(Soundbite of song "Take Me Out To The Ballgame")
ALISON STEWART, host:
Ah, baseball season starts in earnest today, so what does that mean? The Best Song In The World Today is baseball-related. Remember, The Best Song In The World Today doesn't have to be the most popular or have the best groove, but it's got to have a good story. Producer Dan Pashman is here to tell us about it. Hi, Dan.
DAN PASHMAN: Hi, guys. How you guys doing?
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
PASHMAN: So, the music you are hearing right now is compliments of Steve Goodman and Jethro Burns, more on Steve Goodman in a minute. But today, as you said, Ali, is the real opening day of the baseball season, and this opening day, in particular, people are talking a lot about my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. That's because this season marks 100 years since the Cubs last won the World Series.
STEWART: Oh, no.
PASHMAN: Yeah. Now, there are a lot of ways to illustrate just how long ago that was, but here's my favorite. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was nine years before the Bolshevik Revolution.
STEWART: That's a long time, Dan.
PASHMAN: Yes, communism rose and fell and the Cubs didn't win a World Series. But you know, I wasn't always a Cubs fan. I actually grew up as a New York Yankees fan, and I converted to a Cubs fan as an adult, which took about five years. And you guys know me. You can imagine that that's not a decision I came to lightly.
PASHMAN: Long story short, the Yankees only consider a season to be successful when they win the World Series.
PASHMAN: And I came to realize...
MARTIN: Well, because they do so often.
PASHMAN: Exactly, high expectations, and I came to realize that that attitude takes the fun out of being a sports fan. Basically, because the most exulted moments in sports come when your team exceeds expectations and they take your wildest dreams and fantasies and make them a reality. If your team expects to do the very best thing that they can possibly do, than you can never exceed expectations.
PASHMAN: There's only satisfaction or disappointment.
STEWART: Or paying more for another player.
PASHMAN: Or that.
MARTIN: Or ticket prices.
PASHMAN: And that point was driven home to me when I went to the Yankees' clinching game of the World Series in 1998 and saw just how relatively unimpressed the fans were. It just didn't seem that exciting. Fast forward to 2003, I'm living in Chicago, rooting for the Cubs a bit, and then that year the Cubs went on a very improbably run, all right?
They exceeded all expectations and Cubs mania swept the city, and the Cubs got into the playoffs, and when they just got into the playoffs, we poured out into the street. They had to close down the streets around the ballpark, and we were all out in the street singing and celebrating. We were singing Steve Goodman's cheesy but beloved Cubs anthem, "Go Cubs, Go."
(Soundbite of song "Go, Cubs Go")
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Go Cubs, Go! Go Cubs, Go! Hey, Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are going to win today. Go Cubs, Go!
PASHMAN: So, at that very moment, there in the street signing "Go Cubs, Go," I realized that I was a Cubs fan.
STEWART: He'd been baptized. He was healed.
PASHMAN: I said amen. But that's not The Best Song In The World Today, because, you see, to really call yourself a Cubs fan, you have to experience some serious pain, and that's what happened to me a couple weeks later when the Cubs completely self-destructed, just five outs away from the World Series. It was the most crushing defeat of my life as a sports fan.
But the great thing about Cubs fans, I have to tell you, is that 99 years of bad teams and bad losses have not robbed the fan base of a sense of humor, and nowhere is that more evident that in The Best Song In The World Today. Now, like I said, Steve Goodman wrote "Go Cubs, Go," which you just heard. So, as you might guess he's from Chicago, big Cubs fan. He also wrote "The City of New Orleans," which was made famous by Arlo Guthrie, and the famous country song "You Never Even Call Me By My Name," by David Allen Coe.
And Goodman was a pretty successful signer-songwriter in his own right from the early '70s and the mid-'80s, and throughout that time he was singing, he was battling leukemia. And in 1984, sadly, he passed away at the age of 36. Eleven days after Steve Goodman died, the Cubs played their firstly playoff game since 1945, and he was supposed to have sung the National Anthem at that game.
And obviously he could not, and instead, his friend Jimmy Buffet filled in, took his place. But right before Goodman died, he wrote a musical will, of sorts. It's a song that truly, to me, truly typifies the Cub fan's ability to laugh through the pain, and it's entitled, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request," and here's how it begins.
(Soundbite of song "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request")
MR. STEVE GOODMAN: (Singing) The dying man's friends told him to cut it out...
PASHMAN: That's - it's another clip, but it begins sort of him talking about this dying man in his death bed, and he's surrounded by his friends, and they put his Cubs hat on, and they surround him and he says, "I'm never going to get to go to Wrigley Field again. I'm never going to get to see my team play again."
"But if you have your pencil and your scorecard ready, I'm going to read you my last request," and he sings the - and the first chorus is sort of a," do they still play the blues in Chicago?" he asks. And he asks questions, like "When the snow melts away, do the Cubbies still play, in their ivy-covered burial ground?" He blames the Cubs for driving him to drink.
MARTIN: Oh, no.
PASHMAN: He describes - and then he goes on to describe his ideal Wrigley Field funeral in great detail. You know, he wants his coffin carried around the bases. He wants everyone to get peanuts and frosty malts. And then he wants his ashes, he wants them to build a bonfire out of their bats. And here is the beginning of the song playing in the background, and so he's describing this funeral in detail.
And he comes to the end of the song and he wants them to build a big bonfire on home plate and throw his coffin, and he wants his ashes to blow out of the ballpark. And actually, his ashes were scattered over Wrigley Field after he passed away. So, I want to play the last part of this song, after he has described his funeral in detail, and his friends are gathered around his deathbed. And this is The Best Song In The World Today. It's "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" by Steve Goodman.
(Soundbite of song "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request")
Mr. GOODMAN: (Singing) The dying man's friends told him to cut it out. He 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 tickets to watch the Angels now, So it's just what I'm going to do. He said but you the living, you're stuck here with the Cubs, So it's me that feels sorry for you.
And he said, ah, 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 here 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. ..TEXT: MARTIN: That's nice.
PASHMAN: Go Cubs.
MARTIN: And that is The Best Song In The World Today. Thanks, Dan.
STEWART: Thanks, Dan.
PASHMAN: Thanks, guys.