Did John Fogerty Write “Centerfield” After Watching the MLB All-Star Game From the Centerfield Bleachers?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL/MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: John Fogerty wrote “Centerfield” after watching the 1984 All Star Game from the centerfield bleachers at Candlestick Park.

One of the particularly interesting about baseball and songs about baseball is that while yes, there are a goodly amount of songs about baseball, there are not a whole lot of them that you would want to listen to when you’re not actually at a baseball game. John Fogerty spoke about this in a good interview with Tom Singer of MLB.com:

“Having grown up as a rock-and-roller, I was more into what kids my age were doing. Rock-and-roll has a certain set of formal dogmas, and the rule book says, ‘Anything that is perceived as lame, we don’t want it around here.’ Over the years it seemed like sports songs just didn’t qualify into the rock-and-roll lexicon. There was that unwritten distinction. It was never considered rock-and-roll.” Fogerty, naturally, challenged that notion with his classic 1985 tune, “Centerfield” (the title track to his comeback album of that year, an album that reached #1 on the Billboard charts) which both became an acclaimed rock ‘n’ roll song as well as a an instant baseball classic.

Nowadays, it is among the most famous songs ever written about baseball and it is even enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame (here is a picture of Fogerty at the event – note his baseball bat guitar)!!

There is a good deal of folklore about the song, which is about a baseball player who just wants a chance to play “Put me in, coach – I’m ready to play today; Look at me, I can be centerfield” – a sentiment that Fogerty explains also works as “a metaphor about getting yourself motivated, about facing the challenge of one thing or another at least at the beginning of an endeavor.” Probably the most common legend about the song is that Fogerty was inspired to write the song after watching the 1984 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game in the center field bleachers in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, just a hop, skip and a jump from Berkeley, California, which is where Fogerty was born.

It is a good story – but is it true?
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Did an NHL Team Once Draft a Fake Player as a Joke?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about hockey and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the hockey urban legends featured so far.

HOCKEY URBAN LEGEND: An NHL team drafted a fake player as a joke.

George “Punch” Imlach was not someone you would typically think of as a funny guy.

As the General Manager and Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Imlach was very successful, but he was also very hard nosed.

After being let go by the Leafs (after winning three Stanley Cups with them during the 1960s), Imlach became the General Manager and Head Coach of the expansion NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres.

Here he is with some of his Sabre players…

After suffering a heart attack in 1972, Imlach stepped down as coach but remained General Manager.

In the 1974 NHL Entry Draft, Imlach showed off his funny side (or at least his petty side). At the time, the NHL was worried about the rival league, the World Hockey Association, so they decided to do the Entry Draft over the telephone, so as to not allow the WHA to know what they were doing (I don’t precisely get the logic in that, but hey, whatever). As you might imagine, this could get pretty darn tedious, so in a joking bit of rebellion, Imlach decided to just MAKE UP a draft pick.

So with the 183rd pick of the NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres selected Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League’s Tokyo Katanas (Katanas and Sabres, of course, are both swords). Taro Tsujimoto, naturally enough, did not exist.

Imlach just picked a name out of the phone book.

The League was not amused when they found out a week or so later, and the pick was wiped from the books and is officially listed as an “invalid pick.”

Taro Tsujimoto, of course, has become a bit of a cult icon in Buffalo, sort of like an invisible mascot!

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He even got a fake rookie card!

TARO-copy

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

Did Pamela Anderson Get Her Big Break While Being Spotted by a TV Camera at a Canadian Football Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Pamela Anderson got her big break when caught by a TV camera at a Canadian Football game.

A number of professional football players made it big in the United States of America after first proving themselves in the Canadian Football League. The most famous example of a player not being drafted or not making a National Football League team before becoming a star in the CFL is clearly Warren Moon, the legendary quarterback who is the only man to be enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Moon is far from the only player to do so – some others include Pro Bowl Quarterback Jeff Garcia (undrafted by the NFL), defensive end Harald Hasselbach (the last player to win a CFL championship and an NFL championship) and wide receiver Mervyn Fernandez. This is not even counting those players who had a choice between the two leagues and went with the CFL before later coming to the States (guys like Rocket Ismail and Joe Theismann).

