Go Cubs Go

Walking the dog this morning, we encountered a younger couple pushing a kid in a stroller. The guy had a Cubs T-shirt on. “They’re gonna clinch today, right?” I said. “Oh–you never know. They could still lose it.” Technically, it was true, but I thought it was an overly cautious, self-consciously Cubsy thing to say. As it happened, the Cubs did win this afternoon. They won the National League Central Division title. We’ll see what the next step is. While we let the suspense simmer, we can consider some of the team’s musical history

Growing up in the Chicago area–the far south suburbs, in my case–baseball was a summer fixture on WGN. The station had a heavy schedule of both Cubs and White Sox game. Back then, WGN didn’t have an ownership connection with either team (that would come in 1981, when WGN’s owner, the Tribune Company, bought the Cubs from the Wrigley chewing gum dynasty). The fact you could count on seeing 150 or 160 games a year, including all those weekday afternoon games from lightless Wrigley Field, had something to do with creating a pretty avid fan population that followed both teams. At least I know I and most of my friends did. Eventually, the Sox went to WFLD, on Channel 32. Their games were fun to watch because Harry Caray, who had alienated his bosses in St. Louis and Oakland, took up residence on the Sox airwaves. Many commercial breaks featured Harry and Falstaff beer, and Harry delighted the fans at Comiskey Park by doing his play by play from the barren bleachers in center field, his booth perched about 500 feet from home plate. On hot days, the Sox set up an open-air shower out there for fans to cool off.

When the Sox left WGN (Channel 9 in Chicago), the station responded by adding Cubs games to its broadcast schedule–more than 150 a season. Maybe that was part of developing more of a Cubs-centric fan base. More important was that the long-comatose franchise woke up and started a run of about seven seasons or so in which the team went from a horrifying 10th place finish in 1966 to challenging for firstt in ’67; the following seasons ranged from very good but heart rending (1969) to decent and unembarrassing (1973, when the Cubs and several division foes wallowed around the .500 mark until the final week of the season). Needless to say, the notion that the Cubs could make what was never back then called “the post-season” was a theory we never saw proved.

I did mention music up there. WGN’s telecasts in the late ’60s featured Mitch Miller-like choral numbers that a music salesman in a plaid blazer might have pushed as “peppy.” One had a line that went “Hey, hey, holy mackerel, no doubt about it/The Cubs are on their way.” “Hey, hey” was WGN announcer Jack Brickhouse’s signature home-run call; it’s now enshrined on the Wrigley Field foul poles. In due course, that sappy number was supplanted by a mindlessly cheerful ditty that started out, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame, for a ballgame today.”

Eventually, I moved away from Chicago, well beyond the reach of WGN’s signal and then, when it became a national “superstation,” into austere Berkeley households with no cable TV. In 1984, the Cubs did what they had never done in my lifetime and played well enough long enough to get into the playoffs. No need to go into how that turned out. By that time, though, Steve Goodman had written the best Cubs song ever: “The Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.” That’s wrong, actually. It’s the best baseball fan song, ever–unique for its combination of humor, poetry, and rueful but affectionate disdain for the home team.

Goodman died a few days before the Cubs clinched their playoff spot in ’84. But by then, he had already composed and recorded the song that the team now uses as an anthem after a home win: “Go Cubs Go.” A year ago, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote a great piece about how the song came to be written. The best part is that some of the team’s execs disliked Goodman because of “The Dying Cub Fan.” I don’t know where any of those guys are now. But today, when the Cubs won, Goodman’s voice was ringing out over Wrigley Field, and it sounded like every fan in the place was singing “Go Cubs Go.”

(Lyrics after the jump.)

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The lyrics:

Baseball season’s underway

Well you better get ready for a brand new day

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

They’re singing …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

They got the power, they got the speed

To be the best in the National League

Well this is the year and the Cubs are real

So come on down to Wrigley Field.

We’re singing now …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

Baseball time is here again

You can catch it all on WGN

So stamp your feet and clap your hands

Chicago Cubs got the greatest fans.

You’re singing now …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

10 Replies to “Go Cubs Go”

  1. I loved watching those Cubs games on cable. Braves, too. Harry Carey was an institution but I think his son, Skip, was a better and funnier announcer. I loved them both. I used to love the fan reaction during those day games as the camera panned. Some mugged for it while others had their head down in their hands probably because they called in sick that day. The Cubs have a big following in New Orleans. Easy for Saints fans to pull for the Cubs. We share a bond with Cubs fans forged by heartbreak. I’ve been a Cardinals fan since the Gibson days, before cable, though. Congratulations, Cubs. Rooting for you now.

  2. Lovely piece, Dan. I don’t know much about these Cubs — don’t now much about today’s baseball. My connection with the game had become tenuous over the past 10 or 15 years. Mainly, I followed the Giants closely, the A’s a bit, and gleaned what was going on around the leagues through those teams. But since leaving the Bay Area, I find myself rarely watching the game. Somehow now, with the Seattle Mariners — the “M’s,” as the headline writers often resort to — the sort-of home team, it seems there’s not enough time to watch games and also work, raise a kid, run, bike and swim, read, watch a TV show or two each week, keep the garden from going to hell … well, you get the idea.
    I do note that if the Cubs make it to and win the Series, the Giants will then assume leadership in that category of futility among National League franchises, not having taken the crown since 1954. Of course, those were the New York Giants; the San Francisco Giants are 0 for 51.

  3. I remember the Cubs and Sox on TV. It’s amazing to think they broadcasted all those games on “free” TV. Today it is rare to see a game on for free.
    With (ex-Yankee) Lou Pinella managing the team, the Cubs have a good chance to win the pennant and…maybe…go all the way. I remember Pinella from his NY days. He was real scrappy and this year he seems to be a man in a hurry to do something great. I suppose he’s my favorite Cub.
    Zambrano’s no-hitter last week must be a real boost too.

  4. It’s always nice to see Steve Goodman references. I well remember that year when Jimmy Buffett sang the Anthem right after Steve died.
    Last winter when I was very will with pneumonia for a couple weeks, I read the giant, obsessive bio of Goodman by Clay Eals. Goodman was an interesting character, a very good song writer, and an excellent singer and guitarist, but even I, who admit to some obsessions, found the book a bit on the long side.

  5. (Because I care, because YOU care: CARAY!) Cujos for not mentioning Bartman, goats or the it’s-all-about-me world of Ron Santo. Hope Fukodome’s Cubness leads to live telly in Japan, however late or early it may be. Here, it’s a good day for Van’s Autumn Song.

  6. One Skip Caray line: (On the dubious outfielding of Ryan Klesko) “Ryan’s running the right routes. We’re just not getting the ball to him.”

  7. Because I STILL care, in-game spellcheck: FukUdome. Fair is fair. Elsewise….down 4-2 after James Loney grandslam. Bottom o’ 6.

  8. Chicago game time was Tokyo a.m. rush, and in the hotel, anyway, no live Kab-zu (or any other kind, either). All surplus air time this morning (game started at … 8:30 a.m. Thursday here) devoted to Osaka tragedy in which customer of adult theater cum hostel (I, at least, couldn’t make this stuff up) set said pleasure dome afire. Result: 15 fellow patrons/overnighters rendered permanently unable to enjoy peep shows or anything else in this world.
    Fukudome did make Japanese national news this evening with one bullpen stagger-and-catch and one embarrassing wave at a strike three. Postgame comments in native language aired, too.

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