The Top Five Bands Featuring Professional Athletes

Nick SixContributor IFebruary 22, 2009

Why just set your sights for athletic greatness when you can have more? These days, people have so many opportunities to pursue dreams that it's not unusual to set your sights on more than one proficiency, and achieve it.

The following list highlights those that have been able to parlay athletic success into eventual success in the music field, no matter how minimal. The list ranges from the MLB, to the NBA, to the NFL and covers such musical styling as metal, jazz, and opera.

I will admit I did not give much respect to those who have made the move to rap or hip-hop because it's simply too difficult for me to discern what is considered "talented." Even though I will admit that one of the first cassettes I purchased was Shaq-Fu.

Anyways, here it is:

5.) Sandfrog

Scott Speizio is known for many things.

A hero to Angel fans after his rejuvenating three run home run in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series. A wonderful backup for the 2006 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. And of course, a drug-embattled metal star.

What does it sound like you ask? Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath or Metallica is what the bands original demo's press release will tell you. Quite the company, Speizio.

Speizio plays guitar for the group, as well as adding to the songwriting and backup singing duties and the band consists of high school and college buddies from Illinois, including two electrical engineers, a computer programmer, an accountant and one professional baseball player.

I'm here to tell you that Sandfrog's work does not quite reach the capacity of those metal gods (perhaps they prefer devils) but they have gotten some serious air time as Troy Percival used to come out to close games to his song "Delusions of Autonomy", using the heavy metal chords to get him jacked up in addition to the 12 cups of coffee.

And while Speizio may not be able to mimic the musical talents of the larger than life figures that dawn the metal scene, he does seem to have the lifestyle down.

Speizio was eventually let go by Cardinals in wake of a mental breakdown in the middle of a game in 2007, offering rehab instead of a role player job. A half-assed attempt at a comeback with the Braves in 2008 ended with Speizio being let go because he was "not prepared to play the day of a game".

Speizio's masterpiece came late in 2007 when he found himself drunk, running from his BMW that he just wrapped around a fence after a night of Grey Goose. After going into hiding, he was found in a closet in his friend’s apartment and was subsequently arrested.

Speizio ended up being charged with driving under the influence, driving with blood alcohol of 0.08% or more, hit and run with property damage, aggravated assault, battery and assault.

Sandfrog released an album in 2007 titled Off Season addressing his battle with drugs during his time off from baseball.


Sandfrog - "LITL"       

4.) Stickfigure

Well now that you've calmed down from the head rush that was those opening chords (I will not lie. The very opening was not thaaaaat bad.) I thought we would keep the keep rolling on and introduce the next Renaissance man.

"Black" Jack McDowell.

In 1993, he won the Cy Young Award with the Chicago White Sox. He has 127 career wins, 62 career complete games, 1311 strikeouts, a 3.85 career ERA, and one middle finger reserved for New York Yankee fans.

And in addition to all this, Black Jack is an accomplished alternative rock guitarist with friends like Pearl Jam's lead singer (and my hero) Eddie Vedder.

Black Jack had been an avid guitarist whose interest began with the grunge scene in the early 90's. His first band, V.I.E.W., formed in 1989 and reached heights as far as opening for throwback pop rock icons the Smithereens.

After the tour, Smithereens bassist Mike Mesaros liked what he saw, and joined McDowell and friends Mike Hamilton and Frank Funaro in a band they called Stickfigure. Named after Black Jack's wiry frame. The band has a sort of post-modern grunge feel, and some adult rock tendencies as well.

McDowell credited his music to the likes of REM, The Smiths, Julian Cope, The Beatles, Pixie Frank Black, Radiohead, Catherine Wheel and The Catholics.

They released some early demos and independent records (5 to be exact) that were mainly recorded in the off-season of whatever team he was playing on at the time, but with his retirement from the game, came more time to work on records.

In 2002, they released a somewhat critically acclaimed full pop-rock album, aptly known as the Ape of the Kings. McDowell’s guitar playing style was perfect for pop/punk chords and all in all produced a pretty decent record.

Most recently, Stickfigure released a rather vulnerable record in 2004, Momento Mori. It's material mainly focused on rocky parts of Black Jack's life like his relationship with his wife and what not.

I could not get a link for a Stickfigure song but I found a V.I.E.W. one:

V.I.E.W.- "Searching"

3.) Wayman Tisdale

Enough of baseball and their dirty rock right? The NBA has put out a few "musical" acts themselves, but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Instead of hip-hop or R&B, Tisdale focuses on the finer things in life. As opposed to the trash he talked on the court with his mouth, he let his guitar do the talking in the most musical language of all- jazz.

