In a just over a week I’ll be flying out to New York and heading to Cooperstown for the annual induction ceremony. I’m probably going to do a lot of posts around this trip, including some ancillary to it like this one. This post is of the Tuesday Tunes variety. Now I do realize that it’s a day late. But hopefully it’s not a dollar short.
Artist/Title/Album: “Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Talkin’ Baseball)” by Terry Cashman (1981)
The song was released as a single, with “It’s Easy to Sing a Love Song” as the B-side. In 1982, Cashman released 2 separate Talkin’ Baseball collections – one for the AL and one for the NL.
Description: This is a classic song focused on what many consider the golden age of baseball. In the 1950’s, baseball was still our National Pastime, New York was its capital, and the 3 Big Apple teams had Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider patrolling center field. The song is written and performed by Terry Cashman, a pop-folk singer who made his name producing and singing in the late 60’s and 70’s. Performing, he had his greatest success with the group Cashman, Pistilli & West. They founded Lifesong Records, which is what Talkin’ Baseball was released under.
Cashman was a (brief) former minor league baseball player – he played in the Tigers organization under his given name Dennis Minogue. He always had a love of baseball, and in 1981 during the strike, Cashman saw a photo of Mantle, Mays, Snider and Joe DiMaggio at a 1977 Old Timers’ Game at Shea Stadium.
He loved the picture, and after a few conversations he decided to write a song about it. He couldn’t get the words to fit, until he realized that DiMaggio wasn’t really in the same era of the other 3. That’s when the catchy chorus “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” was born. Cashman got the rights to use the photo, airbrushed DiMaggio out of it, and used it as the cover for the record. And it’s become one of the most famous baseball ballads ever since.
Recognition: The song didn’t really get any recognition on Billboard when released, though it was well-known in the baseball world. I’ve read a few places it made the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart – but I can’t verify that in their archives. Cashman and the song were honored in 2011 at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction; he performed the tune on the Saturday portion of the festivities.
How it’s related to baseball: It’s a song about the glory days of 1950’s New York baseball – when the city had 3 teams and the best 3 center fielders in the game. Arguments of who was better between Mays, Mantle and Snider just depended on what borough you were from. But the song is basically a mini-baseball encyclopedia of references to great players up to that time. Players referenced in the song are as early as Ted Williams and Bob Feller who started a little earlier than the New York trio, up to Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt, who had just helped the Phillies to their first World Series win.
Other: Shockingly, there has been only one baseball card made with all 3 players on it. This is from a set by Dick Perez showcasing Hall of Famers in a Turkey Red design – from back in the 80’s before retro sets were all the rage.
For a little more reading on the song – take a look at this link.
We’re talkin’ baseball! Kluszewski, Campanella,
The Man and Bobby Feller,
The Scooter, the Barber and the Newk,
They knew ’em all from Boston to Dubuque.
Especially Willie… Mickey and the Duke.
The link to the YouTube for this song is here: