Post-Season Survival Guide for Cubs Fans

By Randy Richardson

So you're a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan and you're wondering how to properly gear up for the Cubs' post-season quest to win their first World Series in a century. Well, then, my Post-Season Survival Guide for Cubs Fans is just what the doctor ordered.

Here are some simple precautionary steps that you can take to help you get through the post-season.

1. Stock up on aspirin. If history is any guide, the Cubs are sure to give you a few aches, mostly from pounding your fists on the TV and your head against the wall.

2. Stock up on duct tape. If you've got young children in the house, you'll need it to muzzle your mouth and protect the inadvertent profanity from slipping out and damaging innocent ears. Even if you don't have young children, you'll need it to tape your wrists together and prevent yourself from throwing objects that might damage your new Plasma or LCD.

3. Stock up on Kleenex. You'll need it for all the tears you're sure to spill.

4. Stock up on beer. You'll need it to drown your sorrows.

5. Put your therapist's number on speed dial.

6. Steer clear of all goats, black cats and bespectacled, headphone-wearing fans.

7. Bet all your money ON THE OTHER TEAM.

8. And finally, don't ever – EVER – start to believe that this is THE YEAR. Because, rest assured, the moment you do, next year will staring you in the face.

Randy Richardson, author of Wrigleyville murder-mystery Lost In The Ivy, is a Regular Loser. He is a frequent contributor to Chicago Parent magazine and his work has recently been anthologized in Chicken Soup for the Father and Son Soul and Humor for the Boomer's Heart. He serves as president of the Chicago Writers Association.

Posted on Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 09:50PM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue | Comments28 Comments | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Go, Cubs, Go

By Randy Richardson

Steve Goodman embodied the spirit of Cubs fans like no other musician has or likely ever will.

A die-hard to the core, the folk singer-songwriter from Chicago’s North Side evocatively captured all the pain and suffering of Cubdom with irony and humor in songs like the immortal “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” and “When the Cubs Go Marching In.”

His warm voice, engaging stage presence and masterful guitar playing made him an icon of the Chicago folk music scene of the 1970s. He was a fixture at the legendary live music bar Earl of Old Town and closely involved with Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, where he met his good friend, John Prine.

He wrote intelligent, insightful and often wickedly funny lyrics that spoke to the heart of Chicago, including "Lincoln Park Pirates," about the notorious Lincoln Towing Company, and "Daley's Gone," about Mayor Richard J. Daley.

He achieved his greatest success with a song he wrote about a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans. Arlo Guthrie's recording of Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” in 1972 became a runaway hit and the song would become an American standard, covered by many other musicians including Johnny Cash, Judy Collins and Willie Nelson, whose recording earned Goodman a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1985. Goodman won his second Grammy, for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1988 for his album, Unfinished Business.

All the time he was writing and performing these enduring songs he was keeping a secret from all but his family and closest friends. In 1969, the same year of the infamous collapse of his beloved Cubs, Goodman was diagnosed with leukemia.

Goodman finally lost his battle with cancer on September 20, 1984, at the age of 36. Just four days after his death, the Cubs clinched the Eastern Division title in the National League for the first time ever, earning them their first post-season appearance since 1945, three years before Goodman's birth. Eight days later, on October 2, the Cubs played their first post-season game since the 1945 World Series. Goodman had been asked to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before it; Jimmy Buffett filled in, and dedicated the song to Goodman. The classic punch line to Goodman's "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" has the dying man assuring his friends that one day they'd meet again "at the Heavenly Hall of Fame," but until then, they should not worry because he would be using "season tickets to watch the Angels." Then he added, "You, the living, you're stuck here with the Cubs, so it's me that feels sorry for you."

Goodman's voice can still be heard at Wrigley Field, after every Cubs win. That's him singing through the loudspeakers, "Go, Cubs, Go."

