Terry Cashman had no idea of the impact…when he revived a flagging recording career by writing that one baseball song that everyone loved – except for the music critics. Don’t it all figure?
You have to be a bit of a nostalgic if you’re a baseball person. There’s simply too much history.
Tell me anything different…and I’ll call you Pinnochio!
For instance, how can you be a Reds fan without knowledge of Johnny Temple, ‘Big Klu’, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and my boyhood favorite…Roy McMillan?
How can you be a Yankee fan without memories of Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra?
Tell me how can you watch any level of baseball without the memories of days and games gone by washing over you like waters of baptism? “And not the sprinklin’ kind,” a friend from the minor leagues once told me. “I’m talkin’ total immersion.”
So said Ray Fulcher, from Ludowici, Georgia, who used to invite members of the Braves Double A team in Savannah out on the Altamaha River to fish during the day…before night games at Grayson Stadium. Fulcher was the biggest life fanatic I’ve ever met!
With sixty years of baseball in my DNA, I think of my life experiences now when I lean over the fence at the Little League field in North Star and watch 12-year-olds play. And irony of ironies, when I drove there Saturday for Day 3 of Craig Stammen’s annual Little League fest, a station on Sirius XM played Terry Cashman, singing his ‘Talkin’ Baseball’ song, recorded during the 1981 major league baseball strike.
Cashman, if you aren’t aware, is now 81 years old. 81! And when he wrote Talkin’ Baseball in 1981 his career as a singer/song writer was so anonymous that he wrote the song simply to comfort himself – to bring back memories of days when times were better. The mood of the populace towards big league baseball was not good at that time, so he could not have had illusions of commercial success with it, given the ’81 baseball strike.
He had some history. He grew up playing baseball, was pretty good at it, and for a time in the late 50s was actually a farmhand in the Detroit Tigers minor league system. But that, like his music career, seemed to run aground. Music and baseball are tough ways to prosper.
His start in music was like that of many others. Get a band together, write some songs…and he had a couple of notables, the most being a tune entitled Sunday Will Never Be The Same, a hit for a group called Spanky And Our Gang, recorded in 1967. But Spanky cashed the big checks, while Cashman got a percentage through royalties.
Looking for a new direction, and inspired by a favorite picture of Willie Mays, Duke Snider, and Mickey Mantle, he sat down one day and penned the now famous refrain, ‘Talkin’ baseball…Willie, Mickey and The Duke.’ He began to add to it, recalling the major league stars from the 50s and 60s, baseball’s ‘golden age’, and was invited to perform his song at the 1982 induction ceremonies at Cooperstown. It struck a chord, if not a home run.
Fans loved it, demanded it, bought it…while radio disc jockeys dismissed as foolish and without substance. This was during the time following the ’81 baseball strike, and what radio miscalculated was the misery of so many fans ‘nostalgic’ about their diamond heroes.
The rest of Cashman’s story is now affixed to baseball history. He would go on to write adaptations of the song for many of the major league teams, focusing on the legendary icons from the Tigers, Reds, Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, and others. Nearly every major league team now has a version. Fans pleaded for them. And needless to say, it flipped the career and fortunes of Terry Cashman (click below and listen).
Nostalgia? I find no difference in watching 12-year-old Zach Ward play in North Star, than when I once watched Turner Ward play in the minor leagues.
I see the similarities, watching 13-year-old Damien Barga playing with the passion that Cashman wrote about – remembering Pete Rose play as a rookie for $5,000 when I was Damien’s age.
It’s all the same game. It never changes, and if you think that boys don’t notice their heroes, observe their borrowed mannerisms – the way they wear their socks, their hat – the way they work the dirt at home plate, wearing their rubber cleats. You’ll even see a bat flip.
Moms dig baseball…Amber Whittaker, from Versailles, her pride undeniable, watched Saturday as her son Chase drove in a pair of runs with a base hit.
Dads live vicariously…Anna’s John Lloyd had his moment as son Johnny made a nice catch against the team from Versailles.
Grandparents regal in it…Greg Bergman, proudly supporting a grandson from Russia as his team went down hard to the kids from St. Henry Saturday.
Cell phones…pictures and videos shared instantly with family and friends far and near. Willie Mays and Duke Snider never had it that good.
And Terry Cashman would never have had so good if it weren’t for Mays, Mantle, and Snider.
A lot of songs have been written about and performed in honor of America’s national pastime, but it was Cashman’s who finally broke through, officially honored by Cooperstown. And Cashman is a member of the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Casey Stengel, Bill Murray…and Press Pros’ own Hal McCoy.
Just talkin’ baseball.