Rhino's record: Latest 'Masked Singer' castoff is two-time World Series winner


The Rhino gave so many credibly twangy performances this Masked Singer season that the judges were convinced he was a country music superstar, even when he crooned tunes by John Hiatt, Niall Horan, the Jonas Brothers, or Smokey Robinson. This week alone, the panel was tossing out A-list Nashville names like Jason Aldean, Trace Adkins, Sam Hunt, and Blake Shelton.

But when the Rhino was de-horned at the end of Wednesday’s top four semifinals show, after singing Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind,” he turned out to be a different sort of all-star: Cy Young Award and World Series winner Barry Zito.

The Rhino’s identity wasn’t a curveball for everyone. Judge Jenny McCarthy guessed two episodes ago that this horny creature might be the former Oakland A’s/San Francisco Giants legend, and this week, suddenly Ken “I Know Exactly Who This Is” Jeong was convinced as well. I even pitched this theory a few weeks ago, as “Yahoo’s resident Masked Singer expert” (that’s totally going on my business card) for Yahoo Sports. But Nicole Scherzinger was skeptical, insisting, “There is no way that isn’t a singer.”

Well, Nicole wasn’t wrong. Barry is a singer. Unlike most of the athletes who’ve competed on this show, who can’t carry a tune nearly as well as they can carry a ball (Rob “The White Tiger” Gronkowski, I’m looking at you), Barry has actual musical talent. He hails from a showbiz family — his father was the conductor for Nat King Cole, his mother was a violinist and singer, and he used to play guitar in his sister’s band — and since retiring from baseball, he has settled in Nashville to focus on his music career. He even cracked Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and garnered positive reviews with his debut EP, No Secrets. But Barry was still able to keep one secret: that he was the man behind the Rhino mask. He certainly brought his A-game this season.

So now only three celebrity cosplayers remain, moving on to what host Nick Cannon declares will be the “tightest race in Masked Singer history” — or herstory, if the Night Angel fulfills her dream of becoming the series’ first-ever female champion on next week’s finale. May the best mask win!

The Night Angel, “How to Love”

“Robot, this is for you,” the Night Angel called out, saluting Lil Wayne, the first contestant to be unmasked this season. She certainly avenged Wayne’s early defeat. This was perhaps her most solid vocal of the season — and a surprisingly serious and solemn one, considering that it was emanating from the nightmare-fueling, gaping-mouthed visage of a blank-eyed flying purple people-creature. Jenny, her biggest fan, loved the humility and once again predicted that the Night Angel could soar all the way to the top.

Judges’ guesses: Dawn Robinson, Ciara, Kandi Burruss.

My guess: It is Kandi. Along with all of the past clues adding up, this week the Night Angel opened up about the death of a loved one that “ripped her world apart” and was the ultimate inspiration for her angelic costume. Kandi’s fiancé, A.J. Jewell, died from head injuries stemming from a bar fight in 2009. It looks like she did both Wayne and A.J proud tonight.

The Turtle, “Jealous”

This was also an impressive performance. It can’t be easy to sing this song almost entirely in falsetto, let alone almost entirely in falsetto while wearing a giant teenage mutant ninja turtle head. But somehow this shellboy managed to give off teenage heartthrob vibes as he sex-eyed his audience through those creepy orange amphibian-eyeball sockets. Nick Jonas ought to be jealous of the Turtle.

Judges’ guesses: Kevin Richardson, Nick Carter, Justin Guarini.

My guess: This is another former teen pinup, Jesse McCartney. Along with all of the past clues, this week he showed off a toy diamond ring (Jesse recently got engaged), and most importantly, he effusively fanboyed over his idol, Masked Singer judge Robin Thicke. Jesse covered Robin’s “The Stupid Things” on his 2004 album Beautiful Soul, so there you go.

The Frog, “Hip Hop Hooray”

What a genius song choice for this hippity-hopper, who always gets the crowd jumping when he goes old-skool. He may be the weakest singer among the top three, but he’s always a consummate showman. When it comes to entertaining, there is nothing green about the Frog.

Judges’ guesses: Chance the Rapper, Omarion, Bow Wow, Lil’ Fizz.

My guess: Past clues have had me thinking this is Bow Wow for weeks, and I am sticking with that guess. This Wednesday offered more references to basketball (a running theme in Bow Wow’s work since his Like Mike days), his many “haters,” and a “tadpole at home” (Bow Wow has a daughter)… plus, that “MOM” pin fastened to his purple lapel? Turn it upside-down, and it spells “WOW.” Think about it.

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