There are hundreds of songs that help create the tapestry of sport, but perhaps no sport has inspired more musical interludes than baseball. From John Fogarty’s “Centerfield” and Paul Simon asking where Joe DiMaggio has gone in “Mrs. Robinson” to a simple ditty like “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” music and baseball have been synonymous.
The Oakland A’s even got into the act, honoring MC Hammer with his own bobblehead last week (OK, so it was for his baseball acumen more than his tunes).
One of the most popular anthem’s of baseball has been Terry Cashman’s “Talkin Baseball: Willie, Mickey and the Duke.” It became a cult hit of sorts in the 1970’s and ‘80’s as it linked the eras of baseball together, and quickly became a hit in the new era of music video.
Few who have been in a ballpark the last 30 years have not heard Cashman’s ode to baseball, or any of the team-specific creations he came up with after the initial song.
Cashman will be honored at the Hall of Fame ceremonies and perform the song the weekend of July 23-24 (when Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick are inducted), with special honors for the 30th anniversary of the song, a new tradition at the Hall which began last year with Fogerty and “Centerfield.” The story of the song, which came out of the 1981 strike year, has withstood the test of time, even as Cashman turns 70 this year, and the one legend still alive in the title, Willie Mays, turns 80.
As he prepares to take his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Big Lead Sports asked Cashman about the song and his work.
Big Lead Sports: Your original song is now an anthem for baseball. Did you think the original lyrics, and all the players, whether it was Bobby Bonds and Dan Quisenberry or Pete Rose and Mickey Mantle, would hold the test of time?
Terry Cashman: Yes. Most of the names are immortals and the others are interesting in their uniqueness or just the sound of them.
BLS: Of all the similar projects you have done for teams, which was the most challenging and why?
TC: The Atlanta Braves because they had moved from Boston to Milwaukee and then to Atlanta. Would the Atlanta fans care about the history, especially in Boston?
BLS: Is there anyone who approached you about being in the original song who wasn’t in it, and did you ever do anything to rectify it?
TC: Tommy Davis who was a friend. He wanted to know why he wasn’t in the song and I explained that the song was about the 1950s and the 1980s, of which he wasn’t a big part. Jeff Burroughs’ wife was annoyed that her husband wasn’t in the song. However, Gaylord Perry, Mike Schmidt and Tom Seaver were very glad that I mentioned them and told me so.
When asked about Al Kaline and Ernie Banks by fans, I replied that they would be in the next song, which turned out to be the individual team versions.
Yogi Berra wanted to know why he wasn’t in the song. When I told him he was one of the first players mentioned in the lyrics, he gave me a blank stare and replied, “Oh.” [“The Whiz Kids had won it/Bobby Thompson had done it/And Yogi read the comics all the while.”]
BLS: What has been the biggest surprise over the years with regard to the original song?
TC: How much kids like the song. Maybe that’s a result of “Talkin’ Softball,” [the parody I did for an episode of The Simpson’s [“Homer at the Bat.”]