It’s A Beautiful Day For A Ballgame!

Its a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame!

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Strauss was sitting in The Blue Max the other day. It was a warm and humid August afternoon, the type of weather that always brings on a bout of melancholia for Strauss. No one in the bar really knows why this is, but on these hazy, late August afternoons, Strauss sitting on his stool at his corner of the bar, he always seems to emit a sense of something close to nostalgia. The Field Commander has never shown any type of emotion like that, but people have said he emotes an aura of empathy to strangers, particularly while he is walking his dog Spot in the park, so it is probably not out of the realm of possibility that he could actually be feeling nostalgic and/or melancholy about something. No one in the bar has the courage to approach him and ask him about it, because if you mention “feelings” to him he will fire laser beams from his eyes in disgust, make a quite denigrating gesture of disgust in your direction via sign language, and ignore your well-meaning inquiry with a request to the barkeep to give him another “stiff one” or a “double-double”.

With the late afternoon sun streaming through the stained glass panels of The Blue Max windows, the bar took on almost a surrealistic atmosphere, and was transformed into almost a church-like setting. Maybe it was the “stiff ones”, or maybe it was the “double-doubles”, or maybe it was the fact that there were only three of us in the bar – Strauss, the Kerri the barkeep, and me – Strauss’ long-time friend, Claus von Bulow – but Strauss invited me to sit on the stool next to him and told me the most extraordinary story – one that still leaves me wondering (and worrying) about the state of my dear friend’s mind.

I know he would never relate this story to anyone else, but I feel I must relieve myself of the burden of carrying his secret with me, so I have chosen you, dear reader, to tell it to. Speaking very softly, and slightly slurring his words, Strauss began his extraordinary tale by singing! In his gravelly voice he softly sang to me what he described as a long-remembered hymn from his days as a child. It went like this:

Lets go! Batter up!

Were taking the afternoon off!
Its a beautiful day for a ballgame
For a ballgame today!

The fans are out to get a ticket or two

From Walla Walla, Washington to Kalamazoo!

Its a beautiful day for a home run,
But even a triples OK!

Were going to cheer
And boo
Or raise a hullabaloo
At the ballgame today!

When Strauss finished his remarkable vocals, I almost thought that I saw a tear come into his eye, but it quickly disappeared – and I am not sure I ever saw it. I was so taken aback by this that I was rendered virtually speechless until I could finish my drink and order another round for the two of us. After the cocktails arrived, Strauss waited patiently for the barkeep to move to the other end of the bar, and then began to speak.

Strauss began talking about his friend Ronnie, with whom he spent many an hour happily socializing over a few cocktails or pitchers of beer. They had wide-ranging discussions, and right behind discussing the Nazis and the Jews, each others’ parentage, the most recent books they were reading, how Winston Churchill saved the free world, the screwed-up nature of their place of employment, or the simple joys of the cocktail, came the subject of the “Sports Fan”.

Usually, when their discussions became heated, Ronnie would throw out his favorite epithet – “Sports Fan!” – as if that meant you were a serial killer. Another of Strauss’ social companions, The Big Dummy can attest to this, as he witnessed this on many occasions – and he has a role to play later in Strauss’ story.

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The Big Dummy

But let me continue. On these occasions, Strauss would argue with Ronnie about how wrong he was about “Sports Fans” (ostensibly, he said, to irritate Ronnie and work him up even more – as a sport of Strauss’ own).

He would argue that “Sports Fans” weren’t really the ignorant, face and/or body painting Neanderthals that they seemed to be. They weren’t really the mindless fanatics that salivated at every word spewed over “Sports Talk Radio”, or who slovenly sat in Strato-loungers on Saturdays and Sundays watching sports: football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or even golf (golf!).

Strauss would argue that most “Sports Fans” couldn’t possibly be THAT interested in listening to an athlete being interviewed by a pretentious, breathless, half-balding little guy (who you could tell never played a sport in his life but pocket pool), and taking as Gospel the athlete’s cliché-filled responses – responses that were given by every athlete ever interviewed on any day, in any year, year in and year out.

Strauss would take the stance with Ronnie that “Sports Fans” weren’t so simple as to think that playing football, baseball, basketball or hockey was extremely complicated, that scientific principles were involved in hitting a baseball, or throwing a football. They also weren’t so simple has to think that golf was a sport – and that watching golf on television was exciting – or even that golfers were athletes!

And Strauss would say that “Sports Fans” certainly didn’t live vicariously through their teams – that they didn’t live and die with each win or loss, and that they had regular lives just like other people – and probably even read books too! Especially Chicago Cubs fans!

I was shocked to hear Strauss say this – he used to argue on the side of the “Sports Fan” – even if it was only to get his friend Ronnie stoked up – no matter how humorous it was to him. For years all I had ever heard him say was the exact same thing Ronnie was saying. He had even picked up the habit of calling people “Sports Fans” as an epithet himself! I couldn’t understand how Strauss could take a position in an argument when he believed the exact opposite thing. It was inconceivable to me.

This is when Strauss dropped his bomb on me – a secret that no one had ever known – that Strauss had once, and for many years, been a “Sports Fan” himself!

He admitted to me that as a young boy he caught what he called “Sports Attachment Dependency”, or (SAD). According to Strauss, he was exposed at an early, formative age to a sports team know to the world as “The Lovable Losers”, or “The Boys in Blue”, or the “North Siders of Chicago” – in other words – he was exposed to the baseball team called the Chicago Cubs. His parents used to take him and his brothers to games in what is know as the “Ivy Covered Shrine of Baseball” – Wrigley Field in Chicago – to see the Cubs play ball.

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In the early years, there were as many as 600 fans attending the game, allowing Strauss’ father easy access to the Old Style beer stand, and allowed plenty of room for the boys to run around the bleachers.

In Strauss’ words, those were Halcyon days – afternoons of sunlight, fresh lake breezes, peanuts, and of, course, the Cubs. His team, filled with nice guys and popular players like Dick Bertell, Ellis Burton, George Altman, Andre Rodgers, Bob Buehl, and Cal Koonce.

They also had one of the greatest players ever to play the game – Ernie Banks, later known as “Mr. Cub”, whose famous saying “Let’s play two!” lives on today – even though the double-header is extinct now. It was said of Ernie that, “His wrists are the secret of his success. Instead of taking the big Ruthian type swing of the lively ball era, he swings his bat as if it were a buggy whip, striking at the ball with the reflexive swiftness of a serpent’s tongue.” (Bill Furlong in Baseball Stars of 1959).

