I first became a Cubs fan back in the late 1970s in the years before lights were installed at Wrigley Field. That meant that all of the Cubs’ home games were day games. This meant that during the long days when I was out working in the seed corn fields or trimming trees I could listen more often than not to the Cubs playing on my little AM transistor radio.
Please remember that this was before we had iPods and smartphones to bring in entertainment. This was back when a WalkMan was brand new cutting-edge technology, priced way beyond my meager student income. So I became a Cubs fan because they were the team that met my needs.
I was also a big fan of Chicago folk singer Steve Goodman. I even saw him in concert in Des Moines in 1981 or 82 in a show with John Prine. He was a little guy with an enormous heart who desperately loved (with a big dose of realism), his Chicago Cubs.
In 1983s, Goodman wrote a beautifully sad ode to the Cubbies called “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.”
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
Before long he goes into a monologue outlining the perfect Wrigley Field funeral:
He said, “Give me a double header funeral in Wrigley Field
On some sunny weekend day (no lights)
Have the organ play the “National Anthem”
and then a little ‘na, na, na, na, hey hey, hey, Goodbye’
Make six bullpen pitchers, carry my coffin
and six ground keepers clear my path
Have the umpires bark me out at every base
In all their holy wrath
Its a beautiful day for a funeral, Hey Ernie lets play two!
Somebody go get Jack Brickhouse to come back,
and conduct just one more interview
Have the Cubbies run right out into the middle of the field,
Have Keith Moreland drop a routine fly
Give everybody two bags of peanuts and a frosty malt
And I’ll be ready to die
Goodman was likely talking about his own dreams here, given that he was fighting leukemia at the time – a disease that would claim his life at a much to young age of 36.
But Goodman was not done with writing about his beloved cubs. In 1984, WGN-TV’s program director Dan Fabian was looking for a new song to open up Cubs radio broadcasts to replace Mitch Miller’s “It’s a Beautiful Day For A Ballgame,” and he turned to Goodman to write a positive song about the Cubs. The result was the now iconic “Go, Cubs, Go.” And after each winning home-field game, the fans sing along with a recording of Goodman.
In honor of the Cubs finally winning their first World Series in 108 years this week, the Chicago cast of the musical Hamilton skipped their usual curtain-call number and instead launched into a rousing version of “Go, Cubs, Go.”
It’s a wonderful, rousing song. But it doesn’t have the distinctive Goodman voice that “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” does.
In a beautiful final twist, Goodman did get the final wish of his song’s protagonist, with his brother David finding a way to scatter Steve’s ashes in the outfield at Wrigley Field:
He found a guy – local singer songwriter Harry Waller — who knew some guys who knew a guy who knew a guy in stadium security who’d let them slip into the Friendly Confines with a portion of Goodman’s remains just before Opening Day of 1988.
I’ve heard argue that winning the World Series now makes the Cubs just another ball club. No longer special with their long-suffering fans. But I have no doubt that the suffering of Cubs fans is not over. As a former pastor of mine used to say: “They wouldn’t be the Cubbies if they didn’t break our hearts.”
Steve’s “Song for David,” a tribute to his younger brother.