Big Lead Sports Bar



by A.J.
from 105.9 The X

The one hit wonder is defined in the music industry as a band or an artist that is known primarily for having just one hit single. This artist's entire embodiment of work is many times narrowly defined by just one microscopic piece of it. Being a one hit wonder is a phenomenon that is intriguing enough for VH1 to dedicate hours of programming to ranking and listing them and for radio stations to devote entire weekends featuring them. To be a one hit wonder has to be both a curse and a blessing. The financial riches and fame that come from just one hit song are life changing, but the flip side is the frustration that surely must come from only being known for just one popular song. Sure, after a period of time there is adoration and nostalgia that comes from hearing a one hit wonder, but there is also an initial level of disgust from the overexposure that is the byproduct of popularity. I'm lookin' at you Baha Men…

Yes, I own an autographed photo of The Baha Men. The world of radio has afforded me many luxuries.

Of course the one hit wonder phenomenon is not just limited to the world of music. The term can apply to many different professions or trends. For example, American author Harper Lee wrote only one novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. In film, Jeff Speakman seemed poised to take his place alongside Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal in the world of kick-ass martial arts movies when The Perfect Weapon hit theaters, but ultimately his screen career was relegated to "straight to video" releases. With all due respect to Harper Lee, obviously To Kill A Mockingbird is no Perfect Weapon, but I'm sure you can see the loosely drawn parallel.

The world of sports also has its fair share of one hit wonders. For instance, the Super Bowl has set the stage for many of them. Redskins rookie running back Timmy Smith set a Super Bowl rushing record with 204 yards and 2 TDs in SB XXII. It was his first NFL start and also ended up being the high water mark for his career. Nobody will soon forget David Tyree's supernatural catch in last year's championship game for the Giants. It might possibly be the first catch that he's made since joining the league, I'm not sure. Unfortunately, Steelers fans will forever remember Larry Brown's MVP performance of snagging two maligned Neil O'Donnell passes as a corner for the Cowboys in SB XXX.

Pittsburgh sports history also claims many one hit wonders. With the current "Legacy Of..." series that has been running on this site, I thought it might be worth it to look at a few of the many home town players who may best be remembered for a single game, season, or moment with the Pirates, Penguins, or Steelers. Just to make things interesting, we'll associate them with a one hit wonder song that best captures the spirit of the moment.

Weegie Thompson

Any of you that are like myself and a kid of the 80s, remembers the majority of that decade as a pretty dark time Steelers history. All things considered, the team wasn't all that bad, but they had the dubious position of playing in the shadows of one of the greatest football teams ever assembled from the previous decade. Needless to say, the transitional years between Steelers greatness and those of complete mediocrity were kind of hard to swallow and Willis Hope Thompson found himself right in the middle of it when the Steelers used a 4th round pick in the 1984 draft on the wide receiver out of Florida State.

Swann or Stallworth he was not. Then again, Mark Malone was no Bradshaw, so it probably isn't a fair assessment of Weegie Thompson's receiving skills given the limitations of the guy who was delivering him the ball in the run-first offense that Chuck Noll employed. He was a tall, solid, possession receiver with good hands and Weegie managed to last six seasons in the NFL, all with the Steelers. His quiet southern demeanor made him a popular guy amongst teammates.

During his six seasons with the Steelers, he put up forgettable numbers with career totals of 79 receptions for 1,377 yards and just 11 touchdowns. His best season came during the Steelers 6-10 campaign of 1986, where he caught a total of 5 TDs. It was one game against the Green Bay Packers that allows Weegie to enter the list of Pittsburgh's One Hit Sports Wonders. On November 2, 1986, Mark Malone connected with Weegie Thompson for 6 passes, 78 yards, and 3 TDs. Weegie torching the Packers for three scores was the lone bright spot in a meaningless game during a meaningless season, but it was the game most NFL players dream of.

The song that captures the moment:

CW McCall – "Convoy"

While a slow and lanky receiver may have been an unlikely target for 3 touchdowns, CW McCall's quirky ode to trucking finding the #1 spot on the Billboard charts in 1976 is even unlikelier. This strange song made trucking cool and CB radios the cell phone of the 1970s (my older brother actually met his prom date via a CB radio conversation, so it was also the myspace of the 70s). Much like Weegie, this song is a little bit country, white as can be, and long forgotten.

