Not that they need my pity, but at this All-Star break, even I'm feeling sorry for Cub fans.
No, this is not a "ha-ha, my White Sox are better than your team" or a "I hate the Cubs"
column. This, as a fellow Chicagoan, is an honest sense of frustration that this team so often fails, always after such high expectations. No one deserves this.
True, I've been a White Sox fan for almost 60 years, but that hasn't stopped me from puzzling over what can be done to pull the Cubs and their fans out of the dark, seemingly endless gloom into which they annually descend. And after due deliberation, here is my conclusion: It's not a goat or a curse. It's the name.
Cubs. Cubbies. The Cuddly Cubbies. Who's afraid of that? That's a baby's name, at best a kid's name. Might as well call them the Pups.
Or the Kittens, Chicks, Fawns, Eaglets, Kits, Goslings, Leverets, Foals
or Whelps. These names don't terrify foes. They don't arouse respect or
even slight anxiety. Wrigley Field, Home of the Bunnies.
The name's not a big deal, you say? Maybe not, but with the Cubs'
historic record of unfulfillment, don't ignore any last straw to grasp.
How did the Cubs ever get saddled with such a stupid name? Back in 1876
(yes, they've been around that long, only five years after the Chicago
Fire and almost 20 years before the Chicago World's Columbian
Exposition), they were called the White Stockings. As the White
Stockings, the team won the inaugural National League championship
(there was no American League then). But by 1894, the team had become
awful and, in hopes of changing its luck, became the Colts. That didn't
work, and after more dismal seasons and the retirement at age 45 of Cap
Anson, described as perhaps the greatest ballplayer of the 19th
Century, the Chicago newspapers dubbed the team the Orphans.
Finally, in 1902, the Chicago Daily News called the team the Cubs in
reference to its abundance of young players, including the legendary
double-play combo of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. The
other papers picked up the name, and there you have it. The trio has
long since departed, but the name stays, now symbolizing generations of
disappointment and failure. For those who would say that the name is
steeped in history and changing it would deface tradition, you can see
that a change has several precedents. As for the history that it
symbolizes, better to forget it.
So, as a public service, I will propose several new names, hoping to
get the ball rolling and that the club's fans will pick a suitable one
Something husky, broad-shouldered. Like the Stockyards. (True, the
slaughterhouses are long gone from Chicago, but the stink remains.)
Actually, to represent gritty Chicago, the name needs to be something
bold, even threatening. The Chicago Mob. The Outfit. The Dillingers.
The Capones. The Daley Machine. The Bulls and the Bears already are
taken. But something animal and male would do, like the Boars, Stags,
Steers, Jacks, Stallions or Studs. If we weren't mired in such a
politically correct swamp, we could borrow a name from our courageous
and brave antecedents, such as the Warriors. Come to think of it,
that's a good idea because going up against insufferable political
correctness would demonstrate a unique and powerful brand of guts. Ha,
take that you Twins, Cardinals, Orioles and other teams with wimpy,
Here's a long shot: If Michael would permit it, you could name the team
after one of the greatest athletes ever to come out of Chicago, the
OK, we should pick something at once mighty, contemporary and truly
Chicago. Those possibilities are bountiful. Grafters. Crooks. Boodlers.
Bandits. Ganefs. