Music · Sports

An analysis of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light, Part 2”

There really isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to interpreting the Meat Loaf classic rock opus, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” It is a cautionary tale about a seventeen-year-old boy who makes a rueful, life-altering decision in order to satisfy his virginal libido. The song, like many 70’s classic rock songs, is divided into three parts. Part one describes the beginning of the date night, as the singer is all happy-go-lucky. But in part three, the singer is regretful and miserable and prays for the end of time. The transition between these polar opposite emotions occurs in part two, where the girl (sung by Ellen Foley) issues an ultimatum, “Before we going any further… will you love me forever? … Will you make me your wife?” The boy tries to stall and dodge the question, “Let me sleep on it,” but the girl will have none of that and presses for an answer.

The real reason why the song is so beloved is the spoken word bridge at the start of part 2. It is a fictional baseball play-by-play account announced by famed New York Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto. In the background, we hear the couple engaged in some heavy foreplay. There is no mistaking that Rizzuto’s words are 100% euphemism for sex. The songwriter, Jim Steinman uses the common (in America) baseball euphemism to describe the progression of the couple’s make-out session. For his part, Rizzuto always claimed that he had no idea what his role was really about in this song until he heard the finished product.

As a metaphor, the bridge makes perfect sense. But no one has ever taken this at face value. Let’s do a thought experiment and imagine that Phil was broadcasting a real-life major league baseball game. If we do, we would conclude that the song is even more brilliant that it’s given credit for; since the baseball events are so absurd and full of so many errors by everyone involved – from the players, to the coaches and managers, that the baseball sequence is also a metaphor for the monumental errors in judgement that the boy is going to commit all for the sake of sexual pleasure.

The first thing Rizzuto does in the song is to describe the game’s situation, “Two outs, nobody on, no score, bottom of the ninth.” Keep all of this in mind when we describe the sequence of events in order to realize how big the physical and mental errors are. Let us count all of thing mistakes made on the baseball diamond. I will list them in order:

Error 1:   (by the Pitcher) The pitcher gives up a base hit. Not a mistake in and by itself, except that this hit was “a line shot up the middle.” This implies that this was not a fluke, seeing-eye single. The batter got the sweet spot of the bat on the ball. We can conclude that the pitcher gave up a mistake pitch.

Error 2: (by the Batter) The batter tries to stretch a single into a double. Rizzuto says, “This boy can really fly,” which implies that the batter’s primary skill is his speed. No player, no matter how fast he is, can get to second base on a line drive to center field. HOWEVER, since the batter is known for speed, we can assume that he has very little power. Thus, we can infer that the centerfielder was not playing the batter straight away; and was positioned in one of the gaps, either left-center or right-center field. Most likely whichever one was the opposite field, and the fielder did not expect the batter to pull the ball. That the fielder had to field the ball while on the run would be the impetus needed for the batter to press his luck. Even with this said, the batter was extremely lucky to be called safe at second base. Any other case, the batter would be called out, and the inning would be over, and we would go to the top of the 10th inning.

Error 3: (by the Center Fielder) The outfielder bobbles the ball. This is the only error in this sequence that would be scored an error in the boxscore. Despite the bobble, the outfielder makes a strong throw to second base. Rizzuto initially believes the batter is out, which implies that it was a very close play. If the centerfielder doesn’t bobble the ball, the batter would have bee thrown out at second, and the inning is over.

Error 4: (by the Pitcher) The pitcher does not check the runner at second to keep him close. Now I’m not blaming him for not anticipating the runner to try to steal third base (see Error #5), but the pitcher should try to do everything he can to give his outfielders a chance to try to throw out the runner at home should the batter hit a clean single. We can reasonably assume that the catcher spoke with the pitcher to talk about changing the signs since a runner was now on second base. The pitcher’s first priority is the batter, especially with 2 outs. But completely ignoring the runner altogether is completely foolish.

Error 5: (by the runner) Stealing third base with 2 outs. There is a maxim in baseball that you never make the first or third out at 3rd base. The former because you kill a potential rally; the latter because the risk/reward ratio is too low. One is just as likely to score from 2nd base on a base hit as one would be standing on 3rd base. There are other ways a runner can score from 3rd that he can’t from second, e.g.: wild pitch; passed ball; balk; but those occurrences are much more rare than a base hit. Heck, the movie Major League showed that one could score from second on an infield hit – given the right circumstances. The bottom line was that the was little advantage to be had by stealing the base. Plus you run the risk of removing the bat from the batter’s hand. Speaking of which….