Turner Ward

Turner Ward played 12 seasons in the major leagues, won two World Series with Toronto, but it was one play in 1998 with the Pittsburgh Pirates that cements his name on the list of Pittsburgh One Hit Wonders. Trailing by nine runs in a game against the Dodgers, Turner Ward tracked a deep fly ball hit by Mike Piazza. Running at full speed, Ward caught the ball a moment before crashing into the padded outfield wall of Three Rivers Stadium. The impact was so strong that the fiberglass outfield wall shattered as Turner crashed through it (all while still managing to hang onto the ball). The scene instantly became the stuff that SportsCenter highlights are made of and to this day the clip lives in blooper reel infamy.

The song that captures the moment:

The Weather Girls – "It's Raining Men"

This song fits for obvious reasons. The Weather Girls recorded "It's Raining Men" in 1982 during the last days of disco, and it shot to the top of the dance charts. Oddly enough, Paul Shaffer of Letterman Show fame is one of the co-writers and had offered the song to a long list of divas including Cher, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Grace Jones, and Donna Summer. All of them declined, leaving the door wide open for the portly Martha Wash & Izora Armstead to sell over 6 million copies of their lone hit world wide. Adding further embarrassment to my family is my sister, who has an entire interpretive dance routine for this song that she likes to perform when she's drunk at weddings.

Frank Pietrangelo

Two words: The Save. For Penguin fans, that's all you need to hear and an obscure backup goalie's name from the Penguins 1991 squad to roll off of tongue. Frank Pietrangelo will forever be remembered for that one glorious glove save against the Devil's Peter Stastny in game 6 of the opening round of Pittsburgh's first Stanley Cup run. Many don't even recall the stellar 4-0 shutout he pitched in game 7, because his legacy was captured by one of the greatest saves in franchise history the night before.

The song that captures the spirit:

Taco – "Puttin On The Ritz"

"Puttin' On the Ritz" isn't just a Mike Lange-ism, it is also a song originally written in 1929 by Irving Berlin. However, in 1982 a Dutch singer named Taco got his 15 minutes of fame by releasing a strange synthpop version of the song. Taco apparently released a Greatest Hits album in 2000, which I imagine is just this same song on ten different tracks. Since he often performed "Puttin' On The Ritz" while wearing a black and white tuxedo, it makes it a fitting one hit wonder to honor a Penguin.

Bill Mazeroski

Please allow me to preface this inclusion on the list of One Hit Wonders by stating that I am risking exile from my father's will by possibly demeaning the career his favorite Bucco of all time. We all know that Bill Mazeroski was one of the greatest defensive second basemen of his era. So, I offer the disclaimer that being on the list is not a discredit to the entire body of his work, but rather to accentuate the magnitude of the event that lands him here.

In Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, Maz drove a Ralph Terry pitch over the Forbes Field wall to win the series for the Pirates. To this day, it remains the only Game 7 walk off homer in World Series history and the most famous home run in Pirates history.

An interesting side note to this story involves the home run ball itself. As Doug Mientkiewicz has taught us, baseballs that end the World Series are pretty big deals. A 13 year old kid named Ted Szafranski was reported to have caught the winning home run ball that Mazeroski hit. Ted did not exactly cash in on the deal, he gave it back to Maz in exchange for 2 cases of beer and the ball now resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame. While it may seem like the kid got ripped off, think about what you would have given for 2 cases of beer when you were 13 years old.

The song that captures the moment:

Frank Zappa – "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow"

Frank Zappa recorded countless amounts of music during his lifetime ranging from avant –garde to nearly un-listenable. While he was a highly acclaimed and influential artist, he never received much mainstream recognition or commercial success. In 1974, he released Apostrophe, his only album to ever crack the top 10. The strength of sales came from a bizarre single that told the tale of an Eskimo named Nanook. Despite recording thousands of songs during his long career, "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" became his best known. Much like Bill Mazeroski, there was much more to the man's career than just this one tiny little piece of it.

1 comment:

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

I thought the same thing when I read about the two cases of beer. That kid probably felt like he hit the Powerball.