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Game 39: Cubs at Twins

Like the Red Sox, they were underdogs until they broke "the curse" and are now just another rich, annoying team.

John Prine And Steve Goodman Perform At Atlanta Symphony Hall
This gentleman was cooler than you. No offense!
Photo by Tom Hill/Getty Images

Time: 7:10 Central

Weather: Slightly sticky, 20% chance of T-storm, 71° at first pitch

Opponent’s good SB site with a busy logo: Bleed Cubbie Blue

TV: Steve Jobs Network. Radio: Here’s the stations, and here’s how to listen to radio on the Apple TV telecast

If it seems like lefty starter Drew Smyly has been around forever, well, he kinda has. Debuting in 2012, and always a solid contributor, Smyly has played for seven different MLB teams (and was once on the Duluth Huskies of the wooden-bat Northwoods League).

Against the Dodgers last month, Smyly was six outs away from a perfect game when this happened:

Pitchers are the best athletes on the field, as Bert always told us. (It would have been a tough play for the catcher, anyways.)

Smyly throws a 91-ish fastball with some dip, an effective curve, and a very infrequent cutter. He’s been good at reducing solid contact, so a tough match for the Twins’ barrel-challenged offense. (Although lefties are hitting him well this year).

Sonny Gray you know — and allowing three runs last Saturday (largely because of one fluky inning) is the first “bad” start he’s had this season. YTD digits:

Let’s not do “awful sports owner demands stadium money or else” this week. (Besides, sports owners aren’t the only ones who do that blackmail bit!)

Let’s do the late Cubs fan Steve Goodman instead.

When I moved to Minnesota, in 2000 (because my social life was an utter failure and I wanted to try someplace very new), I couldn’t bring my LP collection with me. Not on a plane! So I loaned/gave those to my kid brother, still in high school in Oregon. But that meant I had no music to play. I quickly decided I needed some. A guy renting a room in the same house I lived in played Billy Ocean all day and night. “When The Going Gets Tough,” the James goes to Sam Goody.

I bought a cheap CD boombox, but what CD to get? Since I still had fantasies of reclaiming my records, someday, I didn’t want an album I already owned. I settled on the John Prine anthology “Great Days.” It had some songs I knew and others I didn’t know. (And who could resist a title like “Sabu Visits The Twin Cities Alone”?)

That’s when I heard Steve Goodman for the first time, on the song he wrote with Prine, “Souvenirs.” And I was hooked.

Our home had an odd attitude towards music. My dad had been very into the early-1960s folk revival in his college days. Later, when mental illness and religious fundamentalism did a double-whammy on his mind, he banned most non-religious music from our home, as it was Satan’s earworm. But he kept a soft spot for the folk-influenced singer/songwriters of the 60s and 70s. We had Dylan, and Judy Collins, and Gordon Lightfoot. We had lots of Harry Belafonte. (Dad clearly didn’t know what an activist Belafonte was, or his head would have exploded.)

So, when I rebelled and went to college, I embraced all things LOUD and associated folk-influenced music with my dad’s repressive mania. It took me a long time to realize, some of that music is really great. And one of the greatest is lifelong Cubs fan Steve Goodman. (A short life, but a pretty cool one.)

It's a personal tradition to bring up Goodman when the Twins play the Cubs (my favorite being the history of an ad jingle he did for quick cash, and which refuses to die).

Despite writing and performing in the 70s, Goodman was never quite the post-folk, intensely personal songwriter that a Joni Mitchell or Jim Croce was — today, he might be classified as “Americana” (a catch-all term for anyone who isn’t quite folk or country or bluegrass, while using elements of each).

Goodman could do songs that were very funny and others that were wryly profound. The closest things he ever had to hits were “City Of New Orleans” and “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” (both only reaching hit status when other artists covered them). And of course he did baseball songs (when he wasn’t singing about corrupt tow trucks).

One of his most emotional numbers is this cover of a song by fellow Chicago musician Mike Smith (who also wrote this and this):

It’s a heartbreaker about growing old together, something Goodman (who died from long slow cancer at 36) probably knew he’d never do. Yet he smiles while singing it. Because it’s a great song. And he loved performing a great song.

I won’t leave you folks with that beautiful, sad song, though. Instead I’ll share a silly joyful one. People who saw Goodman live always repeat the same thing: that he could work a crowd. (He spent some time opening for Steve Martin, which he describes here.) The audience here is right with him, even if the music isn’t quite “hip” for 1982:

Silly stuff — but also a nerdtastic variation on the “talking blues” style of music. Because Steve Goodman was cool. Steve Goodman lives.

Today's Lineups

Christopher Morel - 2B Byron Buxton - DH
Dansby Swanson - SS Donovan Solano - 1B
Ian Happ - LF Carlos Correa - SS
Cody Bellinger - CF Kyle Farmer - 3B
Seiya Suzuki - RF Jorge Polanco - 2B
Patrick Wisdom - 3B Willi Castro - RF
Matt Mervis - 1B Michael Taylor - CF
Trey Mancini - DH Christian Vazquez - C
Yan Gomes - C Nick Gordon - LF
Drew Smyly - LHP Sonny Gray - RHP