* The late “Macho Man” Randy Savage (left) and Randy Poffo a minor leaguer with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds were one in the same. Savage was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame on the eve of WrestleMania XXXI at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.
Originally published Jan. 15, 2015
By Bob Elliott
My favourite all-time wrasslers were Brett (The Hitman) Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The most athletic wrestler?
(Macho Man) Randy Savage, who played four years of minor-league ball under his real name: Randy Poffo.
No one came off the top rope like he did. Savage, 58, a switch-hitting outfielder and first baseman, was killed in a car accident in Florida May 20, 2011.
As Poffo, he played three years in the St. Louis Cardinals system with the rookie-Class Gulf Coast Cardinals breaking in under manager manager Tom Burgess (London, Ont.) in 1971, playing with future major leaguers Larry Herndon, Jerry MumphreyMike Potter, Mike Vail and Angel Torres as he hit .286 with two homers and 13 RBIs with a .912 OPS.
The next year he was back in the Gulf Coast League with the Cardinals along with Dan Larson and Mumphrey, battng .274.
He started out with the Gulf Coast League Redbirds in 1973 before being promoted to class-A Orangeburg and manager Jim Piersall. That season he played alongside Cardell Camper and Tito Landrum. Poffo hit .282 with two homers, 11 RBIs and a .717 OPS at his two stops.
Then, he joined the 1974 Cincinnati Reds’ class-A Tampa Tarpons, which had future mahor leaguers Don Werner, Manny Sarmiento and Paul Thormodsgard. Poffo batted .232 with nine homers and 66 RBIs with a .662 OPS. An arm injury forced him to give up catching and playig the outfield concentrating on his DH duties.
“I didn’t know that he became a wrestler, but I did know he was not a ball player,” Tampa manager Russ Nixon told me years ago.
Savage was coming to Toronto for a wrestling card years ago, so an interview was set up and I called him at the Rochester, N.Y., hotel where he was staying under an assumed name.
“WELL YA KNOW, I GOTTA TELL YOU, THE THING ABOUT …” Savage began, totally wound and in TV character as if being interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund.
Sorry, I wanted to talk to you about playing baseball …
“Oh, okay, sure what do you need?” said Savage, as he hit the off button to his ring personna.
About 10 minutes into our conversation, he turned to his wife and manager, the Lovely Miss Elizabeth and said: “Elizabeth! This guy knows more about me than I do.”
One spring in Dunedin, Lloyd Moseby and Rick Leach argued long and loud over inside the Grant Field clubhouse down the third base line, who would a win Saturday night main event production that used to be shown during with summer when Saturday Night Live cast was on vacation.
Jimmy (Superfly) Snuka was meeting Savage.
Legendary Toronto Star columnist Jim Proudfoot listened quietly.
After Moseby left, Proudfoot whispered to Leach: “It was taped last night, would you like to know the winner?”
Leach thanked Proudfoot.
And as he walked away searching for Moseby who had headed to the field, he bellowed: “A millionaire is going down!”
The best match I ever saw in person was Snuka and Savage battling for over 90 minutes in San Diego in the best-of-three falls. No, the boss did not assign me to cover the match. It was a day after the 1985 winter meetings.
Walking out, a Savage fan said something insulted Snuka to to a fan in a Superfly jacket. Next thing you know they were landing rights and lefts and blood was flying.
Stay classy, San Diego.