What in the world does Linda Ronstadt have to do with a fastball?
Nothing, you say?
Wrong you are (thank you, Yoda).
Hang on tight, we’re going to start with the Caruso of Rock, Roy Orbison.
In 1961 Joe Melson and the significantly more well-known Roy Orbison wrote and recorded a song called ‘Blue Bayou’. In the U.S. the song was released in 1963 as the B-side to the single ‘Mean Woman Blues’. ‘Blue Bayou’ was then re-released on Orbison’s album In Dreams later that year. ‘Blue Bayou’ was one of a string of Top-40 hits for Orbison in the early 60s and would later be covered by, you guessed it, Linda Ronstadt in 1977.
1977 was the year that Ronstadt started her journey to baseball alphabet stardom. She had been singing and performing professionally since 1960 at 14. But her career really took off in the 1970s. By the end of the 70s, she was considered one of the decade’s most successful female singers. And 1977 was the watershed year for not only her music career but also her baseball alphabet career. It was this year that she released her album Simple Dreams.
Simple Dreams was jam-packed with hits such as “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, “Tumbling Dice”, and the aforementioned “Blue Bayou”. The album held the number 1 position on the Billboard 200 chart for five consecutive weeks and would go on to sell over 3 million albums in 1977 alone. And not only was her album tearing up the charts, but she also sang the National Anthem at game three of the 1977 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Her National Anthem performance at game three is still considered to be one of the best of all time.
Blew by You
While singing a great rendition of the National Anthem at a World Series game is nothing to sneeze at, it is not the reason that Linda Ronstadt is synonymous with a fastball. We have Tim McCarver to thank for that.
If you aren’t already familiar with Tim McCarver, here’s some background. McCarver was a major league catcher for twenty-one years. He is most well-known for his time with the St. Louis Cardinals where he had two All-Star appearances and was a two-time World Series winner. Following his time with the Cardinals, he went on to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Montreal Expos, and the Boston Red Sox. Following his playing career, McCarver went on to become a baseball commentator.
It was during McCarver’s time as a commentator that Ronstadt took her place as a synonym for a fastball. In the early 80s, he worked as the color commentator for the New York Mets. During one of his broadcasts, he said that a fastball was a “Linda Ronstadt” because it was a pitch that “blew by you”. And that is why L is for Linda Ronstadt.
Benjamin Sabin is a baseball historian and writer. He has had various articles published by the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR). He is a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, but he loves all things baseball. He is married, has a daughter, and two cats.