When Johnny Cash's version of "God's Gonna Cut You Down" was released posthumously in 2006, Cash fans probably wouldn't have predicted that the traditional folk tune would become a ballpark staple. But since Seattle Mariners reliever Joe Beimel began using it as his entrance music in 2007, several MLB pitchers have also adopted the song as their personal anthem as they stride to the mound.
"I've always liked the song, and it wasn't your typical entrance music," Beimel says. "I wanted something a little different; the song made me feel badass when I came into the game."
Even non-pitchers took note. While pitching for the Colorado Rockies, Beimel entered games on three consecutive days and faced Lance Berkman each time. On the third day, Beimel ran to cover first. When the two met at the bag, Berkman looked at Beimel and asked what his entrance song was. Beimel told him; the next year, Berkman stared using it as his walk-up song.
"I was like, 'Really, dude?'" Beimel says.
Washington Nationals reliever Drew Storen used the song in high school but gave it a "grace period" before using it in the pros this year, in deference to Beimel. "It's a little of everything -- the lyrics are great, it's Johnny Cash, it's different, it's not the in-your-face rock reliever music," Storen says, in explaining his song choice. "I like the tone it sets."
In other instances, team staff members have chosen the song for their pitchers, as is the case with the Indians' Cody Allen.
Leland Patton, Cleveland's director of in-game experience, approached Allen in spring training about developing a closer entrance video; he suggested using Cash's version of the song because "we felt the drumbeat, the clap and the drama of the track would work well to make for this dramatic entrance," says Patton. Allen agreed, and the song is used in the first part of his entrance sequence (another song, Eric Church's "The Outsiders," is played during his actual warm up).
New York Yankees pitcher Andrew Miller also uses the Cash version of the song, and credits a Red Sox staffer who selected it for him during his Fenway days. "They had been playing some goofy circus music, so I asked them to change it," says Miller. "They suggested 'God's Gonna Cut You Down.' I liked it; it's a great song."
Yankees teammate Nathan Eovaldi used the song in Miami but says someone "overruled" him when he tried to import it to New York. Miller denies being the over-ruler, but says: "You know what's funny? This year I've heard it used three or four other times."
Given how superstitious -- and territorial -- baseball players can be about things, would any of them consider changing their song now that's it's become a hit among their peers?
"I'm sticking with it," Beimel says. "I'm more likely to change my socks than my entrance music."