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Every spring the hopes for the Cubs ran high in their quest for a Championship – and every year the fans were disappointed by the Cubs losing ways – usually by June, after the Cubs annual “June Swoon” took them out of contention for winning anything. The season then became a grueling quest to see if the Cubs could avoid finishing in last place, and the Cubs fans satisfied themselves with hoping the Cubs would finish in the “first division”. Ernie always had a slogan ready at the start of the season, and his enthusiasm for the game would always serve to excite us about our heroes:

The Cubs are due in sixty-two. – Ernie Banks

In actuality, Ernie’s slogans didn’t often prove to be prophetic. For example, the 1962 Chicago Cubs played 162 games during the regular season, won 59 games, lost 103 games, and finished in ninth place (out of ten teams), in those day a second division finish. 609,802 fans witnessed their 1962 Cubs finish the season with a .364 winning percentage.Wait Until Next Year!

Strauss said you’d have to listen to things like this on the radio: Would the lady who left her nine kids at Wrigley Field please pick them up immediately? They are beating the Cubs 4-0 in the 7th inning.

Leaving the subject of baseball, Strauss admitted to me that he also was a fan of other sports teams. However, Strauss did show his tendency towards eccentricity by admitting that, even though he lived in Chicagoland, his favorite football team was the Green Bay Packers, led by one of the winningest and most under-rated quarterbacks of all-time – Bart Starr. He loved the way Starr coolly commanded his charges on the field, perfectly executing each game plan with efficiency and effectiveness. Bart Starr demonstrated he was also a gentleman off the field, treating even sports reporters with respect.

Strauss did show a passing interest in the Chicago Bears, with George Halas, Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus, but never became a solid fan of the club, even though he did enjoytheir Super Bowl Championship year.

In basketball, his favorite team was the Boston Celtics, led by their great center Bill Russell, who was a proud and dignified competitor and person. Once Russell retired, he turned his attention to the fledgling Chicago Bulls, and only exhibited a passing interest in them until they acquired a coach with an actual brain – Phil Jackson – and a bevy of stars led by the great Michaels Jordan and Scottie Pippin. As a team, the Bulls put together a roster of compelling characters that made it impossible for Strauss not to get emotionally involved in rooting for them.

Strauss also admitted that he was once a hockey fan! He loved the Chicago Blackhawks until their skinflint owner let the “Golden Jet”, Bobby Hull walk out of Chicago because he didn’t want to pay him what he was worth.

Strauss also admitted that for a time he had an interest in following the Chicago White Sox, but only when Bill Veeck owned them. When Veeck sold the team to to a slimy shyster Strauss’ dislike for the south side ballclub has only grown worse. In fact, he interrupted his story to tell me this joke:

A White Sox fan, a Boy Scout and a Priest are all on airplane. The pilot comes on the intercom and says hes got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that the plane is going to crash. The good news is that we have three parachutes but the bad news is that leaves one person without a parachute.

The pilot grabs one saying I have to explain what went wrong and jumps.

The White Sox fan grabs one and says, We may win this year and jumps.

The Priest looks to the Boy Scout and says, You take the last one.

The boy looks at the Priest and smiles, saying, Father, we can each have one. That White Sox fan stole my backpack.

But no sports team captivated Strauss like the Chicago Cubs. For many years, Strauss bled “Cubbie Blue”, and each year he bled more and more Cubbie Blue until he almost lost his faith. Then, in 1966, the Cubs hired Leo (The Lip”) Durocher, and hope was kept alive.

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The first thing Leo said when he got to Chicago was that “This is no last place team.”, and he meant it. His reputation of saying “Nice Guys Finish Last” gave Cubs fans hope all over the world. You just knew things were going to get better – right away – starting with the 1966 season!

Well, Strauss’ hopes were dashed again. To everyone’s surprise, the 1966 Chicago Cubs played 162 games during the regular season, won 59 games, lost 103 games, and finished in tenth place (dead last). 635,891 fans witnessed their 1966 Cubs finish the season with a .364 winning percentage, the exact same winning percentage as 1962! Wait Until Next Year!

This didn’t deter Ernie Banks from his sunny predictions:

The Cubs will be heavenly in 67ly!

And the Cubs were much better in ’67. They played 161 games during the regular season, won 87 games, lost 74 games, and finished in third place. A whopping 977,226 fans cheered their Cubs as they finished the season with a .540 winning percentage. Hope was building for Strauss and each and every Cubs fan whose cries rang out across the land:Wait Until Next Year!

“The Cubs will be great in 68!”

The 1968 Cubs weren’t quite as good as in 1967, a disappointment to Strauss. They played 162 games during the regular season, won 84 games, lost 78 games, but still finished in third place. More fans came out to see them in the “Beautiful Confines” – 1,043,409 fans to be exact, as the Cubs finished with a .519 winning percentage. Once you bleed Cubbie Blue, one is encouraged by this performance, and Strauss faithfully joined in as the cry rang out again: Wait Until Next Year!

The Cubs are gonna shine in sixty-nine.

And finally, after years of frustration, 1969 rolled around. By that time Strauss had been a Cubs fan for over a decade, and the Cubs were positioned to take it all! Every Cubs fan the world over was ready to put to rest things like these, which they had heard from their friends and neighbors for decades:

Its hard to put your finger on it. You have to have a dullness of mind and spirit to play here. I went through pyschoanalysis and that helped me deal with my Cubness.Jim Brosnan, former Cubs pitcher.

Noise pollution cant be that much of a problem. Theres nothing to cheer about.State Rep. John F. Dunn, arguing for the installation of lights at Wrigley Field.

If I managed the Cubs, Id be an alcoholic.Whitey Herzog.

The Cubs were taking batting practice, and the pitching machine threw a no-hitter.Radio deejay.

Despite these naysayers, Strauss knew that this team had the right stuff. All the jokes, the insults, the pain from losing year after year after year – after year would be washed away in joyous celebration, and for the first time in his life Strauss learned what it was to become a fanatic. Not just a fan, not just a “sports fan”, but a true fanatic of one team – his Chicago Cubs.

They had rising young stars (and some future Hall of Famers) in droves: They had an All-Star infield of Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckett, Ernie (Mr. Cub) Banks, and Randy (The Colonel) Hundley.

