Baseball has given us a number of songs, so much so Rhino Records collected "Baseball's Greatest Hits" into two volumes some years back. Of course, there's "Take Me Out to the ballgame" and then, real eclectic stuff like a Bruce Springsteen parody--and spot-on by the way--by "Bruce Springstone" in the '80s singing a rocked-up version based on the Boss' "Rosalita." But my favorite baseball song is without a doubt John Fogerty's "Centerfield."Casey at Bat" by Earnest Thayer.
Fogerty names plenty of baseball greats from the 20th century, too: Willie (Mays), Ty Cobb, Joe DiMagio (who was from the San Francisco Bay Area just like Fogerty) and even Joe Jackson through the line "say it ain't so." When he sings about "a brown-eyed handsome man," it's either a reference to Mays or a nod to the song "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" by one of Fogerty's heroes, Chuck Berry. He's not saying, or hasn't yet.
Fogerty told MLB.com, "I'd hear about Ruth and DiMaggio, and as my dad and older brothers talked about the Babe's exploits, their eyes would get so big. When I was a little kid, there were no teams on the West Coast, so the idea of a Major League team was really mythical to me. The players were heroes to me as long as I can remember.
For Fogerty that meant returning to music, though he wasn't playing his classic Creedence Clearwater Revival songs yet due to a publishing dispute with then-Fantasy records owner Saul Zaentz, now long deceased and Fogerty playing and owning all those favorites once again.
From its opening synth handclaps and youthful guitar lines to the shouts of joy in the vocals, "Centerfield" is a celebration of not just baseball, but being a player in any game and part of anything that truly matters to you. Watching Fogerty play it live is even better as he breaks out his special baseball bat-shaped guitar with a grin and smiles flower throughout the audience for one big sing-along.
"Centerfield" wasn't as big as other singles from the album, "Old Man Down the Road" and "Rock'n'Roll Girls." The song didn't even dent the Top 40 (it peaked at Number 44). But it's become much bigger than of-the-moment charts, played during breaks at baseball games around the world, from big stadiums to community little league fields.
Feature by Daryl Morden.
More John Fogerty from Associated Content:
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