When I called the big cancer hospital in New York to get his address so I could send a get-well card, I didn't know they'd connect me to his room and he'd pick up the phone. Oh, I didn't really know him either.
I've seen him sing and play lots of times. I've spoken to him once and got to see his kindness up close.
But I didn't know, as he'd known since he was a very young man, that there would be no getting well for him. The leukemia would cut short his time. So when he picked up the phone from his hospital bed and said "Hello?" I could only sputter out something like, "Um, you don't know me. But I really like your music and could I have an address to send you a card?"
He answered, the way he sang, as if he was smiling. I could feel that smile even on the phone, as he said, "Why certainly!" and gave me the address.
Steve Goodman, who died in 1984 at age 36, could (his wife once wrote) "extract meaning from the mundane." The kind of meaning that, A. Bart Giametti once wrote, could "keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive."
You do that when you write a masterpiece like "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request," blending laughter in with the tears and the wisdom. Don't know of any song like it. And I always wonder if knowing he didn't have much time at all helped Goodman tell this story so perfectly. Because this is story that is not just about baseball, it's a story of hope.
If you don't know the song, treat yourself to a listen. The story will tell you everything you need to know about what it means to dig below the surface distractions, the mundane, and simply love baseball. What it means to hope.
This year the Cubs are actually predicted to win the World Series. Predicted by people who actually know about stuff like this.
Could it happen? Of course it could.
And if it does, know that the guy playing the music in the back of your mind will be Steve Goodman. Singing across the generations with Cub heroes like Santo, Banks and Andy Pafko. Singing to "keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive."
This year we raise a frosty mug to the "prevailing 40mph winds" and sing to what lasts in the rhythm of baseball time. This year we hope. And this year we sing;
Hey Steve Goodman! This one's for you!