This song was inspired by Fogerty's childhood memories of baseball, and although he didn't play the game, he loved watching it and hearing the stories his father would tell about the legendary New York Yankees centerfielder Joe DiMaggio, who like Fogerty was from San Francisco. In an interview with MLB.com, Fogerty explained: "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."
Fogerty added: "It is about baseball, but it is also a metaphor about getting yourself motivated, about facing the challenge of one thing or another at least at the beginning of an endeavor. About getting yourself all ready, whatever is necessary for the job."
Fogerty left Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1972 and released solo albums in 1973 and 1975 that sold poorly. For the next 10 years, Fogerty refused to record because of legal battles with his record company, but when Centerfield was finally released in 1985, it hit the mark thanks to this title track. A song about baseball was a risk, as the sport isn't exactly rock-worthy. In the above interview, Fogerty said: "Over the years it seemed like sports songs just didn't qualify into the rock-and-roll lexicon. There was that unwritten distinction. It was never considered rock-and-roll. And I realized creating this song would very much put baseball in a rock-and-roll setting. I expected to be roundly thrashed by owners of the flame."
Along with "Talkin' Baseball
" and "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.
One of Fogerty's idols - Chuck Berry - inspired the lyrics, "Rounding third he was heading for home, it was a brown eyed handsome man," which is lifted from Berry's song "Brown Eyed Handsome Man
Baseball legends mentioned in this song: Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Ty Cobb.
The second verse refers to the legendary Mighty Casey from the epic poem Casey At The Bat
. At the end of the story, Casey strikes out.
The line, "It's a-gone and you can tell that one good-bye" comes from the catchphrase of baseball announcer Lon Simmons, who called games for the San Francisco Giants. He would often say, "Tell it goodbye" when the Giants hit a home run.
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 Hall of Fame - at least the baseball one. Fogerty is in both the Songwriters and Rock and Roll Hall of Fames.
The 1984 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held at Candlestick Park in Fogerty's hometown of San Francisco. This led to erroneous reports that he watched the game from the center field bleachers, leading to this song. Among the publications to report this was Billboard Publications Rock Movers & Shakers.
When George W. Bush was campaigning for president of the US in 2000, he told a reporter this was his favorite song. Bush used to own part of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and liked the line "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play."