Hall of Fame talent

John Fogerty’s ‘Centerfield’ to be Honored at Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

May 25, 2010
John Fogerty will perform his hit "Centerfield" at the 2010 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. (Julie Fogerty)

View a video of John Fogerty sharing his memories of Cooperstown

View a video of John Fogerty talks about the process behind writing 'Centerfield'

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – He’s a rock-and-roll legend who changed the face of popular music.

But the little boy who became John Fogerty dreamed first not about guitars and microphones, but rather bats and gloves. And when Fogerty was writing his comeback album in 1984, baseball was in his heart.

That passion for the game manifested itself in “Centerfield,” the baseball anthem from the album of the same name. Twenty-five years later, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will honor Fogerty and his rock-and-roll classic at the 2010 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on July 25 in Cooperstown.

“It’s pretty indescribable,” said Fogerty of the first time the Hall of Fame will honor a musician or a song as part of the Induction Ceremony. “I’ve adored Major League Baseball, and the players have been heroes to me for as long as I remember. I never really expected to be attending an Induction Ceremony, let alone being honored at one.

“It’s something that fills me with a lot of pride.”

Fogerty, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who was the driving force behind the late 1960s/early 1970s hit machine Creedence Clearwater Revival, will perform the song on the Induction stage in Cooperstown – just before the Class of 2010 of Andre Dawson, Doug Harvey and Whitey Herzog is formally inducted. The playing of the song “Centerfield” has signaled the start of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Annual Induction Ceremony for more than a decade.

“For decades, fans at our annual Induction Ceremony have sung along with ’Centerfield‘ as Hall of Famers take to the stage in a pastoral setting over the central New York landscape,” said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball

Hall of Fame and Museum. “Because of the lasting contributions to baseball and Americana made by John Fogerty, we are thrilled to pay homage to him and the song, as we celebrate the silver anniversary with his live performance in Cooperstown. The song captures the spirit and energy of those of us who have dreamed of being a baseball star and playing center field, like Robin Yount, Duke Snider or Willie Mays.”

A Bay Area native, Fogerty – who turns 65 on Friday – grew up cheering for Mays as a fan of the San Francisco Giants. But his baseball education started with his father and brothers before the Giants moved west in 1958.

“When I would hear about Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio, it all seemed very far away because my father and brothers would talk about it in hushed tones,” Fogerty said. “The idea of a Major League Baseball team was really a mythical thing, because there weren’t any teams west of the Mississippi. With DiMaggio and Mantle, I grew up thinking that the most hallowed place in the whole world was centerfield at Yankee Stadium.”

But as time passed, Fogerty’s focus turned from Giants heroes like Mays and Willie McCovey to music and a blossoming songwriting career. As the lead singer and primary writer for “Creedence,” Fogerty brought to live such classic rock anthems as “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Fortunate Son.”

After striking out on his own in the 1970s, Fogerty maintained a low profile until returning to the national scene with “Centerfield.” He played all the instruments on the nine-song disc, which netted a top ten single with “The Old Man Down the Road.” The album itself went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart and was certified double-platinum, selling more than two million copies.

The title track, however, was not one that Fogerty expected to be a hit.

“Rock and roll almost has a little rule book of certain things it rejects, and it just seemed like an unwritten rule that sports songs didn’t make it,” Fogerty said. “I realized that; I knew that when I was making the song. I was waiting for it to be roundly thrashed by the holders of the flame, but I was telling about something that I really love. It just seemed to be something that expressed a state of mind about me, about facing a challenge of some kind or another. I didn’t realize that anyone else would even get that.”

But very quickly, “Centerfield” was embraced by rock and roll fans as a feel-good smash – and by baseball fans and a faithful tale of youthful dreams.

“I had been away from music for a long time when I wrote the song,” Fogerty said. “This was my way of putting my identity on it.”

Since “Centerfield,” Fogerty has enjoyed vast success as a solo artist – winning a Grammy Award in 1997 for his album Blue Moon Swamp. He was elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 as a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Now, he’s ready to perform at another Hall of Fame – this one dedicated to the sport he loves.

“I visited Cooperstown a couple times in the mid-1980s, and I was there in 1989 for the Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary,” said Fogerty, who switched his allegiance to the Oakland A’s in the 1970s and has remained a fan ever since. “I still love the game. When I’m there in July, I’m going to turn back into a 10-year-old with a ball and a pen, hoping for an autograph.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum