Fact Or Fiction: The Story Behind John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”
John Fogerty, where were you on the night of July 10th, 1984?
Cue the classic 1940's detective movie music. The dangling light bulb directed squarely on Fogerty causes his eyes to squint in pain as he's being subjected to an intense interrogation by tough-guy detectives in a smoke-filled police station room. "Mr. Fogerty, did you write 'Centerfield' at the 1984 Major League Baseball game?! Yes or No?!"
Actually, this interrogation won't be necessary. Fogerty is actually the victim of a story he likely never invented regarding "Centerfield"; the song that hit #1 on this weekend back in 1985. Just who did start this urban legend though? We may never find out, unfortunately. What we do know is the real story behind Fogerty's hit song that has its place set in the baseball and rock 'n' roll history books.
I remember first reading the story that Fogerty came up with the title of the song while literally sitting in center field at the 1984 MLB All-Star game in San Francisco's Candlestick Park. That came from a book I bought back in the late 80s called Rock Movers & Shakers published by Billboard. It was revealed in recent years, however, that Fogerty actually thought up the song somewhere else entirely. Yes, Fogerty did grow up in San Francisco. Was he actually at that game in San Francisco on that night? Possibly but he didn't write a song about it if he was.
The song was, in fact, inspired by the stories Fogerty had heard as a kid of the great Yankees Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle who played center field. Fogerty told a New York Times reporter in 2010 that he equated the position of center fielder to being "the king, the head of the tribe, the most special one".
I admit I've mentioned the "Candlestick Park All-Star Game" story on the radio more than a few times over the years. Then again, I'm sure I'm not the only one.
So now that we've gotten the origin of the song story straight, here are some other interesting things to read about the song "Centerfield" which are all true........or are they?:
Fogerty Hits A Home Run With Fans: Along with Terry Cashman's "Talkin' Baseball" and Edward Meeker's "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", this quickly became one of the most popular baseball songs ever. It's a fixture at ballparks between innings of games and plays continuously at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Who's Batting Second?: The second verse refers to the legendary Mighty Casey from the epic poem by Ernest Lawrence Thayer "Casey At The Bat".
A Nod To Rock & Roll's Own Version Of Babe Ruth: Chuck Berry, one of Fogerty's idols, was the inspiration behind part of "Centerfield". Fogerty pays tribute to Berry and his classic 1956 song "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" with the lyrics "Rounding third he was heading for home, it was a brown eyed handsome man".
Say "Hello" To The Man Who Said "Tell It Goodbye!" The final verse quotes the longtime Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons, whose famous home run call was "Tell it goodbye!"
The Rock & Roll/Baseball Hall Of Famer: On July 25, 2010, in honor of the 25th anniversary of "Centerfield"'s release, Fogerty played the song at the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, where he became the first musician honored by the MLB Hall of Fame.
Rock's #1 Utility Player: Every instrument on the song and the album "Centerfield" is performed by Fogerty himself.
NOTE: You can see John Fogerty co-headline with ZZ Top at The Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday night, May 27th.