A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Baseball Fan: The 23 Words That Launched My Writing Career

August 04, 2005

I follow sports about as much as I follow, say, the shenanigans of Paris Hilton—which is to say, very little. But between the ages of nine and roughly thirteen, I was a typical baseball-obsessed American boy. I watched This Week in Baseball every weekend during the season, and I also loved a goofy kids’ show called The Baseball Bunch, which was hosted by Johnny Bench and the San Diego Chicken. The San Diego Chicken!

In 1981, at the height of my Fernando Valenzuela–stoked baseball fixation, a singer named Terry Cashman had a minor hit with a novelty song called “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey and the Duke),” a nostalgic ode to Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider, and 1950s baseball in general. I’m sure I would find this song deeply irritating if I heard it today, but back then I loved it. I wanted to own a copy of the 45, but I couldn’t find it in any local stores.

At the time I was an enthusiastic subscriber to Baseball Digest, a compact little magazine stuffed with profiles, predictions, and statistical analysis; much of the content was syndicated from various major and midsize newspapers. I wrote to the magazine to ask the editors if they could help me locate a copy of the Cashman disc. When I opened up the April 1982 issue, I discovered that my excellent letter was in it.

Baseball Digest letter

I’m not sure if the incorrect restrictive comma before the song title was my fault or theirs, but the same error exists in their response, too, so I’m going to blame it on them.

Here’s the cover of that issue:

Baseball Digest, April 1982

Much to my surprise, Baseball Digest still exists. I have a box filled with all my old issues from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s; if I still cared about baseball, I’m sure they’d be fun to look through, but, um, I don’t really care.

A 1992 episode of The Simpsons featured a parody of Cashman’s song called “Talkin’ Softball,” and it was sung by Cashman himself. You can listen to it here.