Wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage: The Baseball Years

March 26, 2020 24 Comments

Randy

Randy “Macho Man” Savage was one of the most famous wrestlers to come out of that sport’s Golden Age in the 1980s. Wrestling, though, wasn’t his first professional sports experience. Prior to becoming a pro wrestler, he spent four years playing minor league baseball. 

Born Randy Poffo in Columbus, he was the son of Angelo Poffo, a famous wrestler from the 1950s and 1960s. After living in Zanesville, Ohio, New York City, and suburban Chicago, the family settled in Lexington, Kentucky. A talented baseball player, Randy was signed as a catcher by the St. Louis Cardinals and placed in that organization’s minor league system in 1971.

He spent two and a half seasons playing rookie-level  ball for the Cards’ Gulf Coast League affiliate the Redbirds before advancing to the Low-A Western Carolina League’s Orangeburg Cardinals. He ended the 1973 season back in the Gulf Coast League.

That fall, Randy gave pro wrestling a try. His first match was in Florida against veteran grappler Paul Christy. His first character was the Spider, loosely based on the comic hero Spider-Man. Ironically, Randy wound up playing a wrestler in the 2002 film Spider-Man.

He reached the Class-A Advanced level of minor league baseball in 1974 when he played 131 games for the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League. The Tarpons were part of the Reds organization at the time. He hit .232 in what would be his final season, hitting nine home runs and 66 RBIs. A bum shoulder led to his decision to leave the game.

His father suggested he wrestle full-time and offered to train him. The elder Poffo also told his son he could open the door to greater opportunities in the sport. Randy proceeded to wrestle throughout the South, often with his brother Lanny who entered the sport around the same time. Randy changed his name after a fellow wrestler Ole Anderson made an observation about the newcomer’s style. He said young Randy wrestled like a savage. “Macho Man” came later when his mother read an article in Reader’s Digest that reported the growing popularity of that phrase.

In 1977, Randy and his brother Lanny won the NWA Southeastern Tag Team title. Both rose through the ranks, but it was Randy who excelled. On St. Patrick's Day 1985, he defeated Jerry "The King" Lawler for the NWA Southern title in Memphis, Tennessee. Lawler was widely known to even non-fans of wrestling for his feud with comedian and actor Andy Kaufman a few years earlier. The feud between Savage and Lawler was brutal, with the latter winding up in the hospital on one occasion.

In the fall of 1985, Randy “Macho Man” Savage joined the World Wrestling Federation at the behest of that circuit’s founder Vince McMahon. He became part of that organization's famous cast of characters just as it started to develop into one of the most popular entertainment enterprises in the world. He became a household name along with fellow wrestlers Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Andre the Giant, and George “The Animal” Steele.

In addition to dabbling in acting, he released a rap album. After a storied career in the ring, Savage retired permanently from the sport in 2005. He passed away in 2011 after suffering a heart attack caused by an undiagnosed heart condition.

Get our official Pro Wrestling Tees mash-up tee for Macho Man here.

 




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