After a 10-year absence from rock ’n’ roll, John Fogerty sparked a comeback that led him to Cooperstown. Once atop the world with Creedence Clearwater Revival, following legal, personal and artistic struggles, Fogerty vanished to his rural Oregon farm for a decade.


The 74-year-old Fogerty idolized the greensward at Yankee Stadium, prowled by icons such as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, calling it the “most hallowed turf in the universe.” Those legends were name-checked, along with Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and Jackie Robinson, in a song he wrote to symbolize career rebirth. “Centerfield” became title track to his 1985 album, its twangy riff and singalong chorus launching a meat-of-the-bat line drive: “Put me in coach/I’m ready to play/today.”


In a Tiny Desk concert April 24, Fogerty hit that familiar lick on a custom electric carved to resemble a Louisville Slugger, accompanied by daughter Kelsey and sons Shane and Tyler, with wife Julie behind the camera. As they wrapped, he spoke with simple melancholy: “You know this is baseball season, and I’m really missing it. We should be getting some crackerjacks, you know, and peanuts, and watching the game....”


’Centerfield’ in the HOF


In an ordinary spring, “Centerfield” would be ripping out over ballparks worldwide. In 2010, Fogerty played that bat-guitar -- crafted by Phillip Kubicki, and named Slugger -- at 2010 induction ceremonies for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, New York. The rocker loaned Slugger for display at the Hall of Fame, though he reclaimed it later, as seen in 2015, when Slugger showed up for “Centerfield” at Fogerty’s Tuscaloosa Amphitheater show.


“I think a lot of people, when they think of the Baseball Hall of Fame, they think of the plaques on the wall,” said Jon Shestakofsky, vice-president of communications and education at the HOF, those bronzed images dating back to the first class: Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter “Big Train” Johnson.


But there’s more to the museum synonymous with its New York state village, three floors of rotating and permanent exhibits and education: Art by Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol; highlight films and documentary interviews; blown-up walls of trading cards; artifacts from America’s game at the movies; and “A Whole New Ballgame,” focused solely on the last 50 years, to name a few.


“Baseball is so tied in to our country’s development and growth, it’s almost like an American history museum,” Shestakofsky said, spanning westward expansion, labor relations, civil rights, women in baseball, Latino influence on culture and more, built for all fans, from die-hard to fair-weather.


“It’s the background music to our spring, summer and fall,” Shestaokfsky said. “Baseball is a day-in, day-out continuous conversation.”


As coronavirus has postponed indefinitely the 2020 season, there is no tourist joy in Cooperstown. Thus far the Hall of Fame has avoided laying anyone off, staying nimble via Safe at Home programming, spotlighting digital resources. Some existed prior, such as an educational curriculum, teaching 15 lesson plans driving baseball’s dive into art, math, science and social studies, for grades 3-12.


Now added through www.baseballhall.org/discover/safe-at-home are virtual exhibits, field trips, curator spotlights and hours of highlights and documentary video. Each Wednesday the museum’s Instagram Live hosts “Safe at Home With Boog and Chipper,” featuring ESPN’s Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Atlanta Braves Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, sharing news and memories of the game.


All that’s not just to keep the hall running, but to reach those “feeling a kind of hole in their lives,” Shestakofsky said.


For love of the game


Dr. Jeff Laubenthal, a Tuscaloosa physician, is able to work at West Alabama Family Practice and Sports Medicine, following stringent screening and sanitation protocols, but he’s missing another kind of practice: On field.


His father played college baseball, as did Laubenthal, for four years at the University of Alabama, where he met wife Katherine, a Crimson Tide champion gymnast. Their daughters Lilly and Claire played softball at Holy Spirit, where he coaches. Laubenthal has also worked with the Tide’s baseball, softball and gymnastics teams.


So despite feeling the wider agonies in the world, Laubenthal’s suffering an ache that can’t ease until “Centerfield” rings out again.


“It sounds dramatic,” he said, “but I’ll be honest: I feel lost. It’s a really strange feeling. People don’t realize you use it to tell the time.”


He can’t update the magnetized board he built, bottlecaps for teams, tracing standings through the season. He’s missing long talks with his dad about games, and running out on the field with his Holy Spirit team, where the coach indulges by hitting flies to the kids, trying to throw them out while coaching base-running.


“I’m on cloud nine just doing something simple like that,” Laubenthal said. “I’m one of those nerds who like practice, the physical fact of being there.”


When on a diamond, he said, “I feel like myself.”


In baseball’s absence, he’s exercising differently, staying close to family, reading about his beloved Yankees, and trying not to imagine the worst, that the season could be canceled completely.


“I’ve watched Ken Burns’ ’Baseball’ thing one and a half times already,” he said, laughing.


And it’s all the game’s aspects, not just what’s on the field.


“You get to know somebody during a game,” Laubenthal said. “You have an opportunity to make some kind of connection, actually talk about things that matter.


“I guess I’m just not ready to give up on the season. I haven’t thought about what I’d do if it doesn’t return.”


Baseball may come back mid-way through summer, he believes, too late for high school and college, but with the pros maybe in Arizona and Florida, running a spring-training-type test. As with all else, it’s incumbent on trustworthy COVID-19 tests becoming more widely available.


“I understand what (researchers) are doing,” he said. “People are trying their best to do something fast, because people are dying.”


But swinging for the fences is a low-percentage bet. To stay with the metaphor: “They’re not trying to put the ball in play.”


Earlier this week, the Hall of Fame announced another postponement: Its Class of 2020 – Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker – will be inducted Sunday, July 25, 2021, alongside any new members elected for the class of 2021.


Major League Baseball officials, announcing indefinite postponement in mid-March, pledged to hold “as many baseball games in 2020 as we can.” As municipalities move, under economic and political pressures, toward re-opening, stadiums may stage a comeback, albeit with rigorous gate checks, sanitation stations, and distanced seating.


“I think we will see some baseball,” Laubenthal said. “And I think it’ll be sooner rather than later.”