The season of flowers, rain showers, and baseball. And, with Opening Day upon us, it is also the season of mangling the lyrics of John Fogerty’s ode to baseball, ‘Centerfield’.
Everywhere you turn during baseball season, you’ll hear this serenade of swat, and everywhere people will be singing it incorrectly. As you’ll hear it:
Put me in, coach
I’m ready to play today
And if you google the lyrics, that’s what you’ll see. It kinda makes sense, and everyone else is saying it that way, so no one thinks twice. Play ball.
The only problem is that those aren’t the lyrics.
A small understanding of the game, sports in general, and songwriting reveals that it’s actually:
Put me in cold
I’m ready to play today
Let’s break it down.
1. ‘Put me in, coach’ doesn’t make sense in baseball.
Clearly, this song is about baseball, and anyone who knows anything about Major League Baseball knows that the teams have managers, not coaches. True, they have pitching coaches, batting coaches, and baserunning coaches, but the decision-maker is the manager.
And, if you think that Fogerty is saying ‘Put me in, coach’, then you’re thinking he’s talking to the head coach as a way to get into the game and make his mark. But, if he’s doing that, then he’s not talking to the batting coach or baserunning coach, he’s talking to the manager. It wouldn’t make any sense for him to call him ‘coach’. ‘Skipper’ or ‘skip’, maybe, but not ‘coach’.
2. ‘Put me in cold’ is thematically and lyrically much better.
The song is about a player jumping into the game at a moment’s notice and being ready to go because he loves the game. ‘Put me in, coach’ would work for that situation, but it doesn’t resonate and it falls flat.
‘Put me in cold’, on the other hand, is thematically rich. It’s what you say when you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice—without warm-up. That’s why he says ‘I’m ready to play today’ and ‘Look at me, I can be centerfield’.
It’s about proving yourself without practice or proper preparation. ‘Put me in cold’ is the much better lyric in that situation.
3. It just sounds like ‘cold’.
In the many times the word is said in the song, there is no ‘ch’ sound present. True, there really isn’t an ‘ld’ sound either, but the ‘ld’ is easier to let drop in rock production. The ‘ch’ would not fall off so easily.
Listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ when he says ‘Got to sit down, take a rest on the porch’ or ‘Sweet Hitch-Hiker’ for instances when Fogerty says the ‘ch’ without letting it drop.
By comparison, check CCR’s ‘Up Around the Bend’ or ‘Travelin’ Band’ where Fogerty is obviously singing a ‘d’ and you can’t hear it. He lets those consonants fall away because he’s an awesome Americana rock legend and can do stuff like that.
4. It just looks like ‘cold’.
To drive the point home, watch this clip from a live performance after he first released the song. Check around 2:06, where he’s first singing the lyric. If it were ‘coach’, his lips would protrude to enunciate it. Instead, he rolls his bottom lip up as if he were saying ‘ow’ or ‘oh’ or as if he were some Americana rock legend saying ‘cold’.
It’s springtime, folks. Let’s get out there and enjoy the weather and play some baseball. And let’s take this moment to clean out some of our bad misunderstood lyrics. Because, in the immortal words from CCR’s ‘Bad Moon Risin’:
Don’t go around tonight
It’s bound to take your knife
There’s a bathroom on the right