Paradise by the Dashboard Light: A Baseball Analysis

Mr. Loaf is a power bat from the right side

Back when I started this blog last November, I was planning to write a lot more about baseball and I don’t think I have mentioned it at all, except for an occasional reference to my Orioles fandom, which is probably a post in and of itself. But this is something I always wanted to do: analyze the Meat Loaf song “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” from a baseball perspective, with an eye toward analytics.

Legendary New York Yankees broadcaster (and HOF shortstop in his day) Phil Rizzuto famously provides play by play of a baseball game that is an allegory for a high school kid trying to get lucky in his car. As a Catholic, Rizzuto had to play it off to his priest that he didn’t know what the song was about, but in actuality he knew.

Meat Loaf is known for his live performances and songs that are classified as epics. “Paradise” is an unusual song because of the amount of radio airplay it gets for a song of its length. The version most often heard is 8 1/2 minutes long, though apparently outside the United States it is cut to 5 1/2 and the baseball section is cut out. That’s a damned tragedy, and not just because a majority of the readers of this blog are from outside the United States and may not know of the baseball interlude.

There’s not much I can add to the notion of a horny teenager trying to force himself on a teenage girl so I’ll take ONLY the baseball parts:

OK, here we go, we got a real pressure cooker going here
Two down, nobody on, no score, bottom of the ninth

It’s established that this is a pitcher’s duel. We don’t know if the starting pitchers are still in the game, which is entirely possible because it is 1976 and complete games were still common. Runs are hard to come by here, to the point where I might actually consider a sacrifice bunt if a guy gets on first.

Aside: Been giving this a lot of thought of late, and I think sacrifice bunts are stupid many situations where it is commonly used. I can see it with the pitcher or a lousy #9 hitter in the AL. But when a team bunts with their #2 hitter and a runner on 1st with 0 outs, that’s dumb. Don’t give away outs!

There’s the wind-up, and there it is
A line shot up the middle, look at him go
This boy can really fly
He’s rounding first and really turning it on now
He’s not letting up at all, he’s gonna try for second
The ball is bobbled out in the center
And here comes the throw and what a throw
He’s gonna slide in head first
Here he comes, he’s out
No, wait, safe, safe at second base

“This boy” I am going to assume is a good baserunner, since Rizzuto alludes to that with the “can really fly” remark. I always like when the broadcaster says “he can run a little”. Yes, so can I. Another is when they find the proper euphemism to explain how slow someone is. “Adrian Gonzalez, not exactly a greyhound, is at 2nd base” or something like that.

In a 0-0 game in the 9th, it is a good move for a player with that skill set to try and take an extra base since he now represents the winning run. It must have been one hell of a throw to make the play close.

This kid really makes things happen out there
Batter steps up to the plate

Because it’s 1976 and not 2016, there is no stoppage for a 4 minute 39 second replay review from New York where the call is confirmed.

Here’s the pitch, he’s going
And what a jump he’s got
He’s trying for third
Here’s the throw
It’s in the dirt, safe a third
Holy cow, stolen base

So it’s runner on 2nd and no outs in a 0-0 game in the bottom of the 9th. Depending on the hitter at the plate, I would consider a sacrifice here to move him to third with 1 out and force the opposition to bring the IF and OF in.

I can make an assumption here: the batter must be right handed. There is no way in HELL someone would try to steal 3rd with a lefty at the plate in a tie game in the 9th. His manager would probably run onto the field and tie the player to one of those Hannibal Lecter things and wheel him out.

While I admire the moxie of trying to steal third in this spot, it seems like a needless risk since this good baserunner is likely to score from 2nd on a single to the OF. There is also the notion that the runner is tired from his wild run into 2nd base and might be slowed, but then I realize the catcher’s arm might be worn down as well. There is also the element of surprise that favors the baserunner in this case.

Back in those days, certain guys would try and steal bases every time they got on base. At my wedding in 2010, I was talking to my wife’s uncle who was a catcher for the California Angels in the late 70s. He had thrown out Rickey Henderson in his rookie season trying to steal 3 times and described Rickey as “dumber than a bag of rocks”. That’s unfair, but the truth is that fast guys stole bases all the time because that is what they were there to do. (Rickey stole 33 bases in 44 attempts in 1979, his rookie year)

He’s taking a pretty big lead out there
Almost daring them to pick him off

Another assumption: this must be a right-handed pitcher who can easily see the large lead at 3rd base. With 2 out, the runner should exercise caution since a pickoff throw would be easy to make.

The pitcher glances over, winds-up and it’s bunted
Bunted down the third base line

If they are bunting toward third base, the pitcher is definitely right handed because he would fall off the mound on his delivery to the first base side.

The suicide squeeze is on
Here he comes, squeeze play, it’s gonna be close

If the third baseman is staying close to the bag to keep the runner close, it allows more room for the bunt to be put down. On a suicide squeeze, the runner is taking off on the delivery so the fielder would have to react to all this happening and come in on the ball to make a play at the plate. The catcher needs to stay home and cover the plate for the tag. So as long as the runner was being held, this is a pretty ingenious play.

However, one play I LOVE that is not seen as much: the guy who fakes the bunt then pulls it back only to slap the ball through a drawn-in infield.

Here’s the throw, here’s the play at the plate
Holy cow, I think he’s gonna make it

Would have been nice if Rizzuto had let us know who fielded the ball, the pitcher or the third baseman. The indication we get is that it will take a near-perfect thrown to get him. Once again, this is 1976 so the catcher can block the plate which means he might get plowed over or the runner will need to make a hook slide.  (EDIT: And of course there are two out, so throwing home only makes sense if you have a speedier runner going to first. This makes even less sense now, as there is no need for anything more than a general bunt attempt.)

Stop right there
I gotta know right now

And yes, this is where they would go to the video review in New York to confirm the call. Given that the boy did get with the girl in the song, my presumption is that he was safe and his team won the game 1-0. But he paid a heavy price for it and was now “praying for the end of time so I can end my time with you” which I will take as a metaphor for him getting hurt on the slide and ending up on the 15 day disabled list.

It was long ago and it was far away,
And it was so much better than it is today.

And so Meat Loaf describes music in general from my current perspective. “Paradise” reached #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977.

If you see Meat Loaf, please present this article to him and confirm my findings. Thanks.

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