Back on Wrestlemania weekend, I profiled some of the top baseball personalities to grace the professional wrestling ring. Perhaps surprisingly to some, one of the all-time great grapplers, “Macho Man” Randy Savage (real name: Randy Poffo), spent time in the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox farm systems.
Today, May 20, is the third anniversary of his untimely death.
In the ring, he was an unmatched combination of skill and charisma. On the baseball diamond, the Macho Man was a catcher who eventually moved to the outfield and fashioned himself into a fine power hitter. He was the only player signed by the Cardinals out of a 200-person open tryout in 1971. The following season, he made the Gulf Coast League All-Star team.
In ’73, Red Sox great Jimmy Piersall was his manager in the Western Carolinas League. Poffo credited Piersall for teaching him to be aggressive and how to fight. He’d need it. After suffering a severe injury to his throwing shoulder in a home plate collision, he spent an entire winter learning to throw left-handed.
The Cardinals released the injured Poffo and he resurfaced in the Reds system in ’74, actually out-pacing future Hall of Famer Eddie Murray among the Florida State League RBI leaders. But his average, on-base percentage and defense took a hit following the injury. After getting cut by the White Sox after spring training in ’75, Poffo hung up his cleats for wrestling boots.
Over the next three decades, the Macho Man became a certified legend and incomparable personality in the professional wrestling universe. His intensity and flair was best personified by his finishing maneuver, the diving elbow drop from the top rope. He was many times a champion and always a top draw.
After exiting the squared circle in the early 2000s, Savage largely disappeared from the public eye, let his trademark jet-black beard turn white, and married his high school sweetheart. But he still made it out to the ballpark from time to time.
Yes, Macho Man Randy Savage, former heavyweight champion, was a baseball guy. Three years after his passing, it’s worth remembering that he not only dominated the realm of “sports entertainment,” but was pretty darned good on the baseball diamond, as well.
Resources: Baseball Reference Bullpen