persuaded Morgan to pinch-hit for the Beastie Boys as No. 10 left the on-deck circle.
“Per Nap, I played the theme from Superman,” Morgan says. “But I only did it once. After his at-bat my phone rang and, yes, it was Michael. He was genuinely very upset.”
With an assist from the man who has programmed Arlington’s baseball soundtrack for 37 years, let’s lend an ear to The 10 Most Memorable Songs in Rangers’ History:
10. “The Godfather Waltz” – David Dellucci
Mired in a deep slump in 2004, the utility outfielder dug deep and dark into the world of mob music. “Kinda weird, but it worked,” says Morgan. “He had a great season and hit that game-winning double against the A’s in late September that almost got us in the playoffs.”
9. “Fly Me To The Moon” – Kevin Kennedy
The Rangers kick-started the 1994 season with a huge inning during a big win over the Yankees in New York. During the game, the manager took note of Yankee Stadium blaring the Frank Sinatra classic. He persuaded Morgan to, grudgingly, play the song after every home win that season. Morgan got his light-hearted revenge years later when Kennedy, returning to Arlington as manager for the Boston Red Sox, strolled to the mound for yet another pitching change in a Rangers’ rout. “I couldn’t help myself,” Morgan says, “I played Sinatra and, of course, he gave me the middle-finger salute.”
8. “My Milkshake” – Chris Davis
Struggling at the plate, the slugger resorted to desperate measures in an attempt to turn strikeouts into homers. Playing Kelis’ catchy tune was a strategical, metaphorical ploy to “bring the boys to the yard.” Says Morgan, “Just something different and out of character. Players will try anything when they’re in a slump. That was certainly different.”
7. “The Magnificent Seven” – Pudge Rodriguez
This was a goosebumpy no-brainer for the franchise’s all-time best player, whose No. 7 has been retired and immortalized.
6. “Sweet Home Alabama” – Rusty Greer
Though he embodied everything Texas with his hard-nosed hustle, no-nonsense attitude and good ol’ boy persona, the gritty outfielder was actually born in Fort Rucker, Alabama. “Just the first couple strums of that Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar,” says Morgan. “One of the most recognizable songs I ever played. Even if you were in line at the concession stand you instantly knew Rusty was coming up.”
5. “Chacarron” – Elvis Andrus
You think “Baby Shark” will prompt some confused looks and groans this season? You should have seen — and heard — the reactions to the shortstop’s musical choice in 2016. Diluting its appealing beat, the chorus of El Chombo’s Latin dance ode sounds like a zombie that has been kicked in the crotch, rolled up in carpet and dragged to the edge of a cliff. It’s garbled. Muffled. Painful. Simply unintelligible. “After a couple of times, my phone rings … it’s Nolan (Ryan),” says Morgan. “He says ‘What in the hell did you just play?’ I told him it was Elvis’ favorite song. He simply said, as only Nolan can, ‘Not anymore.’”
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4. “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” – Mike Napoli
The popular slugger infamously lost a bet with longtime Fox Sports Southwest reporter Emily Jones. The payoff: Jones was allowed to pick his walk-up music for a night. Adding insult to, well, insult, Napoli struck out twice and was a meek 0-for-3 as he came up to bat late in the game, only to be accompanied by Shania Twain’s emasculating ditty. Says Morgan, “It was bad. But he couldn’t help from laughing. None of us could.”
3. “Air-Raid Siren” – Prince Fielder
When he arrived via trade in 2014, the prodigious hitter demanded attention when at the plate. So much so that he persuaded Morgan to play not a song, but merely jolting sound effects. “I told him, ‘You know, here in Texas that siren means look out for a tornado’ and he said ‘Good, because I want everyone in the park to be on alert when I’m up, like something’s about to happen,’” Morgan says. Later in the season, Fielder switched from the screaming siren to a loud “Ssshhhh!” sound effect. “Of all the songs and music I’ve played,” Morgan says, “those two probably caused the biggest stirs and prompted the most questions.”
2. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Nolan Ryan
As everyone knows, Ryan is 100 percent “Big Tex.” But on one mysterious night in 1990, he was also at least 1 percent Elton John and Kiki Dee. As baseball’s all-time leader in no-hitters and strikeouts sauntered to the mound for pregame warmups, he was normally serenaded by some sort of traditional country music. George Strait’s “The Fireman” and “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” by Mel McDaniel were two of his faves. “But one night,” explains Morgan, “he wanted me to change to ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.’ Hey, he’s Nolan Ryan. I didn’t ask questions. I’ve done hundreds of meetings and speaking engagements with him since, but I’ve never had the guts to ask him what was going on that night.”
1. “The Imperial March” – Juan Gonzalez
So synchronized was this pairing that Rangers fans enthusiastically embraced the Star Wars’ dark side. Lord Vader was always imposing strolling to the plate, finishing his career as the Rangers’ all-time leader in homers, RBI and intimidation. Says Morgan, “It was perfect, because Juan was always very, very bad news for the other team.”