Monday, March 15, 2010


Spring training is underway here in Arizona and, as usual, I’m going to games. It’s one of the good things about living here. I’ve seen the Cubs three times so far and have tickets for two more of their contests, among others.

I wish I could update you on the Cubs’ progress or lack of it, but you can’t tell much about a team from a few games, spring or regular season. Generally speaking, no news is good news at this time of year because, when news happens, it’s usually about injuries, which aren’t good. It looks like relief pitcher Angel Guzman is lost for the season with arm woes, but that’s been it so far in Cubbyland. If that’s its last such setback the team can consider itself lucky.

But one thing I have noticed around HoHoKam Park—as I have in previous years-- is Cubs’ fans’ attachment to their team’s past. A lot of them show up wearing uniform shirts with players’ names on the back, and ones inscribed with the likes of “Banks,” “Sandberg,” “Grace” and even “Wood” far outnumber those honoring current team members. That’s curious, because Cub history has been famously unhappy, and while the above-named individuals usually played very well (except for the knuckleheaded Wood) their eras were anything but glorious.

We’re stuck with the history we have, of course, but it’s hard to see how dwelling on it can help present prospects. Cub players often are questioned about the burden of their team’s unique record of failure, and always reply that they give it little thought. How can it not weigh on them, though? It’s a bigger and darker cloud than the one Milton Bradley dragged around last season.

Look at the team’s annals and what do you see? Babe Ruth’s “called shot.” The Collapse of 1969. The Collapses of 1984, 2003 and 2008. The dreaded “Billy Goat’s Curse.” The black-cat incident of ’69 at Shea Stadium. The Bartman Goof. It’s enough to depress Mary Poppins.

Worse, it’s all such silly stuff. Ruth homered against everyone. Plenty of teams have contended for pennants and fallen short but haven’t let such things define them. The famous curse didn’t emanate from a goat but from its owner, saloon-keeper Sam Sianis, who was peeved that the Cubs wouldn’t allow his pet into a 1945 World Series game, but nobody could blame the team for expelling a smelly, four-legged animal from its premises. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to sit next to it.

Black cats? They’re all over the place and we’d all be dead if encountering one were immediately fatal. A cat didn’t cause the Mets to win the 1969 National League pennant and World Series title, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw and timely hitting did.

As for poor Bartman, one can only be sorry for the guy. My feelings for him run so deep I’ve put them to rhyme, to wit:


The ball traced an arc
Through the inky night air.
The fans watched its flight—
Was it foul or fair?

Alou drifted right,
Almost touching the wall.
He stuck out his glove,
But where was the ball?

Bartman reached it first
From his seat in the stand,
And deflected its course
With his outstretched right hand.

The fans first were stunned,
Then reacted with boos.
Bartman fled the scene;
Each boo left a bruise.

He made for the El,
Went home, packed a case.
Donned false nose and mustache,
Checked out of his place.

He’s still on the lam
And his life is no garden,
Up in Tora Bora
With Osama bin Ladin.

But isn’t it time
We eased up on the guy?
Give him a break.
Let sleeping dogs lie.

Because, ask yourself,
Just what was his shame?
If you’d been there instead
You’d have done the same.

Let’s repatriate Bartman and have a day for him at Wrigley Field. Give him a new glove and a season ticket, although not on the left-field line. Forgive and forget; we’d all feel better for it.

Maybe the Cubs would, too.


Mike Levy said...


Keep writing 'bout sports, leave poetry to poets

Stick to the stories, 'cause that's what you knowit

With all your sports knowledge you should be a better chooser

Than to support a team of perennial losers

'Cause in the Windy City just one baseball team rocks

It sure ain't the Cubs, it's the Chicago White Sox.

Once again this year in advance I offer regrets

The Cubs won't finish top, I'm taking all bets

My commiserations,
Mike Levy

Anonymous said...

nice to know you ~........................................