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For Ernie, and for Harry and Mike and Studs

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The fact that the Chicago Cubs are currently playing in their first World Series in 71 years has prompted something close to delirium in their ardent fan base. Cubs' fans are blessed, and cursed, with long memories, though, and I'm beginning to see a tinge of sadness as the reality of their triumph sinks in.

The fact that Ernie Banks isn't around to join in the celebration has been duly noted and some have added the absence of Harry Caray, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, Jack Brickhouse and other noted Chicagoans who loved the Cubs to the list. (I'm leaving out the first Mayor Daley, who was a White Sox fan.)

But this nostalgia extends beyond missing celebrities for many Cub fans, who are today remembering their fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles and aunts and other relatives and friends who suffered through the Cubs' historic drought but didn't live long enough to see it end.

I've been working on a biography of Banks lately and in the past few days I've checked in with his sister, Edna, and brother, Walter, in Dallas, and his twin sons, Jerry and Joey, who live in Los Angeles. They are thrilled about the Cubs' victory, of course, but also sad that Banks, who was associated with the team for more than sixty years, died less than two years before his dream was realized.

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Anyone watching the Cubs on television these days can hardly escape their fans, singing "Go, Cubs, Go," which for some fans brings a sadness all its own. The song was written by the Chicago songwriter Steve Goodman, whose most famous composition was the railroad anthem "City of New Orleans." Goodman died of leukemia in 1984 at the age of 36 so he's not around to join the party either.

Goodman actually wrote a much better song about the Cubs, one the team would never allow him to sing at Wrigley Field, though he once recorded it from a rooftop overlooking the ballpark. Its title is "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" and its chorus starts like this:

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?

Call it one more relic of the bad old days gone by.

Ron Rapoport was a sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for two decades and covered more losing Cubs teams than he cares to think about. He lives in Los Angeles and contributes occasional posts to LA Observed.



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