- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2011

As a minor league pitcher, Dennis Minogue hardly had Hall of Fame talent. Once he changed his tune _ and name _ and forever linked Willie, Mickey and the Duke, he earned his spot in Cooperstown.

The Hall will honor “Talkin’ Baseball” composer and singer Terry Cashman this summer as part of induction weekend, 30 years after his song became a ballpark favorite.

Funny thing, the popular refrain almost included another player.

“I kept trying to fit Joe DiMaggio into the song and it wasn’t working,” Cashman told The Associated Press this week.

Once he dropped Joe D, the most familiar verse flowed rather easily.

“It just came into my head that way,” Cashman said. “I sat down and wrote the whole thing in 20 minutes.”

Cashman said he was inspired to write the song by a picture of all four great center fielders walking across the field at Shea Stadium during an Old-Timers’ Day. He liked the photo so much, in fact, he bought the rights to use it.

The 69-year-old Cashman also was stirred by the memory of debates he had on the street corners of New York in the 1950s over which of the three future Hall of Famers was best. Being a Giants fan, Mays was his guy. Cashman said, however, that’s not why Willie’s name came first in the song _ it simply sounded better that way.

Mays is the only one still alive from that famed trio. Mantle died more than 15 years ago and Snider passed away last month, with “Talkin’ Baseball” often playing in memory for the Duke of Flatbush.

“And Willie will soon be 80,” Cashman said.

Cashman will perform his song once again during ceremonies on July 23 that hail a writer and broadcaster, as well as executive Roland Hemond for lifetime achievement. The next day, Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick will be inducted.

“Just the idea I’m in the baseball Hall of Fame is like heaven for me,” he said by phone from his home in the Bronx.

His original sheet music for the song, incidentally, is already part of the Cooperstown collection.

“‘Talkin’ Baseball’ symbolizes the spirit of New York baseball in the 1950s and ‘60s and the timeless love for the national pastime for every baseball fan whose enjoyed Terry’s ballad over the years,” Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said Friday. “We are pleased to honor Terry and his classic tribute to the game and its great players.”

Last year, the Hall recognized John Fogerty and “Centerfield” on its 25th anniversary, marking the first time a musician or a song had been singled out for tribute during the festivities. Cashman was among the visitors in town that day and heard the performance.

Along with writing dozens of songs about baseball, Cashman played _ under the name of Minogue. The right-handed pitcher signed at 18 with the Detroit Tigers in 1960 and spent one season in the low-level Appalachian and Alabama-Florida leagues, getting into a half-dozen games in relief.

The Chicago Cubs released him during spring training last year. Among the future big leaguers he recalled playing against: Jim Ray Hart, Pat Jarvis and Gary Waslewski.

“I was pretty realistic about my talent,” he said. “The money aspect of the game, I didn’t like that. I didn’t want to play to be paid. I also realized I had some talent in another field and decided to try that.”

Cashman co-wrote “Sunday Will Never Be the Same” sung by Spanky & Our Gang in 1967 and also produced Jim Croce. By then he’d come up with his more familiar name _ Terry came from his godson, Cashman was his aunt’s husband.

An aspiring song writer at the time, Cashman made the change while working for a record company.

“I didn’t want producers to think I was only pushing my songs,” he said.

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