Posted on Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 07:48AM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue | Comments27 Comments | References2 References | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

The View from 1969

By Jeffrey Felshman

I was really depressed.  I’m 51, about to lose my health insurance (COBRA is almost done), and because I have a pre-existing condition, the best insurance available costs $600 a month and carries a $5,000 deductible.  The possibility of ever being in the middle class becomes ever more remote.  I’m potty training my youngest son, who continually discovers places to shit I would never have thought possible.  Until I sit down in one.  But this pales during the game between the Mets and Cubs.  The Mets have a man on third with no outs in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game, and they can’t get him in?  Kill me now!

The Heckler's satirical 1969 Retro CoverMaybe it seems a bit funny for a Mets fan to contribute to a Cubs blahg.  We’re supposed to be enemies, youse and us.  Well, I’ve been here since the 1984 season.  I remember the rain in Lakeview the day the Padres completed their unbelievable and ridiculous comeback.  Felt like it was raining all over the world, and whatnot.

I never hated the Cubs like some Cubs fans I know hate the Mets, but then, the Mets did win in 1969.  Probably the best year of my life.  Maybe the worst year of yours.  There is nothing like baseball for letting you down.  But Cubs fans have made a fetish of 1969.  On the broadcast I was watching, the announcers mentioned it practically every inning.  The camera showed the World Championship pennant over and over.  In the nightly text poll, 44% of respondents to the question ‘what won’t you miss about Shea Stadium’ answered ‘1969.’  The other day, a friend of my oldest son told me how much he hates the Mets for 1969.  He wasn’t even born yet, but he nurses a sense of outrage over a mythical injustice committed by a strawman.

What are we, Republicans?

Blaming the Mets for the Cubs collapse in 1969 is like blaming Bartman for the Cubs collapse against the Marlins in 2003.  Or blaming the Phillies for the Mets collapse last year.  Or blaming the Phillies for the Mets collapse this year, for that matter.  It’s time to drop it, like Alou would have done with Castillo’s foul ball.

Okay, so both of those guys are on the Mets now.  I don’t like it either.

There’s far too much resentment and self pity involved in being a Cubs fan.  The same can be said of being a Mets fan.  Disappointment and heartbreak come with the territory. If we’re going to blame anyone for our pain, let’s blame the players responsible, those on our own teams.  And thank them, for in causing our misery, they help us to forget our real problems.

Now that’s out of the way: good luck in the playoffs!  I hope the Cubs beat the damn Phillies, and promise to donate my vintage Wayne Garrett autograph to Ron Santo if they do.  I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.

Jeffrey Felshman joined the crowd on the field at Shea after the Mets clinched the Eastern Division in 1969, but he didn’t pull up any turf.  What did he need with turf?  He already had a piece of paper signed by Wayne Garrett, not to mention Rod Gaspar.  Some of his writing is at www.jeffreyfelshman.com

Posted on Friday, September 26, 2008 at 03:33PM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue | Comments28 Comments | References4 References | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

A View to a Thrill: Being There for Zambrano's No-Hitter

By Jeff Burd

On the night of September 14, 2008, I was in a baseball stadium in Milwaukee where the home team was Houston. That alone was unusual enough, but the night held another most unexpected surprise.

It was a game I never would have been at had it been played in Houston as originally scheduled. But hurricanes don’t stop or alter their course for baseball games and, in this case, a big one named Ike was punishing the gulf coast of Texas. The Astros game with my team, the Cubs, would have to be moved.

Illustration by Tim Souers (http://www.cubby-blue.com/)Opportunity presented itself when Miller Park in Milwaukee, just 50 miles from my home in Gurnee, was improbably announced as the place where the game would be played. Destiny seemed to be calling me to the game.

Still, I almost didn’t go. When old reliable friend Bo said no, it seemed to be a sign that I should stay home to nurse my festering cold and get a good night’s sleep so I’d be ready for my students the next morning.

But I couldn’t not go. The temptation of unexpected baseball, so close to my home, late in the season, featuring the Cubs, was a siren song against which I was powerless.

