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updated: 6/4/2014 5:47 PM

Radio move from WGN fouls up 'Go, Cubs, Go' anthem

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  • The song "Go, Cubs, Go" got a workout in 2007 as the Cubs won 97 games during the regular season and had fans singing at a Daley Plaza rally to celebrate a division title.

       The song "Go, Cubs, Go" got a workout in 2007 as the Cubs won 97 games during the regular season and had fans singing at a Daley Plaza rally to celebrate a division title.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Steve Goodman

      Steve Goodman

  • Video: Story of 'Go, Cubs, Go'

  • Video: Goodman, Sirott and Cubs song

 
 

Cubs fans are used to the team announcing big changes that really don't change a thing.

When the Chicago Tribune bought the Cubs in 1981, change was promised. Folks said the sale would lift the Cubs from the lovable losers run by the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. chewing gum folks to a World Series champion.

That change added a couple of new chapters to the heartbreak section of Cubs fans' diaries, but it didn't change the big picture.

When lights came to Wrigley Field in 1988, that change was going to propel the Cubs into a well-rested team that would win the World Series. That change probably gave first baseman Mark Grace a few more hours of sleep in the mornings, but it didn't change the big picture.

The comings and goings of big-time managers Don Baylor, Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella all came with promises of change but delivered the same old thing.

The Ricketts family promised change when it bought the Cubs after the 2009 season and brought in a new management team to update Wrigley Field and the team. So far, we've gotten a few coats of paint, legal posturing and 100-loss seasons.

But this latest Cubs move is a change we can believe in, unfortunately. After 90 years of Cubs games airing on WGN radio, a real change is coming. CBS, owners of radio stations WBBM and "The Score," bought the broadcast rights and are moving the Cubs off WGN.

For all of us noncenturians who don't know anything except the tradition of the Cubs on WGN, it's a shock. Details will be unveiled in a news conference Thursday. The radio frequency shift won't have anything to do with the frequency of Cub wins, but it does ruin one of the few team traditions associated with victory.

Whenever the Cubs win a game at Wrigley Field, jubilant fans stand and sing Steve Goodman's joyous "Go, Cubs, Go" anthem. It's a fun, although increasingly rare, tradition. And the radio move messes it all up.

One verse in Goodman's song promises fans: "Baseball time is here again. You can catch it all on WGN."

"I know fans won't face this dilemma too often, but what happens now after a W?" emails longtime Cubs fan Kim Pohl, a former Daily Herald reporter who actually covered a few Cubs games during her newspaper career before moving into a public relations job with Harper College.

The radio change is not music to her ears.

"Baseball time is here again. You can catch it all on WBBM Newsradio 780 and 105.9?" Pohl ponders.

"If Goodman were alive, he'd just change the rhyme," says Clay Eals, the author who wrote "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music," the definitive biography on the talented Chicago singer/songwriter, who died of leukemia at age 36 just before the Cubs would blow their first shot at the World Series since 1945. "Goodman would shrug with that impish smile and rewrite that verse. He'd just say, 'Hey, they threw me a curve.'"

In what Piniella might have called a "Cubby occurrence," Eals notes that the only time Goodman actually sang inside Wrigley Field was for a 1981 interview on WBBM TV with Bob Sirott, who now has a show on WGN radio.

"But it was in an empty stadium because it was during the baseball strike," Eals says.

Calling Goodman's anthem "a song of eternal optimism, like an ancient frieze painted on an urn," Eals hopes that one of Goodman's many songwriter friends might step up and record a new lyric "so the spirit of the song can live forever."

Cubs fans love "Go, Cubs, Go," but some of us long-suffering fans prefer Goodman's classic "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request," in which a fan envisions a fitting funeral in the "ivy-covered burial ground" of Wrigley Field. Acknowledging all the heartbreak and losing and lousiness, that Goodman song notes, "But the year the Cubs last won a National League pennant, was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan."

That line still works in 2014.

"The irony is the song we all thought would go out of date hasn't," Eals says. "And 'Go, Cubs, Go,' which we thought was universal, will have to change."

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