They had a swift and talented outfield of “Sweet Swingin’” Billy Williams, Don Young, and Jim Hickman. And they had a pitching staff led by Ferguson Jenkins, with Ken Holtzman, Bill Hands and Dick Selma.

They had a strong bullpen of Ted Abernathy, the submarine-baller (under-handed pitcher), Rich Nye, Hank Aguirre, and last but not least Phil “The Vulture” Regan.

Their bench was loaded with such skilled players as Oscar Gamble, Adolfo Phillips, Gene Oliver, Al Spangler, Paul Popovich, and Jimmy Qualls.

I, Claus von Bulow, am amazed at the remarkable recall Strauss exhibited as he told me this story. How could he remember all of this in such detail? How did a baseball team, dubbed “The Lovable Losers” sear such things into Strauss’ memory? I was about to learn…

Strauss said, now, you have to remember the year was 1969. It was the end of a tumultuous decade that saw the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and a massive “Police Riot” in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention. It was a decade where the Vietnam War was a major divisive issue in the country, which sparked massive anti-war demonstrations. In addition, other things were happening in 1969:

  • As President Nixon took office, the American death toll in the Viet Nam War reached 34,000.
  • Millions of Americans participated in a Viet Nam Moratorium Day, with candelight vigils and prayers for peace. President Nixon ignored the event, but Vice President Spiro Agnew called the participants “an effete corps of impudent snobs.”
  • Veterans’ Day ceremonies around the country consisted of pro-America demonstrations. Vice President Agnew called U.S. patriots “the silent majority.” Three days later, 250,000 people marched on Washington to protest the war. Simultaneously, 100,000 demonstrated in San Francisco.
  • 340 Harvard students took over the university’s administration building. 400 state troopers and police officers cleared them out with tear gas and beatings from nightsticks. At Cornell University, black militants brandishing automatic weapons held a 36-hour sit-in in the student union building.
  • At Berkeley, a National Guard helicopter dropped caustic chemicals on a protesters’ area called People’s Park. Nineteen (19) University of California faculty members were among those burned by the substance.
  • Max Yasgur’s farm near Bethel, New York became the second-largest city in New York, when nearly 400,000 converged on the area for the Woodstock Music And Art Fair. Police looked the other way as the counterculture celebrated its largest gathering with peace, music, sex, drugs and rock and roll.
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman William Fullbright disclosed that the Pentagon and the Nixon administration had been waging an illegal war in Laos, without the required knowledge of the Congress.
  • Meanwhile, Lt. William Calley, Jr. was under investigation on charges that his infantry unit had massacred 450 women, children and other villagers at My Lai, South Viet Nam.
  • CBS canceled one of its most popular shows, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, because a copy of the show hadn’t reached the censors in time. The network was under pressure to dump the politically potent variety show, which Vice President Spiro Agnew had claimed was “subversive.”
  • The hit songs of 1969 included: Everyday People, Age Of Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In, Come Together, Crimson & Clover and In The Year 2525.
  • Charmin Bathroom Tissue went from obscurity to America’s best-seller, due to an advertising campaign featuring grocer Mr. Whipple, portrayed by character actor Dick Wilson.
  • The Boeing 747 and the Concorde had their first flights.
  • In time for perhaps the very last of the Baby Boomers, Sesame Street debuted on television.
  • But also, Penthouse began publication… in plenty of time for the boomers.
  • President Nixon announced his “Vietnamization” designed to help the Vietnamese deal with their own problems, and extricate the U.S. from southeast Asia.
  • Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island off Martha’s Vineyard on July 18; killing his young passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. This major story was partially drowned out (sorry) by the moon landing that took place just days later. A week after the accident, Kennedy received a suspended sentence, and that was the end of it. But many Americans would never look at Kennedy the same way (and few would ever ride in a car with him at the wheel.)
  • On July 21 the U.S. won the space race convincingly by landing a man on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins flew on board Apollo 11. “Houston… Tranquility Base, here; the Eagle has landed.” Event of the Century? Possibly – we all thought so at the time. We had met JFK’s challenge and conquered outer space. This gave Americans confidence that we could beat the Russians in anything… if put to the test.
  • Charles Manson and other members of his cult murdered actress Sharon Tate and six others in a horrible event that was referred to as “Helter Skelter.”
  • The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) claimed that marijuana is harmless to both the user and society in general.
  • The U.S. spent less money than it took in. That won’t happen again until the Baby Boomers hit 50.
  • Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi gulf coast killing 248; damage is set at $1.5 billion.
  • An oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara spread over 30 miles of the shoreline. This is the first major of dozens to follow in the next 25 years.
  • Dr. Laurence Peter introduced the world to his “Peter Principle,” which states that workers rise to their level of incompetence.
  • In October, President Nixon said, “I will say confidently that looking ahead just three years the war will be over.”
  • The “Chicago 7″, arrested for inciting a riot had their day on court. Attorney William Kunstler, defended David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner, and chemistry professor John R. Froins. Bobby Seale wasgagged and chained to his chair because of his courtroom outbursts and was sentenced to 4 years in prison for contempt of court. The others got off with relatively light sentences.
  • The New York Jets won the Super Bowl, defying all logic… except that of Joe Namath.
  • In November, President Nixon appealed to the “great silent majority” to support his Vietnam policy.
  • “Marcus Welby” and “Monthy Python’s Flying Circus” debut on television.
  • The Academy award for Best Picture went to “Midnight Cowboy.” John Wayne won for Best Actor in “True Grit.” Paul Newman and Robert Redford starred in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
  • On November 15, 250,000 protestors (mostly students) marched against the war in Washington, D.C. It is only fitting that the decade ends with just as much excitement and turmoil as it began.
  • In December, the Selective Service conducted the first draft lottery since 1942, affecting 800,000 males born between 1944 and 1950.
  • Honeywell released the H316 “Kitchen Computer”, the first home computer, priced at $10,600 in the Neiman Marcus catalog.
  • Advanced Micro Devices is founded by Jerry Sanders and seven others from Fairchild Semiconductor.
  • Intel announced a 1 kilobit RAM chip (that’s only 128 Bytes!), which had a significantly larger capacity than any previously produced memory chip.
  • For the Busicom Project, Intel’s Marcian (Ted) Hoff and Stan Mazor design a 4-bit CPU chip set architecture that could receive instructions and perform simple functions on data. The CPU becomes the 4004 microprocessor.
  • ARPANET (later to become a little thing called the Internet) was commissioned by the Department of Defense for research into networking. First set up with 4 nodes: Stanford, UCLA, UCSB, and the University of Utah. The first attempt at sending packets was from UCLA to Stanford on October 29. The first 2 characters were successfully transferred, but the third keystroke crashed the system. (hmmm…maybe Bill Gates was involved!)

