Billy, not Mo, entered as the first 'Sandman'
BY ADAM RUBIN
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
In Mets opener, Billy Wagner enters ninth inning to sounds of Metallica's 'Enter Sandman', rocking Yankee fans who claim the song belongs to Mariano Rivera.
Metallica singer James Hetfield
Not only should the Mets play "Enter Sandman" when closer Billy Wagner takes the mound at Shea, the manager of Metallica says they should turn up the volume.
"Frankly, they could have played it louder as far as I'm concerned," said Peter Mensch, the band's manager and a Mets season-ticket holder. "My comment is: Go Billy."
A day after Wagner closed the Mets' 3-2 Opening Day victory with Mensch in attendance, sports-talk radio erupted, with Yankee fans railing at Wagner's entry music - the same song used by Mariano Rivera in the Bronx.
For the record, Wagner used the song first, even if it's synonymous in baseball circles with Rivera's entrance.
While with Houston during Wagner's rookie season in 1996, teammate Jeff Bagwell disliked the lefty's entry music, George Strait's "They Call Me the Fireman," and persuaded Wagner to switch.
Rivera didn't begin using the song for another three years. Yankee Stadium personnel had been so struck by the crowd reaction in San Diego the previous season when Trevor Hoffman entered games to AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" that they sought to find an anthem for Rivera. Scoreboard operator Mike Luzzi brought in a bunch of CDs and the Yankees tested different tunes, including Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City." They settled on "Enter Sandman," which drew the best crowd response. Rivera didn't even know anything about the band.
"I met (Metallica's) James (Hetfield) last year, but I don't listen to that kind of music," Rivera said. "Everyone just identifies me with the song. I listen to Christian music."
The album containing "Enter Sandman" - known as "Metallica" or the "Black Album" - has sold 14.6 million copies in the U.S. alone and 20 million worldwide since its release in August of 1991. "Enter Sandman" was the first of seven Grammy winners by the band Wagner loves.
"I know Mariano's got it. Lord forbid, the Earth should crumble if two people have it," Wagner said after his first Mets save.
Rivera said he has no problem sharing.
"If the guy feels comfortable using the song, then let him be. I know Billy. He's a great guy. He has all my respect....To all the people that are fighting over this, I appreciate the loyalty."
As for Mensch, he even tried to help recruit Wagner. After learning Wagner was a Metallica fan this winter, he told Mets officials to relay to the free-agent closer that Wagner could be on stage during a concert if that would entice him to relocate to Flushing.
"I haven't quite told Metallica," Mensch said with a laugh. "He can sing backup vocals.
"Literally, I called up people I knew at Shea Stadium. That morning, when he was coming to New York, before he signed, we called up and said, 'Tell Billy Wagner, if it means anything, that the manager of Metallica is a season-ticket holder and will put him on stage the next time he's in New York. Or we will reroute the tour.'"
The Mets have long-standing ties with Metallica. Mensch recalled sending Sid Fernandez a set of band T-shirts in 1987 after learning the portly pitcher liked Anthrax.
"XXL," Mensch said.
The two struck up a relationship and Fernandez joined clubhouse attendant Vinny Greco at a Metallica concert at Nassau Coliseum. The duo hung out with the band backstage.
Not that Mensch hates the Yankees. He's tight with Randy Johnson, another Metallica fan.
"I have no beef with Mariano using it," Mensch said. "As long as he's saving games for Randy Johnson that's fine."
This whole thing will die down now. I can't believe that Metallica's manager is a Met fan. [sarcasm] I am now going to burn all my albums as a protest and try to steal Metallica's music from the internet just to anger Lars[/sarcasm]
I am not backing down from my stance that it will be weird and a little cheesy to see Mets fans jumping around to Enter Sandman, but what's done is done. Time for this controversy (and thread) to die.
BTW, nice article Fireball. I never heard that part about Wagner's life.