I dialed my friend Edwin. In short time, I had convinced him to join me. All it took was some cajoling and the lure that seeing a relocation game was “a once-in-a-lifetime chance." That wasn't entirely true; Miller Park had hosted a Cleveland/Anaheim series last year when it had to be relocated because of snow at The Jake. Nonetheless, he was on board and I was glad to have his company.

We sped to Milwaukee at the last minute, scored the cheapest tickets we could, and dashed into the stadium right after Alfonso Soriano's lead off home run. I snatched a free scorecard, and as we ascended the escalator, I scratched out "Reds" and "Brewers" and penciled in "Cubs" and "Astros." We claimed our seats in the 400s, looking down the first base line, as Darin Erstad was leading off the bottom of the first.

I scanned the stadium once we were able to catch our breaths between innings. Cubbie Blue had poured into the lower two levels to fill the place to half capacity. It was a quiet crowd; enough so that I could hear Randy Wolf call out "I got it!" when Reed Johnson popped up to him in the second inning.

We didn’t see any action until the third, when the Cubs batted around the order and plated four runs courtesy of a run-scoring Derrek Lee double and a couple of other hits, all coming with two outs. Michael Bourne drew a walk with one out during the Astros’ turn at bat, but Carlos Zambrano nullified that when he got Miguel Tejada to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth zipped by uneventfully, except for the four strikeouts Zambrano notched and the zeroes he was continuing to register in the “runs” and “hits” sections on my scorecard. I was drawing Edwin’s attention to them between innings, and twice asked, "How weird would it be if Zambrano threw a no-hitter in Milwaukee, and the Brewers weren't even here for it?" Edwin let the question hang uncomfortably between us in the middle of the seventh. He knew as well as I who was due to bat in the third spot for the Astros.

In my mind, I could see the soon-to-be highlights of the game on ESPN. It would be the umpteenth time I heard a SportsCenter host declare, “So-and-so took a no-hitter late into the game before it was finally broken up….” Carlos Zambrano would become the hapless “So-and-so” this time, and I had little doubt that Lance Berkman would break it up once he flexed some of the MVP-caliber muscle he has been showcasing all year.

There was a palpable excitement around the stadium by the time he dug in. He worked a 2-2 count before fouling off a slider and two fastballs. He got caught looking on the eighth pitch. The partisan crowd roared. I glanced at Edwin and muttered, "Zambrano has a chance." I texted my friend Scott with the line score and favorable pitch count: 84.

I have wondered what the rest of Cubs Nation was thinking the moment Berkman struck out and there seemed to be at least a good chance that we were going to see something unforgettable. Older Cubs fans may have been thinking about Sam Jones, who ended a 40-year drought of Cubs no-hitters in 1955 against the Pirates. They may have been thinking about Don Cardwell, who stymied the Cardinals two days after they traded him to the Cubs in 1960. If they weren’t lucky enough to see that, they may have been thinking about how lucky they were less than a decade later when Ken Holtzman hurled the first of his two no-hitters, which was the first of 4 thrown between 1969 and 1972 by Holtzman again, then Burt Hooten, and then Milt Pappas. Younger Cubs fans, deprived of no-hitters since Pappas worked his magic against the Padres 36 years ago, may have been thinking about a trifecta of lost opportunities to witness immortality. Names like Chuck Rainey, Jose Guzman, and Frank Castillo may have floated to the surface of their baseball memories and bobbed there awkwardly. Between 1983 and 1995, all three had lost their no-hitters with two outs in the ninth.

I was sweating enough to feel it in my armpits when Geoff Blum stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth. Edwin and I didn't dare look at or talk to each other; we were scared straight by superstition. If something happened, he would have every right to blame me for mentioning the unmentionable in the first place. Blum ripped a first-pitch fastball deep to right field; Mark DeRosa snared it while 23,000 of us sucked the air out of the stadium. When we exhaled, it was to chant “ Let's Go Z! Let's Go Z!” It looked like Zambrano was throwing junk from that point on, even though he was still hitting 95 on the radar. He worked deep into the count on both Hunter Pence and David Newhan, and couldn’t seem to find the strike zone. It didn't matter; whatever he was throwing was enough to sit them down.

