Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Talkin' Baseball"

With the recent passing of Duke Snider, I've been pulling out some articles I wrote in my old newsletter. This one first appeared in 2005:

Baseball was in the blood of Dennis Minogue since he was a child.  He was born in New York City and grew up when the city hosted three major league teams.  His father was an NYPD cop whose partner was the father of Frank and Joe Torre.  He even managed to play in the Detroit Tigers' minor league system from 1959-60.

For all of his achievements in the game, Minogue knew he wasn't going to go very far in baseball and begin to work on his other passion -- music.  While shagging flies for the Detroit rookie league team, he was also singing with a group called the Chevrons.  They released a few records and even appeared on American Bandstand.  His connections with baseball and music would eventually come together nicely.

By 1966, Minogue's baseball career was a distant memory and his group had long since disbanded.  He was working in the music buisness as part of the promotion department of ABC records, but was still writing and performing music on the side.  To keep ABC in the dark about his "moonlighting" activities, Minogue assumed the pen name Terry Cashman.  He teamed up with Tommy West and they wrote a few tunes familiar to those who liked to listen to the radio during the late 60s and early 70s:  "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" by Spanky & Our Gang, "Cinnamon" by Derek and the duo's own "American City Suite."  Their best success came through their work with Jim Croce.  "Bad Bad Leroy Brown," "I've Got a Name," "Time in a Bottle" and "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" were big hits and are still in heavy rotation on oldies-format radio.  Sadly, that partnership ended when Croce was killed in a plane crash near Natchitoches, Louisiana in 1973.

All through his successful songwriting career, Cashman never wavered in his love affair with baseball.  He enjoyed discussing the sport, and was told by several friends that he should write a song about the sport.  Many songs had been written about the sport and its players through the years, but by the late 1970s it had been a long time since baseball had been mentioned in a popular song; perhaps the last time had been when Simon and Garfunkel asking "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" in 1968's "Mrs. Robinson." 

Cashman decided against writing a "baseball song" until a friend gave him a photo in 1979.  The picture was taken at an old-timer's game at Shea Stadium and showed the three starting centerfielders from Cashman's days growing up in New York.  Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider had been photographed from behind as they entered the field together, with the numbers clearly identifying them.  The picture inspired Cashman to pick up his guitar and spend about 20 minutes composing a song.

Even after quickly coming up with a tune, Cashman still held on to the song for more than a year.  He finally decided to record the tune in late 1980 and planned to get it into record stores by the time the 1981 baseball season opened.  After making the arrangements, booking the studio, paying the musicians and pressing the vinyl, the record was released.  "Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)" wasn't a big radio hit like "Bette Davis Eyes" or "Jesse's Girl" but it was an immediate hit with the Baby Boomers who grew up at the same time as Cashman and felt the nostalgia of that era.

During that summer something happened that even Cashman  couldn't have forseen: the players began a labor strike that would eventually last 54 days.  As fans lamented the absence of their beloved sport, Cashman's song was held up as a reminder of a different era, when players didn't quarrel so publicly with owners about money.  His song was a big hit with baseball fans.

In Duke Snider's autobiography The Duke of Flatbush he repeatedly calls the tune "catchy."  He's right, but some of the lyrics puzzle fans who missed out on the era.  For instance, there's the line "One Robby going out, one coming in."  It's clear the Robby going out was Jackie Robinson, but is the one coming in supposed to be Brooks Robinson or Frank Robinson?  It's also worth noting that the line "The great Alexander is pitching again in Washington" is lost on those who don't know that he meant Ronald Reagan (who played Grover C. Alexander in a movie called The Winning Team in 1952).

Since "Talkin' Baseball" became a surprise hit, Cashman has continued to record songs about baseball.  In fact, he has earned the nickname "the Balladeer of Baseball."   Among the songs he's released are "The Money Doesn't Matter To Me," "Ichiro," and "The Ballad of Herb Score."  He's written songs about Pete Rose, sung versions of "Talkin' Baseball" specifically for almost every major league team, and "A Tattered Flag in the Breeze ('Michael's Song')," wirtten after Mike Piazza's home run during the first game played in New York after Sept. 11th, 2001.

For the benefit of those who've never heard the song, here are the words.  Cashman's single is hard to find as a 45, but it's been included on some compilations and shouldn't be difficult to add to your music collection. Here's a link to listen to it (available for a short time before I have to take it way)

Lyrics - "Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)" - Terry Cashman, writer.

The whiz kids had won it,
Bobby Thomson had done it,
And Yogi read the comics all the while.
Rock 'n roll was being born,
Marijuana we would scorn,
So down on the corner,
The national past-time went on trial.


We're talkin' baseball!
Kluszewski, Campanella.
Talkin' baseball!
The Man and Bobby Feller.
The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newk,
They knew them all from Boston to Dubuque.
Especially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

Well, Casey was winning,
Hank Aaron was beginning,
One Robby going out, one coming in.
Kiner and Midget Gaedel,
The Thumper and Mel Parnell,
And Ike was the only one winning down in Washington.

(Repeat Refrain)

Now my old friend, The Bachelor,
Well, he swore he was the Oklahoma Kid.
And Cookie played hooky,
To go and see the Duke.
And me, I always loved Willie Mays,
Those were the days!

Well, now it's the 80's,
And Brett is the greatest,
And Bobby Bonds can play for everyone.
Rose is at the Vet,
And Rusty again is a Met,
And the great Alexander is pitchin' again in Washington.

I'm talkin' baseball!
Like Reggie, Quisenberry.
Talkin' baseball!
Carew and Gaylord Perry,
Seaver, Garvey, Schmidt and Vida Blue,
If Cooperstown is calling, it's no fluke.
They'll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

1 comment:

  1. My brother had the 45 for this song. I wonder what he did with it.