If you followed wrestling in the 1980's, you witnessed the greatness of Randy 'Macho Man' Savage.
Randy Mario Poffo(His real name) died in a car crash today in Florida.
He was 58.
Before becoming a wrestling legend, Macho Man was a pretty darn good ballplayer.
There's an excellent tribute over at BIG LEAGUE STEW by David Brown:
‘MACHO MAN’ RANDY SAVAGE PLAYED IN CARDINALS, REDS SYSTEMS
By David Brown
A small part of my childhood died after hearing that former pro wrestler "Macho Man" Randy Savage was killed Friday in an auto accident. He was 58 years old. Yahoo! Sports' own Chris Chase wrote an obit here. Thankfully, Savage's wife survived her injuries.
Other than Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant, no WWF rassler was more popular than Savage in the late 1980s. I might have liked him more for his manager — the lovely Miss Elizabeth Hulette (also pictured) — than for anything he actually did in the squared circle.
But before Savage hit it big in wrestling, he had a four-year pro baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds — and it was remarkable for a few reasons.
As an 18-year-old in 1971, Savage (who then went by his given name, Randy Poffo), won a job with the Cards after trying out. Yes, those camps actually bear fruit once in a while.
One of his minor league managers was none other than Jimmy Piersall. I can't think of a better person from whom to learn — about what to do, and not to do — in the game and life.
And check out this tidbit from WhiteSoxCards.com, which reported in 2007 that Savage's baseball career was at a crossroads after three years with the Cardinals:
Randy suffered a setback when he developed a severe muscle tear and ligament separation in his throwing arm. Instead of retiring, this right-hander taught himself how to throw southpaw.
This obviously was a dude who knew how to reinvent himself. Such a talent would come in handy after Savage failed to hook on with the White Sox organization out of spring training in 1975.
Though he never advanced beyond the Class A Florida State League, Savage had several teammates who made it to the majors, including Larry Herndon, Mike Vail and Tito Landrum. And they can tell stories.
In an interview Friday afternoon with Sports Radio 1380-AM out of St. Louis, Landrum recalled that Savage would build makeshift rings in the clubhouse and wrestle all comers. Savage knew he had wrestling to fall back on. And after he got famous, Savage would remind Landrum to call him "Macho Man" and not "Randy." He also was an earnest autograph signer; not in it for the money, Landrum says, but for the cause and the fan interaction.
And you know what? Savage wasn't a bad baseball player.
His career batting line was OK — .254/.293/.391 — with 16 home runs in 289 games. But he would have been better if he had not gotten hurt. In '71, he posted a slugging percentage of .492 (in 63 at-bats) and he slugged .508 (in 61 at-bats) in '73. He was mostly an outfielder, but he also caught and played first base. He had some talent.
Even in semi-retirement, Savage remained a big baseball fan. Just this past February, Savage sat in the good seats at Port St. Lucie to watch the New York Mets in spring training.
I found this screen shot on a Spanish language pro wrestling site, AllWreslters.net. One of the commenters noted he looks like "Papa Noel," or Father Christmas.
He did look like an old 58, that's for sure. Like so many other wrestlers, his body probably was beat to heck. The outcome of those matches might have been fixed, but the toll being a pro wrestler takes on your body is no less real than what happens to NFL athletes.
He might have had a heart attack — that's what his brother "Leaping" Lanny Poffo told TMZ — and authorities do not suspect alcohol was involved. Reportedly, Savage's Jeep Wrangler veered out of its lane, over a concrete median, through oncoming traffic and crashed head-on into a tree. Savage and his passenger, wife Lynn, had their seat belts on, too. Hers apparently saved her life. They had only been married since 2009.
It's a sad day. But hopefully the Macho Man is in a better place. His contribution to pop culture, wrestling and baseball ought to be remembered for a long time. Ohhhhh, yeahhhhhhhhh!