Tisdale spent most of his life making his money on the court, having a lengthy, successful career where he spent most of his time as a starter for the Pacers, Kings, and Suns while averaging 15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, even racking up a few All-Star appearances and a Olympic Gold Medal in 1984.

While Tisdale excelled on the court, no one realized that he was yet to even find his calling.

In 1995, just as his career was seemingly coming to an end, Tisdale dropped his first jazz album recorded in the off-season with the major jazz label, Power Forward. Billed as the "essence of cool" Tisdale contributed on bass guitar, six string guitar, keyboards, and writing of the songs on this relatively successful debut.

His most notable piece was his 1998 effort Decisions.

Not only is it one of his only records without a corny basketball reference (Power Forward, In the Zone, Hang Time, Rebound), Decisions was the most respectful album yet. The album featured numerous jazz mainstays at the time including keyboardist Brian Culbertson, saxophonist Gerald Albright, and guitarist Norman Brown.

By 2001, he had produced three more records, each showing more progression then the previous.

The ironic thing about Tisdales music is the label it's been given as a romantic, mushy style that will really get your emotions going. Anyone who remembers Tisdale's playing days, all the way back to University of Oklahoma, knows how tough of a competitor he really was, often drawing comparisons to a hockey enforcer on the court.

Tisdale recently put out the album Rebound as an outlet to say thank you to those who helped him get through his bone marrow cancer diagnosis, which he was eventually able to overcome, but not before they amputated a leg from the knee for precautions.


2.) Bernie Williams

Let's stay with jazz. While Tisdale set the standard for professional athletes excelling in the musical realm, Bernie Williams is certainly continuing it.

Being African-American, Tisdale focused more on a fusion of soul/gospel and jazz, while Williams uses his Puerto Rican roots to fuse Latin and jazz.

While growing up, Williams was a classically trained guitarists who had every intention of making it career. Turns out though, he was also pretty good at baseball.

In addition to being one of my favorite players growing up, he also managed to hit 2336 hits, 287 home runs, 1257 RBI, and a .308 AVG over his career. He also accumulated four World Series rings, four Gold Gloves, and four All-Star appearances.

Despite the accolades and passion for the game, his passion for tickling the strings never subsided. In 2003, Williams dropped his first professional album, Journey Within.

Intertwining jazz, salsa, and the blues, Williams played and composed the instrumentals on the album, and covered Kansas and Billy Joel as well.

Williams focused on such topics as his father (who had recently passed away), his son, his wife, his sense of humor, his hometown, and his love of Latin music to make the record truly his.

Perhaps the most recognizable accolade for the album was the endorsement from music icon Sir Paul McCartney, saying," When I first heard the album, I was blown away by his talent." And that wasn't just smoke being blown up Bernie's center field either, just recently the Beatle signed Williams to his publishing label, which is one of the most prestigious in the world.

Williams music career has lasted his whole life, but his professional career has just started. With more albums such as this one, there is no doubt in critics mind that he could go down as one of the greatest in his genres.

His second effort, Moving Forward, will be released in April 2009.


Bernie Williams and Friends- "La Salsa En Mi"

1.) Mike Reid

For those of us up to date on our 1970s defensive lineman know exactly whom I am talking about. Mike Reid was an overly successful college player from Penn State, and was drafted as the No. 7th pick overall in the 1970 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

A year later he would record 12 sacks in a single year, and he manage to do the same in '72. In 1973, he one upped himself and got to the QB 13 times. He was a consensus All-Pro selection for three consecutive years, and went to the Pro Bowl twice.

After devastating hand and knee injuries suffered in 1974, Mike Reid retired. Little did he know his life was just starting to rack up the accomplishments.

While excelling on the field, Reid performed as a pianist for the Utah, Dallas, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras during the off-season. During rehab from one of his knee surgeries, he became friendly with music execs that convinced him to start a career of song writing.

Shortly into his song writing career, he penned the No. 1 country single, "Stranger in My House" which eventually went on to win the Grammy for Best Country Song, meaning of course Reid won the Grammy as well.

Reid kept at it and managed to write 11 number one hits throughout the 80's. And in 1990, decided to pursue a career of actually singing his own songs instead of letting everyone else tack credit.

Wouldn't you know it, he landed on his feet again, signing with Colombia Records and recording a number one billboard hit of his own, "Walk on Faith", in 1991. He would appear on the charts three more times in his 90's, and even continued penning several more number hits for others.

Reid now spends most of his time still dabbling in country music but has also moved onto other things. He went on to write seven musicals/operas later in his career, one winning the prestigious Richard Rogers Award.

He was inducted into the Nashville Hall of Fame in 2005.