Also known as "Willie, Mickey and The Duke," this song was written and recorded by Terry Cashman, who along with Tommy West was Jim Croce's producer. In our interview with Cashman
he told the story behind the song: "A friend of mine who worked for the Mets gave me a picture of the four great centerfielders: Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider, and Joe DiMaggio, and they were in center field at Shea Stadium walking towards home plate at the 1980 old-timers game. So somebody had taken a picture from behind, and all you could see was the four guys walking in. You only saw the backs of the uniforms, so you saw the four uniforms with the numbers 24, 4, 5, and 7. Anybody who knew anything about baseball in New York knew who that was (see the photo in Song Images
I played baseball as a kid. I'd played in the minor leagues and always loved baseball, and really I'm somewhat of a baseball historian. So I looked at this picture, and I said, 'Oh, my God, this picture is phenomenal. It's Mays, Mantle, Snider and DiMaggio in center field, walking in… you only see the numbers…' So I bought the rights to that picture, and I own that photograph. So in 1980 around Christmas time I started giving out the picture to people as gifts. I gave it to people I knew would appreciate what that was and what it meant, and of course I had the picture framed for myself.
So I went home one day, and I'm thinking about this song and having to have a B-side. And I looked at the picture, and I said, 'Jeez, there's gotta be a song in this picture somehow.' I tried writing it with DiMaggio involved, but then I realized that DiMaggio retired in '51, and Mays and Mantle came up in '51, and really the great years of those other three players were in the mid-'50s. And Snider was great, '53, '54, when Mays and Mantle were coming into their own and winning MVPs and it wasn't Joe DiMaggio. It was Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.
The minute that title came into my head, it brought about a remembrance in my mind of what it was like at that time, of being a baseball fan in New York, and all the arguments we used to have about who was better. I told Tommy, 'I've got a great idea for a song, it's called 'Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.'' And he had this big smile on his face, because he knew what that meant. So that night I went to sleep and I must have been dreaming about being a teenager in those years and going down to the corner and waiting for the papers to come up, and hearing all the men argue about the different baseball players, and how that would happen almost every night in the summer as they waited for the early editions of the papers to come. I woke up, picked up a guitar, and wrote the song in 20 minutes. It was all there in my head, and all I had to do was come up with a melody. And that was it."