I’m not from Chicago, but I like Chicago, and though I’m a true blue, life long LA Dodgers fan, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Chicago Cubs: Wrigley Field, Hippo Vaughn, Three-Finger Mordecai Brown (who really only had three fingers on his right hand, but two them sported World Series rings), Riggs Stephenson, Ron Santo, ‘Mr. Cubs’ Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Milt Pappas, Ryne Sandberg, Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray and on and on ... these have been some tough years for Cubs fans. It's been one hundred and one years and counting since their last World Series victory.
Anyway, today, September 20th, marks the 25th anniversary of the death of one of the biggest Cubs fans ever to cheer amid the hallowed ivy covered walls of Wrigley Field, singer-songwriter Steve Goodman. Born and raised in Chicago, he never had much success as a solo recording artist, though his albums constantly received critical acclaim; he found far greater accolades as a songwriter. Some folks say he wrote the greatest Country and Western song ever recorded, and it says so right there in the song. “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” was the biggest hit record David Allan Coe ever had and the lyrics mention everything a proper and perfect Country/Western song should ever need or want: mama, jail, dead dogs, trains, trucks and drunkenness. Goodman also wrote the greatest friggin’ song about the railroads, “City Of New Orleans,” which became the biggest charting hit of Arlo Guthrie’s career. In the early 1970’s Goodman saw Guthrie in a bar and asked if he could play him a song. Guthrie agreed only on condition that Goodman first buy him a beer. The song would become something of an American standard, covered by many others including Johnny Cash, Judy Collins, John Denver, Jerry Reed, Hank Snow, Willie Nelson and even David Hasselhoff. Goodman also wrote some great songs about his own home town, “A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request;” “Go, Cubs, Go;” “The Lincoln Park Pirates,” a tribute to the notorious Lincoln Towing Company; and “Daley's Gone,” about Mayor Richard J. Daley, undisputed king of Chicago’s backroom politics, the last of the big city bosses, whose power didn’t create disorder, but was there to preserve disorder.
About the time Goodman's career really began taking off, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Still he managed to write and perform and fight cancer; he had a tongue-in-cheek nickname for the disease, “Cool Hand Leuk.” On September 20, 1984, Goodman died at University of Washington Hospital in Seattle. He was 36 years old. Eleven days later, the Chicago Cubs played their first play-off game since 1945 at Wrigley Field.
During the 2007 season, the Chicago Cubs began playing Goodman's recording, "Go, Cubs, Go," after each home game win. When the Cubs made it to the playoffs, interest in the song and in Goodman surged, resulting in October 5, 2007 being declared by Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn as Steve Goodman Day across Lincoln's Great State.