Talkin' Baseball

Album: Cooperstown (1981)


  • 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.

    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."
  • This song is filled with references to the colorful characters that made baseball so interesting from the '50s until the song was recorded in 1981. For instance, Yogi Berra was known for reading comic books ("Yogi read the comics all the while"), and Bobby Bonds played for eight different teams in his career ("Bobby Bonds can play for everyone").

    Some of the players are mentioned by their nicknames, including Phil Rizzuto (The Scooter), Ted Williams (The Thumper) and Stan Musial (The Man). Cashman also mentions "The Bachelor" and "Cookie." These weren't players, but friends of Cashman. He told us: "They were guys who were my age, and we played baseball together. The Bachelor is still a good friend of mine named Mike Green, and he was a Yankees fan. He loved Mickey Mantle and he used to imitate the way Mantle ran and held his glove. And Cookie was one of the few Dodger fans in our neighborhood - upper Manhattan was mostly Giants and Yankee territory. But you had your odd Dodger fan, and Bobby Cook, who we called Cookie of course, was a Dodger fan. He loved Duke Snider. And I was a Giants fan and loved Willie Mays, as I say in the song. And the three of us really paralleled the three great players."
  • In the Tin Pan Alley Era, many songs were written about baseball because before you could watch it on TV, going to a baseball game was a common, shared experience. The song that emerged as a classic is "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," which was written in 1908. Understandably, most songwriters stayed away from the topic once the rock era started, as there wasn't a broad market for songs about baseball. Cashman was in a position to release the song, because he and West had their own record label called Lifesong Records, which released the 1975 Henry Gross hit "Shannon."

    Cashman told us how he ended up recording a baseball song: "It was 1980. A guy I had known from college called me up and said, 'I have this guy, he's got a song about baseball that he's written, and he'd like to play it for you.' So the guy came up and he played it. It wasn't a bad song, and I said to Tommy, you know, 'There hasn't been a baseball song in a long time. Maybe it's time for a baseball song. Maybe we should go and record this.' The fellow who wrote it wanted me to record it, and I said, 'No, we'll get somebody to sing it. I'm flattered, but I really don't want to do it.' Anyway, one thing led to another, and it was going to be a single. So we needed a B-side."
  • Cashman has recorded many different versions of this song, mostly tributes to specific teams, but also to certain popular players like Ichiro and Babe Ruth. Near the end of the baseball season, he records versions for each team that might make the playoffs. Search his name on iTunes and you'll see many of these recordings.

Comments: 3

  • John from Chicago I thought the original version had Joe D, Joe D, Joe D as the final refrain instead of Say Hey, Say Hey, Say Hey
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaFirst time I heard this was in 84 when Padres went to the world series.
  • Brent from Denair, CaEvery baseball fan can appreciate this song. You did not even need to grow up in the 50's, just understanding the history is enough. Awesome video as well.
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