However, the CFL did not only give the United States football players. It also was (in a roundabout way) responsible for giving the USA Pamela Anderson!
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Did Dan Gilbert Make a Special Fathead to Send a Message to Lebron James?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert specially priced a Lebron James Fathead to make a statement against his former player.

Last year, Lebron James made history by returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after spurning them to join the Miami Heat in 2010. So all is forgiven between Lebron and the fans of the Cavaliers and the owner of the Cavs, Dan Gilbert. Back in 2010, however, things were a bit different.

Gilbert spoke out against Lebron and famously celebrated the Heat losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. Gilbert also found another avenue to express his displeasure with James – his Fathead!
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Had the Writers of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” Never Been to a Baseball Game When They Wrote the Song?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: The songwriters of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” had not attended a baseball game at the time they penned the tune.

We certainly give songwriters plenty of leeway when it comes to their songs being “true to life.” No one hears “Yellow Submarine” and then criticizes Paul McCartney for the Beatles not actually living in a yellow submarine. Similarly, if you were to learn that Rupert Holmes does not actually like Pina Coladas, I don’t think anyone would judge “Escape (the Pina Colada Song)” too harshly (do note that Holmes actually is not a fan of the tropical drink, noting in the past that he felt it tasted like the medicine Kaopectate). But surely the people who wrote “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” had actually attended a baseball game before they wrote the song, right?

And yet…
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Did Lou Whitaker Forget His Uniform at the 1985 All-Star Game?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A baseball player forgot to pack his uniform for his appearance in the All-Star Game!

With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game tonight, I figured I’d spotlight a pair of All-Star legends yesterday and today! Here‘s yesterday’s All-Star-related legend. On to today’s!

The 1985 All-Star Game was, at the time, a fairly routine All-Star Game from the 1970s and 80s, in that it was a National League victory (their THIRTEENTH in the last FOURTEEN All-Star Games at the time!).

However, while the American League team was not victorious, in retrospect, their team that day was historic.

Of the eight position players starting the All-Star Game for the American League that year, a stunning SEVEN of them were later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame!

Eddie Murray was at first base, Cal Ripken was at shortstop, George Brett was at third, Jim Rice, Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield were in the outfield and Carlton Fisk was behind the plate – Hall of Famers all. Heck, the starting pitcher for the American League even has a chance of eventual enshrinement, as the pitcher, Jack Morris, was so close to enshrinement in the initial 15-year voting period that he likely has a good chance at the Veteran’s Committee electing him eventually.

Comparatively, the National League team that same year had only two Hall of Famers on it (Tony Gwynn and Ozzie Smith).

And perhaps the most shocking thing is that the only American League position player on the team who ISN’T in the Hall of Fame probably has a decent case FOR being a Hall of Famer (or at least being considered)!

That player is Lou Whitaker, the longtime second baseman for the Detroit Tigers.

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Whitaker ended up with 244 homers, 1084 runs batted in, 1386 runs scored and 2369 hits. Those are some pretty amazing numbers for a second baseman! And a second baseman who won four Silver Sluggers, was named to five All-Star Games, won a World Series and even won three Gold Gloves (especially impressive when you consider he was a contemporary of Frank White, who won about a gazillion and twelve Gold Gloves during his playing career at second base)!

Even if you don’t think Whitaker ultimately should make it, the fact that he did not even last more than a single season on the Hall of Fame ballot is an utter joke. Not even 5% of the voters felt that he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame? Ridiculous.

Anyhow, I’m getting away from the point of this story.
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Was Hank Greenberg Once Not Chosen for the All-Star Game Despite Having 100 RBI at the Break and His Own Teammate Selecting the Team?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: A baseball player was not selected for the All-Star Game even though he had over 100 runs batted in at the All-Star Break and his own manager/teammate was picking the team!!

With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game tomorrow, I figured I’d spotlight a pair of All-Star legends today and tomorrow! Both involve the Tigers, oddly enough.