Strauss went on: Despite all of what was happening in 1969, the entire Nation had at least one eye focused on a baseball team – our Chicago Cubs. The St. Louis Cardinals had won the National League championship in both 1967 and 1968, but in 1969 the Cubs were clearly on their way. They even inspired a song that will be forever remembered by true Cubs Fans:

Hey Hey Holy Mackerel

Hey, hey, holy mackerel,
no doubt about it,
the Cubs are on their way!

The Cubs are gonna hit today
they’re gonna pitch today
they’re gonna field today
come what may,
the Cubs are gonna win today!

Hey, hey holy mackerel
no doubt about it
The Cubs are on their way

They’ve got the hustle
they’ve got the muscle
the Chicago Cubs are on their way!!!

Of course one must admit that War, landing on the Moon, and our own government dropping caustic chemicals on our own citizens during a peaceful protest were more important things to focus on, but to Strauss, the Cubs had never been in first place in his life – unless you counted Opening Day.

From opening day on, Chicago was a crazed town. No one knew quite how to react to the Cubs.  It started that day – as Strauss watched on television – when over 40,000 people saw Cubs outfielder Willie Smith hit a walk off home run (in extra innings) to beat the Philadelphia Phillies. In April, the Cubs won 11 out of their first 12 games!

Everyone began talking about the Cubs. People took their radios to school and to work, as if listening to the World Series. You have to remember the Cubs played all their home games in the afternoon – Wrigley Field had no lights then. Jack Brickhouse, Lloyd Pettit, Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau – the Cubs broadcasters – became household names as well. The Cubs finished April with a record of 16 wins and 7 losses – and in First Place!

Cub Power

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For Strauss, May was even better. The Cubs, behind “Cub Power” increased their lead to 7 ½ games. Some of the Cubs even recorded an album called “Cub Power”. The “Bleacher Bums” appeared in the left field bleachers. Every day, every game, the yellow construction-hat wearing Bums would chant cheers for their Cubbies, and send jeers to their opponents – making life miserable for visiting outfielders. Cubs pitcher Dick Selma, a character who had come over from the Padres earlier in the year, became the “official” Bleacher Bums head cheerleader, and between innings could be seen standing in left field waving a white towel and leading the Bums in their raucous cheers.

June continued much as May had. The Cubs won 18, lost only 11, and ended the month still 7 ½ games ahead. Strauss was ecstatic! Don Kessinger the lanky Cubs shortstop started the year by playing 54 games without an error! “Sweet Swingin’” Billy Williams (Strauss’ favorite Cub of all-time, I learned later) became the National League’s “Ironman”, for consecutive games played – and the Cubs threw him a “Billy Williams Day” for his efforts. (Williams streak ended at 1,117 consecutive games played, and he ended up in the Hall of Fame).

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Sweet Swingin” Billy Williams

By the Fourth of July, the Cubs were still in first place, however, the plaintive bleating of a famous Billy Goat could be heard outside the park at Clark and Addison, and Cubs fans, instead of counting sheep at night, were beginning to see goats in their dreams. Why? Well that’s easy said Strauss. All Cubs fans were aware of the famous “Billy Goat Curse”, all Cubs fans believed in it, and things were going entirely too well for the boys in blue thus far this season. For those of you who have lived on another planet for the last Century or two, the Billy Goat Curse goes like this:

The Billy Goat curse was supposedly placed on the Cubs in 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave a World Series game against the Detroit Tigers at the Cubs’ Wrigley Field because his pet goat’s odor was bothering other fans.

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He was outraged and declared, “Them Cubs, they aren’t gonna win no more,” which has been interpreted to mean that there would never be another World Series game won at Wrigley Field. The exact nature of the curse differs in various accounts of the incident. Some state that Sianis declared that no World Series games would ever again be played at Wrigley Field, while others believe that his ban was on the Cubs appearing in the World Series, making no mention of a specific venue.

Sianis’ family claims that he dispatched a telegram to team owner Philip K. Wrigley that read, “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again. You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.” Whatever the truth, the Cubs were up two games to one in the ’45 series but ended up losing Game 4 and the best-of-seven series, four games to three.

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In his final column, famous newspaper columnist (and die-hard Cubs fan) Mike Royko wrote: Its about time that we stopped blaming the failings of the Cubs on a poor, dumb creature that is a billy goat blame for many of the Cubs failings since 1945 can be placed on a dumb creature. Not a poor, dumb creature, but a rich oneP.K. Wrigley.

The Billy Goat Curse was beginning to rear its cute, horned and bearded head:

  • Fergie Jenkins, the Cubs ace pitcher lost his fourth one to nothing (1-0) ballgame of the year.
  • Don Young, the rookie centerfielder who took over for “The Next Willie Mays” Adolfo Phillips, who was discarded by Durocher earlier in the year, dropped a fly ball in center field that cost the Cubs the game.
  • And, most telling of all, the New York Mets, a baseball laughingstock since their inclusion in the National League as an expansion team, were beginning to play great baseball and win at an alarming rate, lead by a young and highly talented pitching staff which include Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Nolan Ryan.
  • The Cubs finished July with a not-so-impressive 15 win, 14 loss record, although they remained in first place by 6 ½ games. Strauss looked to August with great anticipation. If the Cubs could get through August, they would win it all!

August became probably the craziest and most elated month for Cubs fans in history, no matter that Cubs fans were also the most delusional, “count your chickens before they hatch” fans in all of sports. Cubs souvenirs and paraphernalia were being gobbled up throughout Chicago, and the Nation was even beginning to get caught up in Cubs fever.