I couldn't focus during the top half of the ninth from fretting over Zambrano's reputation as a head case. I was worried that Cuckoo Carlos would emerge and blow the deal. My stomach rumbled. I felt sweat trickle down my ribs under my sweatshirt. I tapped my pencil on my knee. The Cubs sat down in order, exactly as they had in four of the previous five innings. It was as if they knew not to give Z time to think about what he was doing.

Humberto Quintero grounded out 6-3 to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Jose Castillo followed suit, but if there was ever a more agonizing bouncer to the hole than his, I would have to see it to believe it. I swear I saw the stitches on the ball as it ricocheted off the infield grass. The gasping of the crowd was enough to momentarily vacuum-seal the stadium. It's going to bounce over Theriot's head... But the nimble boy from Baton Rouge dropped back, waited for it, squeezed it, and then rifled it to first for the out. After that infarction, I somehow knew that Darin Erstad wouldn't be able to change the outcome. I was right. He flailed off-balance at Zambrano’s 110th pitch.

Zambrano dropped to his knees and pointed to the sky. His teammates stormed the mound. The fans jumped into each others' arms. Edwin and I shook our heads and smirked. It was all we could do then and as we walked to the car and as we drove south on Interstate 94. The only thought we could verbalize between us was I can't believe what we just saw... did we really just see that?

I barely remember driving home. A swarm of thoughts buzzed through my head. I had just witnessed the unexpected lead to the improbable, and when you’re a Cubs fan, something in your genetic scheme makes you wonder if the improbable is foreshadowing what has been impossible for the last 100 years. Is the Ron Santo sound clip on WGN-- “This is the year!”-- actually true? I tried to banish the thought; too many times, even in my short tenure as a Cubs fan, optimism had led to anguish. Whatever was going to happen in October would best be left to thinking about in October. What mattered most at that moment was that I saw a no-hitter in real life, unfiltered by camera lenses and television screens. It will be etched in my mind and detailed on my scorecard forever. The thought of it will continue to draw me to the ballpark with the promise of possibly seeing something unforgettable.

Ninety minutes after Zambrano had met his fate, I dropped Edwin off in his driveway. He turned to me, still shaking his head and smirking, and said, "You were right. That was a once-in-a-lifetime chance."

Jeff Burd works as a high school Reading Specialist when he is not writing and watching baseball. He is in the Creative Nonfiction program at Northwestern University. His blog can be viewed at: http://burdly.blogspot.com/.

Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 01:34PM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue in , , | Comments34 Comments | References1 Reference | EmailEmail | PrintPrint

Witchcraft and the Cubs

The song "Witchcraft" was originally composed as an instrumental piece by Cy Coleman for the revue Take Five. Lyrics were later added by Carolyn Leigh, and "Witchcraft" was subsequently recorded by Frank Sinatra in May 1957, in an arrangement by Nelson Riddle.

Crooner Dave Impey, a denizen of Chicago’s nightclubs and black-tie circuit throughout the Eighties and Nineties, altered Leigh's lyrics for the Lovable Losers Literary Revue to turn that classic song into his own playful rendition about the Chicago Cubs' long history of losing.

A few lines of the lyrics from Impey's version of "Witchcraft":

Although I pray the Cubbies won't lose,

They always finds a way to choke.

Must we really blame that ole billy goat?

Or are the Cubs just born to lose?

It's been one hundred years

And 15 billion beers,

But maybe this could be THE YEAR.

Now watch Impey's live performance of the song for the final installment of the Lovable Losers Literary Revue at El Jardin Restaurant on September 8, 2008.

Witchcraft and the Cubs from Randy Richardson on Vimeo.

Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 10:06PM by Registered CommenterLovable Losers Literary Revue | Comments18 Comments | EmailEmail | PrintPrint
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