Friday, April 1, 2011

Catfish

The 2011 baseball season has opened, and it seems only right to share a song about baseball. Everyone knows the old classic, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Not quite so many are familiar with the baseball song Dylan wrote about a famous Yankee ball player. This is no April Fools joke. Evidently Dylan is as normal in his interests as the rest of us. The song is called Catfish.

Jim "Catfish" Hunter is one of the great pitchers of all time, his career running from the mid-Sixties to 1979, beginning with the Athletics and finishing in New York.

He got the nickname "Catfish" from the owner of the Kansas City A's, Charles O. Finley. I remember Finley's Athletics. When they came to Cleveland in the early Sixties, they were the first major league team to wear outrageously bright colored uniforms, gold and green. Even the shoes seemed illuminated. Those were bad years for Indians fans and A's fans alike, and neither team could draw fans as well as a dog fleas. One of these was recruiting a somewhat hobbled potential star named Jim Hunter.

Hunter was being scouted by all kinds of teams in high school. But in his senior year he was wounded in a hunting accident, losing a toe and having several shotgun pellets buried in his foot. As a result, his mobility as a player was hampered. But the A's say his potential and signed him up. Finley nicknamed him "Catfish" for the same reason his team wore bright green and gold, it was a flashier name than plain old Jim.

His second and third years with the A's Hunter made the All Star Team. In 1968 Finley moved the team to Oakland where Hunter pitched the ninth perfect game in baseball history and the first in the American League since 1922. 27 batters, 27 outs.

For six more years he delivered victories to his Oakland employer. But money talks, and in 1975 he became the highest paid pitcher in baseball, signing with the Yankees. Money talks. He became only the fourth pitcher in history to win 20 games for five seasons in a row, a feat that put him in the good company of Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove and Bob Feller.

Here's the song Dylan wrote with Jacques Levy about this great Cy Young Award winning pitcher, recorded but not released till his Bootleg Series came out.

Catfish

Lazy stadium night
Catfish on the mound
“Strike three,” the umpire said
Batter have to go back and sit down

Catfish, million-dollar-man
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can

Used to work on Mr. Finley’s farm
But the old man wouldn’t pay
So he packed his glove and took his arm
An’ one day he just ran away

Catfish, million-dollar-man
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can

Come up where the Yankees are
Dress up in a pinstripe suit
Smoke a custom-made cigar
Wear an alligator boot

Catfish, million-dollar-man
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can

Carolina born and bred
Love to hunt the little quail
Got a hundred-acre spread
Got some huntin’ dogs for sale

Catfish, million-dollar-man
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can

Reggie Jackson at the plate
Seeinnothin’ but the curve
Swing too early or too late
Got to eat what Catfish serve

Catfish, million-dollar-man
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can

Even Billy Martin grins
When the Fish is in the game
Every season twenty wins
Gonna make the Hall of Fame

Catfish, million-dollar-man
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can

Copyright © 1975 by Ram's Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s Horn Music

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