A Dying Cubs Fan Last Request by Steve Goodman
I am a White Sox fan. Let there be no mistake. But I am willing to say, that this is the greatest baseball song ever. Yes it's about the Cubs, but you know what, the lyrics and story behind this song is too awesome. And what better way to kick off the Baseball season than to post about this song? The Cubs haven't won the the World Series since 1908 (yes, 98 years). They haven't gone to the World Series since 1945 (as the song points out). The Cubs are pretty much the worst franchise of all time. But for over 85 years, they were tied neck and neck with the Chicago White Sox. Up until 2005, the city of Chicago hadn't seen a World Series game since 1959 and a World Champion since 1917. I had three grandparents be born, live though the Depression, fight in World War Two, get married, raise families to the backdrop of the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s, they saw the birth of grandchildren in the 1980s, and the economic boom of the 1990s. And then they passed away. They never, ever saw a Chicago baseball team win a championship. But then in 2005, the White Sox some how, some way, broke 85 years of losing. But the Cubs continue to lose, year after year - just like paper beer cups - year after year after year after year.
And for Steve Goodman, who had battled leukemia most of his recording life, this was it. He was dying, and this was the Dying Cubs Fan Last Request. First preformed in early 1983, the Cubs had an uneventful 1983. But for the Cubs, 1984 was different. It was a magical season for them. They made the playoffs. The town (so I heard) was a buzz. This was the year the Cubs were going to the World Series. Goodman would die 11 days before the Cubs would play their first playoff game in almost 30 years. He never saw them play a playoff game, but that might be a good thing. He wouldn't have had to live though the Cubs being up 2 games to none in 1984, only to see them lose the next three; losing two of those games in the late innings. This is most memorably remembered by Leon Durham letting a routine grounder go through his legs. And then there is Bartman and Alex Gonzalez in 2003.
Anyway, today marks one of my favorite days of year, Opening Day (and yes, I'll be at 35th and Shields watching the Sox and Tribe today). XRT may be the only radio station that realizes music is a personal and emotional art, in other words they play songs that mean something, they make the connection between the art that music is and the cultural events that surround us. So on certain days they play songs that have meaning. And for Opening Day my junior year of high school, they played this song on our drive to school. There I was listening to Goodman's chorus:
Do they still play the blues in Chicago/When baseball season rolls around/When the snow melts away,/Do the Cubbies still play/In their ivy-covered burial ground/When I was a boy they were my pride and joy/But now they only bring fatigue/To the home of the brave/The land of the free/And the doormat of the National League
I had to smile. It's true, what better way to bring in the new season than by asking Steve's rhetorical questions? Almost 25 years after Goodman put these words down on paper, sadly for Cub fans (and to some degree of schadenfreude for myself) the chorus is still 100% true. They still play the blue in Chicago, the Cubs still play in their Ivy-covered burial ground, and they still are at the doormat of the National League (well last year at least).
I think that day at school, I jolted down lyrics that worked for my White Sox:
Do they still play the blues in Chicago/When baseball season rolls around/When the snow melts away/Do the White Sox still play/In their Baseball Palace of the World?/When I was a boy they were my pride and joy/But now they only bring frustration/To the home of the brave/the land of the free/And the middle of the American League
To my delight, pretty much none of what I wrote in 1998 is still true today.
You can also read this post at my daily music blog, "I Wanna Live With a Musician" Yay.