By Derek Belt
Mobile Press-Register
July 9, 2007

MOBILE, ALA. — So there I was, perched high above Hank Aaron Stadium in the Mobile BayBears’ press box.

It was a Wednesday night, the Fourth of July, and my first Double-A baseball game as a Press-Register reporter was taking forever to finish.

All I could think about was my fast-approaching deadline when in walked a familiar face: Sgt. Slaughter.

The pro wrestling superstar who once battled the Iron Sheik and headlined Wrestlemania XII against Hulk Hogan pulled up the seat next to mine.

He sat down to enjoy a quick meal prepared by the BayBears media relations department. Earlier, I had selected a pulled pork sandwich from the help-yourself food room adjacent to the press box. But a pulled pork sandwich wasn’t good enough for Sgt. Slaughter. His dish was classic: one boiled hot dog, no bun, smothered in a heap of baked beans. Mmm.

It was awkward, but it was also kind of awesome. I mean, this guy actually has a G.I. Joe named after him. And I loved G.I. Joe when I was a kid.

I remember watching Sgt. Slaughter wrestle. He was never the most gifted in-ring performer, and sitting next to him now, I could see why. His Jay Leno-like protruding chin is probably the most fearsome thing about his appearance, and it’s not a stretch to say his beer belly was years in the making. To be fair, though, he looked like he’d trimmed a few pounds in recent years.

Sgt. Slaughter is a legend. A World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer, actually.

I know wrestling’s fake, but if any average Joe out there thinks he can handle a choke-slam and live to tell the tale, fuggetaboutit. These guys are unbelievably good at what they do, which is why many continue to wrestle well into their 50s and 60s.

Sgt. Slaughter, who currently works as a WWE road agent, turns 58 next month. His last match was two weeks ago at the company’s Vengeance pay-per-view.

I used to enjoy wrestling a lot and I still respect what the pros do for a living, despite the steroid rumors that surround the recent Chris Benoit murder-suicide. My dream coming out of high school was to write scripts for WWE’s television shows.

At one point in the game, when the BayBears began to fall apart and Montgomery took the lead for good, Sgt. Slaughter leaned over and said something funny in his all-too-familiar gravelly voice.

After a quick laugh, one of the BayBears’ front-office guys hopped on the radio and said to someone on the field: “Sarge says he can come down there and give the pitcher a Cobra Clutch if we want.” The Cobra Clutch, of course, is Sgt. Slaughter’s finishing move. It would have been the end of that poor pitcher.

I talked with Sgt. Slaughter for a few more minutes before he left to make an appearance on the BayBears’ radio network. He was in town promoting the team’s Fourth of July celebration and spent much of the game signing autographs and collecting items for the troops.

He wore his trademark drill sergeant hat and dark sunglasses, and he never once broke character. I think he’s been Sgt. Slaughter longer than he’s been Robert Remus, his real name. That’s OK, though, just as long as he doesn’t try to give me the Cobra Clutch.

I wouldn’t want to hurt him.