Meat Loaf took time out from working on his new album last month to talk a little sports (and a little music) with Sports Illustrated.
Meat Loaf is one more rocker who may never be too old to rock and roll. He turned 68 on Sept. 27 and isn't slowing down at all. The man still loves to play music and talk music.
He has a tour that starts later this month and a new album due out early next year. He also says there's another tour that will start next summer. Thirty-eight years after his album Bat Out of Hell went platinum, he's going strong. He's also still acting. Meat Loaf (who was born Marvin Lee Aday) had roles in Fight Club, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Wayne's World. He has a couple of movie deals in the works these days, too.
Meat Loaf can talk music and movies all day. You know what else he can go on about for hours? Sports. Meat Loaf loves sports. Loves to watch, loves to play. He has an extensive memorabilia collection, most of it given to him by the athletes he's come to know over the years. He's an accomplished fantasy sports participant, not above bragging about his success rate. He was a football player years ago and says he's a member of something called the Central Park Softball Hall of Fame. He can drop some impressive names into any discussion and sports are no exception.
He took time out from working on his new album last month to talk a little sports (and a little music) with Sports Illustrated.
SI: Let's start with a softball: We know sports are important to you, how do they fit into your life?
Meat Loaf: I've been watching sports from [as long as] I can remember. When the games were on, I'd take a football and run as fast as I could into the couch. I wanted to play fullback. That was my dream. The first game I ever pitched in softball was a windmill game when I was in high school. I got a job in a manufacturing plant. All these guys hated me. I went to softball the first week and no one talked to me. The second week, the pitcher didn't show up. They said can anyone here pitch? I said I can. The first game I ever pitched was a no-hitter. I haven't come close to that since. I did have a one-hitter in a slow-pitch game. Think about that, a slow-pitch, lob game. The score was 1–0.
I am a member of the Central Park Softball Hall of Fame. As a softball pitcher, I don't know exactly how many games I've won. I know how many I've lost—27. I've won over 400. When I retire, I'm going to go join a senior softball league.
SI: On your 1977 hit 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light,' Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto does the 'play-by-play' interlude. How did that come about?
ML: [Producer] Jim Steinman and I are both huge Yankee fans and I have been forever. If you came to my house and saw all of the sports memorabilia, it's all been given to me. I have a helmet that Dan Marino gave to me. It was the last helmet he wore in a football game. I've got them from Jim Kelly, from Terry Bradshaw. Two birthdays ago, I got a bat from Derek Jeter that said, 'Happy Birthday Meat Loaf.' I got a bat from Joe DiMaggio. I met Ted Williams on my birthday. He was a grumpy old guy and he was real friendly to me. He knew who I was. I have bats. I went to St. Louis and sang the national anthem. Albert Pujols gave me a bat. I took it on the airplane and TSA confiscated it. They said they'd sent it back to me. I never got it. I have hockey sticks from Wayne Gretzky. I got a Babe Ruth picture. I have a major, major collection. People sent me stuff.
(Reeling him back in—Phil Rizzuto?)
We found out his agent was Art Shamsky. He was a right fielder for the miracle '69 Mets. We had a meeting with him and we told him what we wanted Phil to do and he said OK. His one question, which was hysterical, his question was do people have to get high to listen to this? Jim's quote was great. He said with this record, it is better if you don't.
We put together his words from different games all summer. We brought him into the studio and said these are your words, you wouldn't have any problems. So he read it like this (Meat Loaf does an imitation of Rizzuto doing a dull monotone). We had some pizza boxes laying around the studio so I laid them out and was using them as bases as it he did again. It was quite funny and I had a great time with him. I gave Steinbrenner and him bats when that went platinum. Reggie [Jackson] looked at us and said, 'How much do you guys make?' I just looked at him and said, 'Reggie, how much money do you make?'
SI: As a lifetime fan, what is your favorite Yankees memory?
ML: It's not my favorite but I think it is the one that says with me. It is when Thurman Munson's plane crashed. I was heartbroken when that happened. That's not a good memory to share, but when anybody asks me that kind of question, that's the first thing that comes to mind.
You have Jeter making these great plays and Jackson hitting three home runs in a game or some of the plays [Graig] Nettles made at third base. Roy White out in left field made a catch like I've never seen before. He went like 25 feet in the air to catch this ball.
Being friends with Yogi, being friends with Whitey, with Joe Pepitone, just being around those guys was extraordinary.
The player I hated the most, and I just got his autograph about two weeks ago, was Al Kaline. He made a diving catch on a short little blooper out into right field. I don't know how he caught it. It pissed me off. I didn't like him... Now I like him.
SI: Word is you enjoy fantasy football and baseball. How do your teams generally do?