Strauss and the other delusional Cubs fans had reason to be encouraged in August:

  • Kenny Holtzman, the Cubs left-handed pitcher – the “next Sandy Koufax” – some called him, pitched a no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves. One of the plays taken as a sign the Cubs were going to go all the way occurred when Henry Aaron sent a ball over the left field bleachers for an apparent home run – only to have the wind blow the ball back into the park, where Billy Williams caught it for an out!
  • On August 12th, the Cubs were a full 9 games ahead of the surging New York Mets…but the Billy Goat soon appeared. Leo Durocher, Leo “The Lip”, Leo “Nice Guys Finish Last” decided to take a vacation and visit his stepson at Summer Camp! In the middle of a Pennant Race! What Manager in baseball would do that? Who can believe – to this day – that the Billy Goat didn’t have something to do with that?

Amidst this circus, our heroes managed to have an August record of 18 wins and 11 losses, making Strauss one happy Cubs fan, however, the red-hot Mets seemed to never lose a game, and the Cubs hold on first place had been cut to only 4 ½ games, making Strauss one nervous Cubs fan. Every Cubs fan could feel the dread of the Curse of the Billy Goat, and could hear the Goat following them to and from the “El” for each game. Still, all the Cubs had to do was play .500 baseball for the rest of the year, and they would win the Division.

In September, the Billy Goat unleashed the full force of the Curse:

cubs, mets black cat

  • On September 9th, during a big series against the (now) hated Mets in Shea Stadium, Ron Santo was in the on-deck circle when a black cat ran onto the field, circled around him, and then disappeared. The Cubs went on to lose a tough game (no thanks to the umpires either). Unfortunately, the Cubs were done. Strauss knew it. Everybody knew it. The entire Nation braced itself for a massive Cubs collapse.
  • They fell out of first place, losing eight straight games at one point, to which their manager Leo Durocher said: If Id known we were going to lose eight straight, I would have just played nine pitchers every day and let everyone else go home and rest.
  • To Strauss’ dismay, the poor Cubs finished September and October in 2nd place, with a record of 9 wins and 18 losses, 8 games behind the New York Mets! (who went on to win the World Series)

Every Cubs fan alive then remains heartbroken today. Strauss told me he thinks no future Cubs Championship will erase the anguish and pain (and love) for his 1969 Chicago Cubs.

In the end, the 1969 Chicago Cubs played 162 games during the regular season, won 92 games, lost 70 games, and finished in second place. 1,674,993 faithful fans were crushed as the watched their Cubs collapse and finish the season with a .568 winning percentage.

So why did the Cubs collapse in 1969? The best evidence, offered in Durocher’s Cubs: The Greatest Team that Didn’t Win (Taylor Pub. Co., 2000), by David Claerbaut, concludes that “their offense failed, their defense failed, and most importantly their will power failed.”

Durocher deserves major credit for the debacle. He refused to rest his stars, and rode his veterans until they were ready to drop. He also feuded with everyone—many of the players, virtually all of the sportswriters, and even the fans. His antics created tension everywhere.

As Claerbaut has pointed out: “When people perform in a tense atmosphere, are tired, are led ineffectively, and are then unprepared emotionally for a major challenge, they are likely to collapse. They are likely to choke”.

Whatever the reason, the Cubs certainly choked in 1969. While the team remained in the hunt for a division title for several years after the 1969 season the Cubs never challenged for the National League East in the same way again. The Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates emerged as the class of the league and dominated the early years of the 1970s.

The 1969 Chicago Cubs defined a franchise and a city’s psyche, though they remained competitive for a few years after. Wait Until Next Year! Wait Until Next Year! As disappointed as he must have been, Ernie Banks never showed it to the public, and continued with his cheerful slogans:

The Cubs will glow in 7-0!

The Cubs will be thunderous in 71-derous!

The Cubs will come through in 72!

But it was never the same – the Cubs had created their legacy “The Lovable Losers”.

Strauss looked up from his trance, looked at me, looked his empty glass, and said, “Barkeep, two more for von Bulow here and me. I haven’t finished what I was saying.”

So he continued…”Now we had to hear things like this;”

A Chicago man died and went to Hell. The Devil decided to shove him in a room and cranked the heat and humidity up. The man smiled. When the Devil asked why the man was smiling he said: Just like Chicago in Spring

So the Devil cranked up the heat and humidity more. The man removed his coat, smiled, and said: Just like Chicago in Summer

This time the Devil cranked the heat and humidity to maximum. The man removed his shirt and tie and said: Just like Chicago in August

The Devil then got an idea. He shut off the heat and turned on the air conditioning. The room froze in seconds. Ice was everywhere. Polar bears hid in dens because it was so cold. Satan, confident he had finally won, looked in the mans room only to find the man cheering and partying frantically.The Cubs won the World Series! The Cubs won the World Series!

So after another decade of living with futility, the 1980’s arrived, and lo and behold, the Cubs hired someone who actually knew something about baseball!  All Hail Dallas Green!

To Strauss, Dallas Green was the best thing to happen to the Cubs since Ernie Banks. He dragged the Cubs` organization out of the `40s and into the `80s. He put excitement back onto the playing field and put fans into the park. Most importantly, he showed everyone that the Cubs could be winners again! Another good thing happened to the Cubs in 1981 – Harry Caray became their play-by-play announcer, and brought a great deal of excitement to Wrigley Field with his lively antics during the “Seventh Inning Stretch”:

1983 was no great shakes. The Cubs manager, Lee Elia, went on a tirade blasting Cubs fans and the media. He was also quoted as saying, You get tired of looking at garbage in your own backyard. about why the Cubs got rid of so many players. Elia was fired later that same season. The Cubs won only 71 games, lost 91 games, and finished in fifth place. According to Lee Elia, 1,479,717 fans who didn’t have jobs saw the Cubs play in 1983. Wait Until Next Year!

The best thing about 1983 was that Steve Goodman released his now famous song:

The  Dying Cub Fans Last Request

By the shore’s of old Lake Michigan
Where the “hawk wind” blows so cold
An old Cub fan lay dying
In his midnight hour that tolled
Round his bed, his friends had all gathered
They knew his time was short
And on his head they put this bright blue cap
From his all-time favorite sport
He told them, “Its late and its getting dark in here”
And I know its time to go
But before I leave the line-up
Boys, there’s just one thing I’d like to know

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

Told his friends “You know the law of averages says:
Anything will happen that can”
That’s what it says
“But the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant
Was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan”

The Cubs made me a criminal
Sent me down a wayward path
They stole my youth from me
(that’s the truth)
I’d forsake my teachers
To go sit in the bleachers
In flagrant truancy

and then one thing led to another
and soon I’d discovered alcohol, gambling, dope
football, hockey, lacrosse, tennis

But what do you expect,
When you raise up a young boy’s hopes
And then just crush ‘em like so many paper beer cups.

