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Good Day, Game 68, How Are Ya

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Boston fans sing "Sweet Caroline" during the 7th-inning stretch. This is like that for the Cubs . . . but the musician who wrote it is way cooler.

Fell asleep last night with the TV on; oh, what a dream I had.
Fell asleep last night with the TV on; oh, what a dream I had.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
First Pitch: 1:10 PM CDT (19:10 GDT)
Weather: High Near 80, Stormy Stuff Should Be Done By GameTime
TV: FSN. Radio Song: What Are You Saying? Who Are You Playing?

It's the Cubs at Target Field today, providing an excuse to pimp one of my heroes, Cubs uber-fan Steve Goodman. He's mentioned in my TwinkieTown sig. Here's why.

Goodman was a Chicago singer-songwriter, and I can't quite define what his music should be called. It's not really folk. It's not what today we'd label "alternative." One might call it bar-band music, though it's better than any bar band you've ever heard. (Here's audio of Goodman playing in a bar: you can hear servers cleaning up bottles at the beginning, then things quieting down as everyone starts paying attention.)

Goodman got diagnosed with leukemia before he turned 21. He lived with the disease and finally died of it at 36. There's something pure genius (even unnerving) about how joyously he performed, aware cancer was waiting for him. It's like he knew that we're all in fact doomed, and decided to laugh about it.

Basically, he was a singer-songwriter. He was good friends with another singer/songwriter, the amazing John Prine. When Goodman got his first recording-label break from Kris Kristofferson, he turned Kristofferson onto Prine. Goodman and Prine would bounce song ideas off each other for years.

One song they wrote together, "You Never Even Call Me By My Name," became a hit for David Allan Coe. Prine thought the song was so silly (it's a parody of country-music cliches) that he didn't sign his name to it, and missed out on the royalties when Coe's version sold big. With his royalties, Goodman bought Prine a vintage jukebox Prine had always wanted. They were real friends.

Goodman had the best "America" song I know. After 2001, when ballparks everywhere were playing the lachrymose dirge "God Bless America" (or, far worse, proto-fascist anthem "God Bless The USA") during seventh-inning stretches, I wished one would cue up "City Of New Orleans." It's a wry, sad observation about how our society changes and what it leaves behind, with the brilliant chorus "good morning, America, how are ya."

(Personal garbage: as a kid, growing up in a really damaged home, I had nightmares constantly. One thing that made me less terrified of going to sleep was a tape my uncle made where he played his favorite songs. It had tunes by Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot which I adored, but, even as a kid, I knew the originals. I reached 30 before I discovered who first did "City Of New Orleans" -- always my favorite song on that tape. My uncle killed his cover versions. Please now forget this paragraph exists.)

Steve Goodman also wrote "Banana Republics."* And "Vegematic," and "Between The Lines" . . . I could do this all day. Goodman often covered songs by fellow Chicagoan Mike Smith, whose "The Dutchman" is absolutely, heart-breakingly beautiful. It makes me cry every time I hear it. I'm crying typing about it now.

*(He seems high as hell in that clip, possibly just having a max-energy brain-chemical day. I don't judge. Sure looks high, though.)

Goodman was a lifelong Cubs maniac, and penned several songs about his favorite team, including (with no shortage of self-awareness, I'm sure) one bleakly comic tale called "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request."

According to Wiki, Cubs GM Dallas Green sniped about "Last Request" being too dark. (OK, maybe "when the snow melts away / do the Cubbies still play / in their ivy-covered burial ground" is a tidge dark.) So Goodman whipped out a shorter, more upbeat ditty, "Go Cubs Go."

Guess what? That tune, over three decades old now, is played after Cubs wins today (although there's talk of replacing it. Damn.) People at Wrigley sing along:

See? Steve Goodman lives. And probably just where he'd have liked to.

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After losing to John Lackey on Monday, the Twins get to face another familiar ex-BoSoxer today in Jon Lester. (Why not Tim Wakefield? I'll bet he could still knuckle it over.) Lester's been pretty slick the last few seasons, and is doing fine in 2015 despite a career-high BABIP.

Monday's Lackey victim, Trevor May, gave up two dongs for the first time this year (he did so twice in 2014.) Their current-campaign digits:

Dude's Name ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 OPS v. L/R BABIP FIP
Maggie May 4.26 1.27 7.71 1.73 0.80 .708/.752 .325 3.16
Uncle Lester 3.99 1.37 8.43 3.28 1.03 .861/.745 .335 3.51

As you'd guess, May has never faced any current Cub. Lester owns Eduardo Nunez and, in fewer ABs, Plouuufffe. Hunter and Mauer killed Lester back in the day. Oddly, both pitchers are screwing up spilts logic, so I think batters should face them dead-on and swing over their heads like cavemen waving bludgeon-y sticks.

Lineups:

Billy Goat Blamers Billy Smith Blamers
Dexter Fowler, CF Brian Dozier, 2B
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Eddie Rosario, LF
Kris Bryant, 3B Joe Mauer, DH
Chris Coghlan, LF
T. Pat Plouuufffe, 3B
Starlin Castro, E-6 Torii Hunter, RF
Kyle Schwarber, DH
Kurt Suzuki, C
Chris Denorfia, RF Kennys Vargas, 1B
David Ross, C
Eduardo Escobar, SS
Addison Russell, 2B Byron Buxton, 2-20