Every time USA Today or ESPN or I don't think Sports Illustrated has ever asked me, every time they ask me to join their fantasy league, I'll say you don't want me. Why? I'll win. They say you're awfully cocky. No, it isn't being cocky. I haven't lost one yet, any celebrity fantasy game.
Right now, we're so involved and so engrossed in this record, normally I have probably from 20-30 fantasy football teams and 15-20 baseball teams. This year, I only have eight fantasy teams. It's not that hard, we just work so hard on this record that I didn't get a chance to do all my homework. (Meat Loaf likes to find sleeper-type players no one else is coveting). Like the year Jimmy Graham came in, no one knew about Jimmy Graham but I did. Jimmy Graham and [LaDainian] Tomlinson, they were real sleepers. People call me up and say, 'Who are the sleepers?'
The sleeper quarterback this year is Ryan Tannehill from Miami. I guarantee you he'll finish in the top four. I'll put money on it. I normally don't draft quarterbacks high. Drew Brees was sitting around in the sixth round. I know Drew, I couldn't pass up Drew.
SI: If commissioner Rob Manfred gave you power to make one change to the game of baseball, what would it be?
ML: There would be no replay. Football I understand. Football, especially around the goal lines, replays are OK because there's been teams that should have won that scored a touchdown when the referee said it wasn't—and mostly it has been my teams. I wouldn't have replay in baseball. I think most of those umpires are solid and strong and they're human and they're going to make a mistake. Maybe there is a replay on a home run. Maybe the ball curved past the foul pole, maybe I could see that replay.
SI: Even though you're not as big a fan of soccer as other sports, you have been credited with being pretty knowledgeable. How did that happen?
ML: I was doing a promo for an album in England and they wanted me to go on a sports show that dealt with soccer before a game in the afternoon. I knew nothing about soccer. I didn't want to talk Manchester United or Liverpool or anything like that. I studied Hartlepool FC from the previous three years. Every game they'd played, how they got their mascot, that whole thing. I talked to their coach on the phone. If a player wasn't playing, I said why isn't this player playing. Everybody thought I was a soccer player. I'm an actor. I did some research. I couldn't tell you if a guy was offsides or not. I'll watch and they'd be like he's offsides and I'm like how did you know? I'm a research guy, period.
SI: Musically, you have a tour starting Oct. 16. What other projects do you have in the works?
I just keep working. I don't know how to not work. I'm constantly working. I had to stop because I had major back surgery. Then I had four outpatient back surgeries. Not working that long almost killed me. I was in the hospital 17 days, had four months of therapy. I've got the same back brace as Brett Favre. If it is good enough for Brett Favre, it is good enough for me.
SI: Why are so many musicians such as yourself able to keep rocking for so many years? What keeps you going?
ML: There's a few of us. Billy [Joel], Bruce [Springsteen], there's me, there's [Mick] Jagger. The reason he can do it is he weighs 114 pounds. Springsteen is a workout junkie. He's in unbelievable condition. Billy and Elton [John], they don't really move around the stage. They sit and play piano. I wish I knew how to do that.
Brian May [Queen's lead guitarist who is 68] is a major [astrophysicist]. I went on a TV show with him and he said, 'I'm here to talk about a book?' About Queen? He said no, it is about astronomy. I found out he has a doctorate in astronomy. Brian May is the most intelligent rock human in the world. He's up there with Hawking and Einstein. It is mind boggling.
I think because I've had such discipline as an actor and a football player that I prepare for a show as if I'm going to play in the Super Bowl. People do not come into my dressing room 15 minutes before a show. I've been known to beat my head against a locker before I go on. If you've ever been on the field with football players for warm ups or baseball players taking batting practice, they go in the locker room and they come back out and they're completely different. It is called going to the zone.
This boy goes to the zone.
SI: If you had first pick in a fantasy rockers draft and couldn't choose yourself, who would you take? What acts do you enjoy watching?
ML: I'd take Brian May. Well, wait a second. That's a tough one. Jeff Beck is the best guitar player in the entire world. Because he doesn't play the guitar and neither does Brian. They become the guitar. That's what is so great about Bruce. He's no longer Bruce. He becomes the song. I become the song. That's why we're still here. It is a tough pick between Jeff Beck and Brian May. I'm going to have to go with Brian May.
My second pick would be my piano player now [Justin Avery]. He came and auditioned for us and left all these jaded musicians absolutely speechless.
I would keep my band, I'd just add Brian May to it. I'm not bragging. I don't brag. I just give facts. I have the best rock and roll band in the world. Forget me, that I'm even there. Just listen to the band. You have no idea how good they are. These guys are such musical geniuses, it's like playing with a group of Einsteins.