This summer, John Fogerty will become the only musician ever enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame when his classic ode to the sport, “Centerfield,” gets inducted into Cooperstown. For over a decade, “Centerfield” has been a staple anthem at baseball games and every Hall of Fame induction. “It’s one of those things that you’re not sure that you heard it right because, as they say, it came out of left field,” Fogerty tells Rolling Stone about hearing the news. “It was just so unusual because it’s not an occurrence that they do with the Baseball Hall of Fame. I had to kind of think about it a while to make sure it was actually real.” Fogerty is set to perform the song at the induction ceremony, held in Cooperstown, New York on July 25th. To celebrate the event, Fogerty is also releasing a remastered version of the album Centerfield, featuring a pair of rare B-sides from the era (“My Toot Toot,” “I Confess”), on June 29th.
Fogerty has been a lifelong baseball fan. Growing up in the Midwest, he aligned himself with the hallowed New York Yankees of the early ’50s but when his family moved to California, he shifted his allegiances to the San Francisco Giants. Even to this day, Fogerty refers to nights when he performs as “game days” and he has served as an assistant coach for his son’s Little League teams. One of his all-time favorite players? Giants centerfielder Willie Mays. “I took my youngest brother [to see Mays] and we sat out in centerfield, in the bleachers, and we kept up our chatter throughout the whole games,” he recalls. “We’d shout, ‘Hey Willie! We’re here!’ We’re dancing and jumping up and down. Finally, after the seventh or eighth inning, he turns around and, I don’t know, he tips his hat or waves his hand. We were in heaven.”
When Fogerty wrote “Centerfield” in the ‘80s, he says he was inspired by the self-created lore of the position. “When I was eight or nine, I decided that it was the most hallowed turf in the universe was centerfield in Yankee Stadium,” he says. “Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle — I mean, those two had such remarkable careers. It seemed like only the greatest had to be in centerfield.” When he finally released the song in ’85, he was nervous that he’d be criticized for attempting to combine his two passions (baseball and rock & roll) into one track. “I really kind of braced myself for flack as it was getting ready to be released,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Wow. It has never worked out in history.’ But I thought to myself that I really liked this song!”
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Baseball’s recent steroid scandal has been hard on old-school baseball enthusiasts like Fogerty. As a fan of the Oakland Athletics for the past couple decades, he has seen a pair of his favorite players — Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco — become the face of the sullied steroid era. “They were my icons, and I had no idea at the time,” Fogerty says. “And then watching all this unfold, it’s certainly in a clumsy way both of them have dealt with it. Very clumsy. It’s just a lot better to own it. Come clean. Just say, ‘I’m sorry I did it.'”
Before getting inducted into Cooperstown, Fogerty will perform to a much larger audience at Bonnaroo. But it’s playing in front of a crowd full of Hall of Famers that really has him nervous. “I’ve met a few of my boyhood heroes already,” he says, “and even though I am 65-years-old, I will turn into a 10-year-old. I’ve got a baseball and a pen and I’ll say something like, ‘Well, Mr. Ripken, can you sign my baseball?’ And he’ll be like, ‘Oh, is it for your son?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, it’s for me.'”