Year after year after year
after year, after year, after year, after year, after year
‘Til those hopes are just so much popcorn
for the pigeons beneath the ‘L’ tracks to eat

He said, “You know I’ll never see Wrigley Field, anymore before my eternal rest
So if you have your pencils and your score cards ready,
and I’ll read you my last request
He said, “Give me a double header funeral in Wrigley Field
On some sunny weekend day (no lights)
Have the organ play the “National Anthem”
and then a little ‘na, na, na, na, hey hey, hey, Goodbye’
Make six bullpen pitchers, carry my coffin
and six ground keepers clear my path
Have the umpires bark me out at every base
In all their holy wrath

Its a beautiful day for a funeral, Hey Ernie lets 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

Build a big fire on home plate out of your Louisville Sluggers baseball bats,
And toss my coffin in
Let my ashes blow in a beautiful snow
From the prevailing 30 mile an hour southwest wind
When my last remains go flying over the left-field wall
Will bid the bleacher bums adieu
And I will come to my final resting place, out on Waveland Avenue

The dying man’s friends told him to cut it out
They said stop it that’s an awful shame
He whispered, “Don’t Cry, we’ll meet by and by near the Heavenly Hall of Fame
He said, “I’ve got season’s tickets to watch the Angels now,
So its just what I’m going to do
He said, “but you the living, you’re stuck here with the Cubs,
So its me that feels sorry for you!”

And he said, “Ahh Play, play that lonesome losers tune,
That’s the one I like the best”
And he closed his eyes, and slipped away
What we got is the Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request
And here it is

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

Prior to the 1984 season, Bill Buckner said, Theres nothing wrong with this team that more pitching, more fielding and more hitting couldnt help. He was promptly traded.

In 1984, The Big Dummy convinced Strauss to venture out to Wrigley Field for Opening Day. The Big Dummy was always getting tickets for something, and always asking Strauss to go with him – so this time Strauss agreed to go, even though he disliked Opening Day because it was usually cold, bitter, and the Cubs would lose.

Cubs004

Besides that, going anywhere with The Big Dummy was a real trial for Strauss. For one thing, The Big Dummy is a happy man. He loves to travel and attend events. He is also an inveterate souvenir hunter. There is no trinket or paraphernalia he won’t buy – as a remembrance of the event. His home must be filled to the brim with trinkets from all over the world. But anyway, The Big Dummy usually has way too much fun for Strauss to stand – wherever they are. Anyway, this Opening Day was not to be missed, and the Cubs would not disappoint.  Not this year.

A young pitcher for the hated New York Mets – Dwight Gooden –had burst onto the National League scene with incredible fanfare. No one was supposed to be able to hit against him at all. But when he faced the Cubs on opening day at Wrigley Field, we showed him what for, and the Cubs gave him a whipping that he’ll never forget. It was a rude initiation into Major League Baseball. It also set the tone for the entire Cubs’ season.

In 3.1 innings, the Cubs whacked Gooden for seven hits, three walks and six runs. After he departed, Gary Matthews, Jody Davis and Ron Cey each homered. By the time the shellacking was done, the future 1984 NL East Champions had defeated the Mets 11-2.

The pennant race stayed tight through the first half of the season, with the Cubs and Phillies tied at 42-34 on June 30, with the Mets trailing by just one and a half games. The second half of the season was different, with the Cubs posting an un-Cub like record of 54-31, thumping the hated  Mets at every opportunity.

A key game during the season occurred on June 23 at Wrigley Field, with the Cubs facing the rival St. Louis Cardinals on the nationally televised “game of the week”. The Cardinals led throughout the game, and led 9-8 going into the bottom of the ninth with closer Bruce Sutter on the mound. Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs 24 year-old second baseman, led off the ninth with a solo home run into the left-field bleachers, tying the game at nine. The following inning, St. Louis regained the lead, and Sutter stayed in the game attempting to close out the win.

After the first two batters were retired, Bob Dernier walked, again bringing up Sandberg. He promptly hit another game-tying home run into the left-field bleachers, convincing all of us that this was our year to go all the way.

Ryne-Sandberg“Ryno”

The Cardinals did not score in the top of the 11th, but the Cubs loaded the bases on three walks, then rookie Dave Owen singled in the winning run. Ryne Sandberg had 7 RBI in the game. This game has become known as “The Sandberg Game”, and will be known as such throughout eternity. This reminded Strauss of a joke about the “hated” St. Louis Cardinals:

Three baseball fans were on their way to a game when one noticed a foot sticking out of the bushes by the side of the road they stopped and discovered a nude female passed out drunk.

Out of respect and propriety, the Cubs fan took off his cap and placed it over her right breast. The Yankee fan took off his cap and placed it over her left breast. Following their lead, the Cardinal fan took off his cap and placed it over her crotch.

The police were called and when the officer arrived, he conducted his inspection. First, he lifted up the Cubs cap, replaced it, and wrote down some notes. Next, he lifted the Yankee cap, replaced it, and wrote down some more notes. The officer then lifted the Cardinal cap, replaced it, then lifted it again, replaced it, lifted it a third time, and replaced it one last time.

The Cardinal fan was getting upset and finally asked, What are you, a pervert or something? Why do you keep lifting and looking, lifting and looking? Well, said the officer. Im surprised. Normally when I look under a Cardinal hat I find an asshole.

The Cubs ended their playoff drought on September 24 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh in front of just over 5,000 fans. Rick Sutcliffe threw a two-hit complete game for his sixteenth straight victory, and the Cubs won the National League East. Strauss, in his ecstasy, ended up face down in his lawn – in joyful oblivion to all things in the Universe until morning.

Strauss’ joyful oblivion was not to last much longer, however. In 1984, the National League Championship Series (NLCS) was a best out of five contest against the winner from the Western Division. The winner of the NLCS would go on to play in the World Series.

The Cubs started out well by handily winning the first two games of the series against the San Diego Padres. When they won the first playoff game by a score of 13-0, Strauss was in heaven. There would be no stopping his Cubs now. All they had to do was win one of the next three games – and they would finally make it to the Big Show.

As usual, disaster struck – The Billy Goat had raised his ugly head again! San Diego won the next two games, tying the series. In the final and deciding game of the series, things looked good for the Cubbies early on. Leon Durham hit a two-run homer in the first and Jody Davis added a solo homer in the second to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead.

