Put him in, coach, he’s ready to play — at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty and his 1985 hit, “Centerfield,” an aural fixture at ballparks of all levels around the country, will be honored at this year’s National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies to commemorate its 25th anniversary on July 25 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Fogerty will play “Centerfield” at the event, the first time a musician or song has been honored in such a way, and he’s donating his custom-made, baseball bat-shaped guitar for display in the museum.
“It feels great,” Fogerty tells Billboard.com. “I’m a guy who’s grown up loving baseball and loving the whole tradition, and of course I’ve been to Cooperstown a couple times. It’s just fascinating for me to be a participant now. I think it was my wife (and manager, Julie) who first told me this is going to happen. You kind of go, ‘They’re gonna what? Wow!’ It wasn’t like I was expecting it at all. It just wasn’t within the realm of possibility, as far as I knew. But here we are. It’s great.”
The Baseball Hall of Fame honor is part of a silver anniversary celebration for “Centerfield” that will also include the June 29 release of “Centerfield — 25th Anniversary Edition,” which includes the album’s nine original songs plus the B-side covers of Rockin’ Sydney’s “My Toot Toot” and the ’50s doo wop song “I Confess.”
Released in early 1985, “Centerfield” was produced, performed and recorded entirely by Fogerty and was his first album in a decade. It came after a period of disillusionment following legal wrangling with Fantasy Records, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s label, and having another album, “Hoodoo,” rejected by Atlantic Records in 1976. “Centerfield” — which was the album’s title even before Fogerty wrote the song — was not without turmoil, either; Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz sued Fogerty, unsuccessfully, for allegedly plagiarizing his own “Run Through the Jungle” with the “Centerfield” single “The Old Man Down the Road.”
But Zaentz was able to force Fogerty to change the name of the final track — “Zanz Kant Danz” to “Vanz Kant Danz” — by threatening to sue for defamation.
Nevertheless, Fogerty had the last laugh with a double-platinum comeback that reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
“I was surprised,” Fogerty says of the album’s success. “I remember I happened to be in a supermarket, and as I rounded the corner two young guys were talking…and one of them was saying, ‘Yeah, I like the Beat Farmers,’ and the other guy, who was facing away from me, says, ‘Y’know, that John Fogerty album, ‘Centerfield,’ is really great.’ He doesn’t see me but the guy he’s talking to was looking straight at me, and we all…It was actual real. It was unsolicited. I’d been away for a long time, so that was like a heavenly moment, you know?”
Fogerty has a light touring schedule this summer, including a Bonnaroo Music Festival stop on June 13 and a an 18-date swing through Europe. He says he’s thought about playing “Centerfield” in its entirety, but likely only for “a special occasion.” Meanwhile, he’s getting to work on a follow-up to 2009’s all-star roots album “The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again.”
“I’m back to the idea of creating new…rock ‘n’ roll songs that are kind of more my main identity,” Fogerty says. “It’s refreshing when you go away and do something else; it’s like a little vacation. Then you come back to what you’re known for and what really turns your motor, and for me it’s always fun to figure out fresh ways to play rock ‘n’ roll.”