With sidebar on honoring songwriter of "Go Cubs Go"

What a difference a few days can make.
On Monday, thousands of Cubs fans thronged Daley Plaza during a jubilant rally for the National League Central Division champs as the team prepared to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. On Friday – after the Cubs trailed 0-2 in the five-game series and hung on by a thread – there was nary a blue hat in sight amid the much sparser lunchtime crowd.
Yet architect Joe Stypka was optimistic his Cubs can win the next three games and move a step closer to the World Series.
“The Cubs have had a lot of ups and downs this year,” Stypka said as he sat on a bench and ate his lunch. “I believe they can do it. I plan on them doing it.”
But other fans have expressed caution as the 2007 postseason has unfolded, with a subdued nod to the periodic disasters that have befallen the North Side ball club. Looming large in the background are the colorful legend of the Billy Goat curse, the infamous implosions of Cubs teams in 1969 and 2003 and the perennial mantra, “Wait ‘til next year.” The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and last appeared in one in 1945.
“I’m a little reserved this year,” 39-year-old Paul Nelson conceded Wednesday night outside Wrigley Field as he bought a Cubs T-shirt from a vendor. The $30 souvenir highlighted the team’s Central Division title – a benchmark that may not come around for another four years, Nelson said.
Nearby, fans filled the Wrigleyville taverns and bars that surround the ballpark, to watch the late-night broadcast from Arizona. The real crowds were not expected until today (Saturday), when the Cubs make their first home stand – and their last, if they lose -- of the postseason.
Ald. Tom Tunney, whose ward includes Wrigley, said police already have fine-tuned their traffic- and crowd-control tactics, which include banning parking along Clark Street. The longtime Cubs fan said he’ll be out in the neighborhood keeping an eye on revelers, rather than inside Wrigley Field, where the series could be on the line.
“I get too nervous,” he said.
Chicagoan Bob Matteson, a 25-year-old real estate agent, walked through a comparatively quiet Wrigleyville on Wednesday to watch the game with friends and family at a local bar. He had tickets to Wrigley this weekend.
“I’m going on Sunday -- if there’s a game on Sunday,” he said, cryptically.
Matteson said he doesn’t believe in the Cubs curse, but wondered aloud “What happened?” in 2003 when the Cubs were five outs away from winning the league pennant and going to the World Series. A fan at Wrigley, Steve Bartman, interfered with a fly ball, seemingly triggering a series of further mishaps for the Cubs, who lost their spot to the Florida Marlins.
The curse refers to the purported hex that Billy Goat Tavern restaurateur William Sianis put on the team in 1945. The Cubs refused to let Sianis remain at a World Series game at Wrigley with his pet goat, reportedly because of the animal’s odor. When the Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers, Sianis wired the Chicago team and asked, “Who stinks now?”
It’s a great story, but the legend has really just served to help obscure the incompetence of subsequent Cubs teams, according to Chicago Tribune writer Rick Kogan, author of “A Chicago Tavern,” about the Billy Goat.
“Newspaper reporters and columnists have abetted that crime against baseball over the years, resurrecting it as an excuse for the astonishing ineptitude of this team for the last 60-some years,” said Kogan, a White Sox fan. “It’s just a wonderful, lovely and indeed playfully harmless way of explaining failure.”
“I don’t think there really is a curse,” Matteson, the Cubs fan, agreed. “It makes for a better story.”
Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or ghns-ramsey@sbcglobal.net .
‘Go Cubs Go’ songwriter honored
The late Chicago folk singer who wrote the Cubs anthem “Go Cubs Go” was recognized Friday by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and team officials.
Songwriter Steve Goodman, who died at age 36 of leukemia in 1984, penned the now-ubiquitous song that the Cubs play following wins at Wrigley Field. The Cubs-commissioned tune has become a more familiar staple this year as the team ascended to win the National League Central Division.
Quinn declared Friday “Steve Goodman Day,” but acknowledged the air of celebration may not linger. The Cubs appear at Wrigley today (Saturday) as the Arizona Diamondbacks lead them 2-0 in a five-game playoff round; one victory for the D’backs would end Chicago’s hopes.
“We have some work to do, we know that,” Quinn said. “But I think in the spirit of Steve Goodman and the spirit of ‘Go Cubs Go,’ we know that our team is going to win three in a row.”
Goodman’s mother, Minnette, was on hand to enjoy the honor. She received a special Cubs jersey with her son’s name and tickets to today’s game. Minnette Goodman got another set of tickets for Sunday’s game, too – if the Cubs can survive that long.
“God only knows I hope our Cubs can do better than they did last night,” she said, referring to the team’s 8-4 loss to Arizona on Thursday.
Steve Goodman, a die-hard Cubs fan, is known for other Chicago-oriented tunes and the song “City of New Orleans.”