With Rick Sutcliffe pitching well, the Cubs maintained their lead until the bottom of the sixth when the Billy Goat unleashed another disaster. Every Cubs fan could feel it coming when San Diego scored two runs in the sixth inning to cut the Cubs’ lead to 3-2.

The next inning, everything that Cubs’ fans believed about curses and collapses was proved to be true. Sutcliffe walked the lead-off hitter, moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt, and then scored when a routine ground ball slipped through Cubs first baseman Leon Durham’s legs for an error. The Padres scored two more runs in the inning, and that was all she wrote. The Cubs had blown a 2-0 lead in a best of 5 series, and were not going to the World Series. Strauss, as usual, was crushed by this defeat. The Padres would go on to lose the World Series to the dominant Detroit Tigers in five games. You could almost see the angst on Strauss’ face as he relayed this story to me. Wait Until Next Year!

Strauss continued…”Five years later, there was more hope: 2,491,942 fans witnessed their 1989 Cubs finish the season first again, winning 93 games and losing 69.”

The 1989 Chicago Cubs season marked the last time the Cubs would win their division prior to the realignment to six divisions in 1994 which moved the Cubs to the National League Central – in which they would not win until 2003. Winning the division put the Cubs in the playoffs, which they would not return to until winning the NL Wild Card in 1998. They would, as usual, lose the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. So Strauss, having been a Cubs fan since 1955, had now waited 38 years for a winner, but there was no giving up. Hope for his Cubs sprang eternal. Wait Until Next Year!

funny-sports-pictures-breaking-news-a-man-was-found-who-was-actually-alive-the-last-time-the-cubs-won-the-world-series-1

It wasn’t until 1998 that the Cubs provided Strauss with the opportunity to drink from the cup of joy. The 1998 Chicago Cubs season was a significant one for the team for several reasons. First, it saw the Cubs reach the playoffs for the first time since 1989 by way of a Wild Card berth, which they clinched after winning a one-game playoff against the San Francisco Giants.

The season also saw Sammy Sosa, along with Mark McGwire, surpass the existing single-season home run record of 61(with the help of Steroids). Sosa would hold the home run lead at several points over the course of the season, eventually finishing four behind McGwire (66 and 70 respectively). Strauss couldn’t stand “Slammin’ Sammy”, and it took a lot away from the joy he would have normally felt with the Cubs in the playoffs.

On the bright side, the 1998 season also saw the debut of Kerry Wood (Kid K), who drew immediate national attention because of a 20-strikeout performance in his fifth career start, a performance Strauss watched while sitting in a roadside bar in an ignomious Chicago suburb. Wood posted a 13-6 record over 26 starts, and averaged more than 12 strikeouts per innings pitched. We Got Wood tee shirts were seen all across Chicagoland.

fxeJMt5F“Kid K”

Strauss didn’t much care for the Wild Card idea either. He felt the purity of the game was being degraded, but the ex-used car salesman Bud Selig, Commissioner of Baseball, pushed the idea through in a greedy attempt for the owners to make more money.

Strauss also didn’t have much faith in this Cubs team either. He felt they didn’t really belong in the playoffs, with this jury-rigged system. As usual, he was not disappointed. The Cubs lost the Division Series in a 3-0 sweep against the Atlanta Braves. According to Strauss, not much angst was associated with this loss, as it was just what he had expected.Wait Until Next Year!

Next year didn’t come for another five years. The Chicago Cubs’ 2003 season was the 131st season for the Cubs. The Cubs were coming off of a poor year in 2002, and their playoff run which led them nearly to the World Series exceeded the expectations most observers had before the season. Strauss believes this was in large part due to the Cubs’ new Manager – Dusty Baker. When he was hired, “In Dusty We Trusty” banners could be seen all over the city.

The Cubs went 88-74 during the season and won the National League Central Division for the first time since the division’s formation in 1994, and the team’s first division title since their 1989 NL East title.

In the playoffs the Cubs defeated the Atlanta Braves 3 games to 2 in the NLDS for their first playoff series win since 1908. This was a team Strauss could really get behind. Not quite like the 1969 team, but these Cubs were full of likeable players that Strauss took a liking to.

The team’s success can be attributed first and foremost to its starting rotation, which featured Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement, all of whom won at least 13 games. The pitching staff as a whole led the National League in Strikeouts with 1,404 – over 100 more than any other team.

While not nearly as dominant in hitting, the Cubs’ lineup was bolstered by acquisitions at what was a very active trade deadline – they added Aramis Ramirez, Randall Simon, and Kenny Lofton, all excellent ballplayers that would play important roles down the stretch.

But the highlight of the season for Strauss was a game played on June 2, 2003. Again, The Big Dummy, had come up with a couple of tickets for the game – tickets that wre virtually impossible to get, and, in his kindness, offered Strauss the chance to go to the game. This wasn’t just any Cubs game – this was the Chicago Cubs vs. the New York Yankees; and Kerry Wood vs. Roger Clemens.

Cubs005

It had the billings of a heavy weight fight. The entire series had a playoff-type atmosphere surrounding it. Clemens was going for his 300th career win. Wood, on the other hand, was going for his 50th.

This turned out to be the best baseball game Strauss had ever seen. It had everything – the high-flying New York Yankees against the always downtrodden Cubs, the aging gunslinger versus “Kid K”, both teams in heated pennant races, beautiful Wrigley Field in the sunshine, serious and crowd-silencing player injury, bases-loaded drama in the late innings, and a spectacular home run for the Cubbies.

Wood and Clemens matched each other pitch for pitch. In the fourth inning, the Cubs first baseman, Hee Seop Choi tried to catch a high pop-up on the infield. While catching the ball, he slipped and fell, and hit his head so hard on the infield that we could hear it in the upper deck. Unconscious for what seemed like hours, the crowd stood silently as trainers from both teams worked on the fallen young ballplayer. The Big Dummy and Strauss wondered if  Hee Seop was dead! An ambulance came onto the field from under the right-field stands, and everyone knew this was serious. Hee Seop eventually recovered from his injury, but was never the same player again.

When the game resumed, the drama did also. Clemens tired in the seventh inning, and with two men on base Eric Karros smacked a three-run homer into the left field bleachers, making the crowd go wild, and giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead.

