Club's victory anthem resurfaces memories of late songwriter Goodman
By Mike Bauman
Here's a not-completely-anticipated bonus to the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series:
We get to hear a Steve Goodman song on a regular basis.
OK, "Go Cubs Go" was not Goodman's best work. But it is a catchy, upbeat little ditty, and it has become the Cubs' victory anthem at Wrigley Field.
If you watched "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, you saw the song being sung by the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler and David Ross, along with super fan/comic Bill Murray and a group of backup singers. Some 32 years after the song was written, it had climbed to the top of the American cultural charts.
Goodman was a singer-songwriter, a little guy with a big talent, a beautiful, rich baritone voice, an ability to craft a really good song and a terrific sense of humor. For those of us who had a chance to know him, he was more than just a dynamic musical talent.
He was a fanatical Cubs fan, no doubt about that. But he was a remarkable human being. He battled leukemia for most of his adult life. And his adult life did not last anywhere near as long as it deserved to last. Goodman died in September 1984, at age 36, just days before the Cubs clinched the National League East title.
So, every time I hear Goodman singing "Go Cubs Go" again, there is also sadness to it. But it also serves as a reminder of the music he made. And that is always a good thing.
He had a lot of wonderful songs, funny songs, sad songs, historical songs and contemporary songs. His best-known song was undoubtedly "City of New Orleans," the song about the Illinois Central train with the disappearing railroad blues, which was made famous by Arlo Guthrie, heir to America's folk tradition.
Guthrie, in his live appearances for years, would tell the story of Goodman giving him the song and asking him to take the song to Johnny Cash.
"I didn't see Johnny Cash," Guthrie said dryly, "mostly because I was trying not to."
It was a wonderful song and a number of prominent performers covered it. A Willie Nelson version of the song won a posthumous Country Grammy Award for Goodman.
There was another Cub-centered song in the Goodman catalog that was more of a multifaceted effort than "Go Cubs Go." It was "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request."
Among the dying Cub fan's wishes were these:
"Make six bullpen pitchers carry my coffin,
and six groundskeepers clear my path
Have the umpires bark me out at every base
In all their holy wrath.
It's a beautiful day for a funeral, Hey Ernie, let's 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."
A lot of us had that frosty malt in our younger days. But here is the refrain from the "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?
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."
That was written in 1983, a much less optimistic time for Cubs fans, which also means it was a much more typical time for Cubs fans than the present.