Hank Greenberg was one of the most dominant hitters in Major League history. Think Albert Pujols in his first nine seasons, or Frank Thomas in his first nine seasons. That’s how good Greenberg was (and, like Pujols and Thomas, he was a first baseman). Although he had a relatively short career, he still put up big-time numbers and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956.

But as great of a player as he was in his heyday, he still had a bit of a problem standing out.

You see,at the same time Greenberg was lighting up the ballparks as a 24 year old in 1935, two OTHER first basemen were doing similar things in the American League, and both of the other players were ALREADY famous. One of them is the aforementioned Jimmie Foxx, who won the American League MVP Award in 1932 and 1933 (he was three years older than Greenberg). The other was Lou Gehrig, the famed Iron Horse of the New York Yankees, who had four years on Foxx, and had won the MVP in 1927 and come in second in 1931 and 1932.

So when the All-Star Game was introduced in 1933 (initially intended as a one-time event), Gehrig was the starting first baseman and Foxx had to settle for a reserve spot (even though, as I noted, Foxx won the MVP that year). That first year, the managers for the game were Connie Mack and John McGraw (McGraw came out of retirement for the event). When the game became an annual tradition in 1934, so, too, did the tradition begin of the manager of the previous year’s pennant-winning club choosing the players for that season’s All-Star Game (it would not be until after World War II that the fans began to get a vote).

In 1935, that manager was Detroit Tiger manager/player Mickey Cochrane (as the Tigers had lost to the Cardinals in the World Series the year before)….

Well, at the All-Star Break, Greenberg had 103 runs batted in, an “at the All-Star Break” record that stands to this day (I think Juan Gonzalez came the closest to it in 1998, with, like, 101 or 102 ribbies).

Cochrane, though, made a surprising decision.
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Was Jack Doyle the First Pinch-Hitter in Major League History?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Jack Doyle was the first pinch-hitter in Major League history.

Jack Doyle was born in Ireland in 1869. He came over to America and attended Fordham University. He first played professional baseball in 1889 and was still involved working as a scout for the Chicago Cubs at the time of his death in 1958.

Doyle has often been credited as being the very first pinch-hitter in Major League history (heck, his page on Wikipedia still cites him as the first pinch-hitter). Part of this has to do with the fact that Doyle was always sure he was the first pinch-hitter in Major League history, and would tell anyone who cared to listen.

His story is that while playing for Cleveland in June of 1892, he was called up to hit in the ninth inning while playing Brookyn. He responded with a game-winning single.

So is that the truth?
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Did the Stanford Student Body Vote to Name Their Football Team the “Robber Barons”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about football and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the football urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Stanford University’s students voted for the school’s mascot (and team names) be “Robber Barons.”

In 1891, Stanford played California in the very first “Big Game.” Stanford won, and in the headlines about the victory, it read “Cardinal Triumphs O’er Blue and Gold.” Therefore, Stanford chose Cardinal (the school color) as its name.

Over time, though, a new name developed – the Stanford Indians. In 1930, this name was made official and an official mascot was not far behind.

Eventually, Native American students began to protest the usage of the nickname and mascot. At first, they specifically protested the live performances at Stanford games by Timm Williams, who went by the name Prince Lightfoot and the protesters felt that his act mostly consisted of mocking traditional Native American religious practices.

A couple of years later, in 1972, the students once again sought relief from Stanford – this time to get rid of the name and the mascot all together. The President of the University agreed, and in 1972, the Indian mascot was banned completely, and has been banned ever since.

This, though, left Stanford without a mascot. And that’s where things got goofy…
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Did an Umpire Use Jim Bouton to Teach George Scott a Lesson?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC/BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Jim Bouton took advantage of an umpire’s problems with Boston Red Sox rookie slugger George Scott for an easy strikeout.

This legend really brings up an interesting question – how much of a story has to be false before you consider that the story is false?

To wit, let’s say someone tells a story like “On June 3rd, 1977, I hit three home runs.” Okay, so what if it happened on June 4th? You wouldn’t consider the story false, right? Now let’s say it was on June 4th and it was just two home runs. You’re probably into false territory there, right?

Well, that’s what concerns me about Jim Bouton’s tale of umpire Ed Runge’s problems with Boston Red Sxo slugger George Scott.
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