With that 3-1 lead, Kerry Wood was not about to let it go. Wood, a 25-year-old Texan who grew up idolizing Clemens and Nolan Ryan, stifled the Yankees, striking out 11 and allowing three hits over seven and two-thirds innings. “It was interesting those two were matched up,” Ynkees Manager Joe Torre said, “because that’s what Roger looked like years ago.”

The Yankees had a chance in the eighth, when Wood tired and left the bases loaded with two outs for Jason Giambi. The Cubs brought in a left-hander, Mike Remlinger, who struck out Giambi on a full-count changeup to end the inning.

“The first seven innings, it was all it was cracked up to be,” Giambi said. “You could feel the intensity on the field.” The Cubs went on to beat the Yankees and deny the Rocket his 300th victory. Oh, what joy, what bliss for Strauss! Both he and The Big Dummy were exhausted from the emotions of the game, but that didn’t stop them from going to “The Duke of Perth” for cocktails afterwards.

The 2003 season was similar to 1969, and the entire Nation seemed to be rooting for the Cubs to win. Their surprising regular season run to 1st place in the NL Central, and the excellent performances of their top three pitchers, all of which were age 26 or younger, seemed to suggest that the Cubs would be a contender in the NL for the foreseeable future.

But call it the Curse of the Billy Goat, or call it whatever you want, Strauss witnessed yet another monumental disappointment.

In the 2003 National League Championship series, the Cubs, playing the Florida Marlins, were one victory away from reaching the World Series. In Fact, they were six outs from being in the World Series.

In Game Six, in the eighth inning, the Cubs held a 3-0 lead. A Marlins player hit a high foul ball toward the left field stands. A Cubs fan named Steve Bartman reached out and deflected it, attempting to catch the ball, which is a custom at Major League games, but when your team is playing at home, you are supposed to control yourself and give the Cubs outfielder a chance to catch the ball.

Steve-Bartman-001

As Strauss watched in horror, because of Bartman’s deflection, Cubs outfielder Moises Alou was unable to catch the ball for an important out. At the time, many felt that he could have caught the ball, including Alou, who would react by screaming and flailing his arms in frustration after the play. Strauss was also screaming and flailing at his television.

Bartman was forced to leave the stadium under threat from other fans, while the Marlins mounted a comeback to win the game, than eventually the series. The Cubs lost to the Florida Marlins 4 games to 3 in the NLCS. Wait Until Next Year!

At the same time, however, the Cubs’ blowing a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS, and the manner in which it occurred, seemed to reaffirm the legacy of the Cubs as “lovable losers” and a cursed franchise. Thus, the Cubs are now burdened not only with the Curse of the Billy Goat, but also the Curse of Bartman. Strauss had now been a Cubs fan for 48 years, and like an unrequited lover, was beginning to lose some steam in his fanaticism. How many times can one man be left at the altar before he cracks up?

pb-081003-cubs-segner.photoblog900

So the pain continued for Strauss. A lot of things had happened in the world since the Cubs last won a World Series, and Strauss rattled off some of them:

1. Radio was invented; Cubs fans got to hear their team lose.

2. TV was invented; Cubs fans got to see their team lose.

3. Baseball added 14 teams; Cubs fans get to see and hear their team lose to more clubs.

4. George Burns celebrated his 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th, 90th and 100th birthdays

5. Haley’s comet passed Earth twice.

6. Harry Caray was born….and died. Incredible, but true.

7. The NBA, NHL and NFL were formed, and Chicago teams won championships in each league.

8. Man landed on the moon, as have several home runs given up by Cubs pitchers.

9. Sixteen U.S. presidents were elected.

10. There were 11 amendments added to the Constitution.

11. Prohibition was created and repealed.

12. The Titanic was built, set sail, sank, was discovered and became the subject of major motion pictures, the latest giving Cubs fans hope that something that finishes on the bottom can come out on top.

13. Wrigley Field was built and becomes the oldest park in the National League.

14. Flag poles were erected on Wrigley Field roof to hold all of the team’s future World Series pennants. Those flag poles have since rusted and been taken down.

15. A combination of 40 Summer and Winter Olympics have been held.

16. Thirteen baseball players have won the Triple Crown; several thanked Cubs pitchers.

17. Bell-bottoms came in style, went out of style and came back in.

18. The Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and the Florida Marlins have all won the World Series.

19. The Cubs played 14,153 regular-season games; they lost the majority of them.

20. Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Oklahoma and New Mexico were added to the Union

Alas, this is where the story ends. In 2006, the Cubs fired Trusty Dusty, and hired a man who is anathema to Strauss. They hired the phony, blustering Lou Piniella as their manager.

For Strauss, this was it, the last straw, the end of time, the hole in the bottom of the bucket – in short – the worst hire in all of Cubs history as Strauss knew it. It was time to lay his sword down and give up his precious Boys in Blue. For 51 years he had been a loyal fan, a Cubs man through and through, but Lou Piniella, an odious character if there ever was one, was too much for Strauss. He threw away his Cubs hats, sent his Cubs shirts to Goodwill, and…GAVE THE CUBS UP!

angry-mob2

“Piniella! You washed-up Carpetbagger – Be Gone!”

Strauss has not watched a Cubs game, attended a Cubs game, listened to them on the radio, read a newspaper article about them, or watched the sports segment of the news since he gave them up at the end of 2006. He swears he couldn’t even tell you who the 2011 Cubs players are.

So I, Claus von Bulow, have come to a conclusion. Strauss’ mental breakdown and subsequent severe depression and anxiety have been caused by Strauss himself – by giving up his beloved Chicago Cubs. Make no mistake about it, there is magic to the “Lovable Losers” that cannot be replaced, and I believe Strauss is suffering from PCSD or Post-Cubs Stress Disorder.

The reason I say this is that Strauss was finishing his story as I was finishing my last drink and preparing to leave The Blue Max. As I got up to leave, I placed a hand gently on Strauss’ shoulder, and, to my amazement, I thought I heard him, in his gravelly voice singing very quietly: Go, Cubs, Go…

Go Cubs Go, by Steve Goodman

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.

The Mad Russian

Lou Novikoff  The Mad Russian 1941-1945 A Typical Cub

Sources: The Baseball Almanac, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, St. Ignatious College Preparatory

1 reply »

  1. What an incredible account of the Cubs history. I feel for and identify with Strauss entirely. Hey Hey Holy Mackerel NO DOUBT ABOUT IT!!!

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