• History

The Bittersweet Story Behind the ‘Go Cubs Go’ Song

2 minute read

Hey Chicago, whaddaya say? / The Cubs are gonna win today.”

The refrain of the Chicago Cubs’ team song rang especially true on Wednesday night, when the team ended its 108-year World Series drought, and baseball fans across the country likely woke up with the notes of “Go Cubs Go” stuck in their heads.

The song “Go Cubs Go” was written ahead of the 1984 season by Steve Goodman, the Chicago-born songwriter who also wrote the Grammy Award-winning “City of New Orleans,” popularized by folk legend Arlo Guthrie. WGN Radio’s program director Dan Fabian had been looking for a hipper song to play over broadcasts than “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Fabian realized Goodman was the man for the job, even if he had offended the Cubs then-manager Dallas Green a year earlier when he debuted the song “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request,” which referred to the team as “the doormat of the National League.”

That song is considered autobiographical, as Goodman had been battling leukemia since he was 20 years old.

“What’s important is to stay on top of the game. I’ve had less depressing things happen to me, but I never once thought I was alone. There are too many people on my side. I couldn’t fail. We overwhelmed it with numbers,” Goodman told People in 1983, speaking of his health. “We haven’t won yet. The game is still on. But it’s great to be in the game.”

He died on Sept. 20, 1984, at the age of 36, six months after writing “Go Cubs Go.”

His ashes were scattered onto Wrigley Field, per the lyrics in “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request”: Let my ashes blow in a beautiful snow / From the prevailing 30 mile an hour southwest wind / When my last remains go flying over the left-field wall.

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Write to Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com