Error 6a: (by the home team’s manager) Not pinch-hitting the batter with the winning run in scoring position. We know the score is 0-0. Unless this is your best and/or most clutch hitter at bat, one might be better off with a pinch hitter rather than a batter, who presumably, has been struggling all game. Unless the pitcher-batter matchup is in the home team’s favor, then…

Error 6b: (by the visiting team’s manager) Not making a pitching change. Or at the very least, have the pitching coach visit the mound to try to calm down the pitcher. As the visiting team in a tie score in the late innings, you want to save your closer for when you have the lead. So we can guess that the pitcher on the mound is not the visiting team’s closer. It could be the starting pitcher. If that is the case, then one could guess that after 8.2 innings, he is beginning to fatigue. The manager would hardly be second guessed for pulling the pitcher at this point. If this is not the starting pitcher, but instead, another relief pitcher, then it would be in the team’s best interest to pull the pitcher for another relief pitcher that gives the team a better chance of preserving the tie game.

Errors 7,8,9, and 10: (by the home team’s Manager, Third base coach, runner, and batter) The ordering and execution of the suicide squeeze. Everything up to this point of the half-inning has been forgivable. This is where managers get fired, players get sent to the minors or released, and sports talk radio hosts and baseball writers have a field day. I know that Steinman and Loaf are big baseball fans. In order to hammer the point home in this metaphor that having premarital sex at age 17 is an incredibly bad idea, they decide to use the most illogical, most ludicrous strategy one could execute at this point in the game. The fault lies not only in the manager for calling such a play, but the coach for relaying the sign to the batter and runner, and to the players for actually executing this play. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

Error 11: (by the pitcher) Going back to a full windup with the runner on third. Normally, the pitcher would just focus on the batter and getting out of the inning. But he knows the runner is very fast. And very reckless. The runner just ill-advisedly stole third base, and by “taking a big lead” off of third, stealing home is not out of the question. If the pitcher is not comfortable pitching out of the stretch, then we go back to error #6b, which is not bringing in a relief pitcher.

Error 12: (by the pitcher) Throwing a pitch that could actually be bunted. In a windup, if the runner from third takes off for home, the pitcher has time to adjust his pitch. He is instructed in this situation to throw a fastball that is high and inside, almost throwing at the batter’s head. A high, inside pitch, especially at a high-speed, is the hardest to bunt. Even if the pitcher does not see the runner from the corner of his eyes, his teammates would yell to him that  he is. If the runner starts to run before the pitcher starts his delivery, the pitcher can step off the pitcher’s rubber, and throw the ball right away without going through with the pitching mechanics. The way Rizzuto describes the play, it almost looks like a safety squeeze.

Error 13: (by the pitcher or third baseman) Not throwing to first base to retire the runner. There are 2 outs. If you get the batter out at first, the runner from third does not score. That is why a squeeze play with 2 outs is so monumentally stupid. Even if we assume the batter has good to excellent speed, a squeeze bunt is not the same as a drag bunt. On a drag but, you are trying to get a hit, and the batter almost gets a running start out of the batter’s box as the bat makes contact. On a squeeze or sacrifice bunt, the batter is stationary in the box, squared up to the ball, trying to do everything he can just to make contact. There is hardly any way the batter can leg out a single on this type of play. We can only assume that whomever fielded the ball “down the third base line” had a brain fart, panicked, and threw the ball to home plate instead of first base.

Going back to the calling of a squeeze play. I can’t blame the coach for relaying the sign. He is just following directions. The runner is not entirely to blame since we can tell from this short sample size that he is reckless player who really believes his speed can overcome sound baseball strategy. Most of the blame lies upon the batter. He could just not make any contact with the ball, and hope the runner is fast enough to win the game on a walk-off steal of home. He could miss on purpose in order to distract the catcher’s line-of-sight. If this was a safety squeeze instead of a suicide squeeze, then the fault rests mostly on the runner. Considering that this is all a metaphor, and the 17 year-old boy in this song is represented by the runner, we could conclude that this was indeed a safety squeeze. Which is, in fact, a more ill-advised strategy than a suicide squeeze.

We do not find out from the announcer is the runner was safe or out at home. But judging by the rest of the song, we can safely conclude that the runner was called out. There is a saying in baseball that a tie goes to the runner. But consider this circumstance, we could argue that the umpire called the runner out just based on the pure stupidity of the play, even if the runner truly beat the tag. At this point in the game, the teams would move on to the 10th inning, with the game still tied at 0-0. Again, considering how the song ends in part 3, we could guess that the visiting team went on to win the game in extra innings. The runner’s career is utterly ruined, as the boy in the song ends up unhappily married for the rest of his life.

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3 thoughts on “An analysis of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light, Part 2”

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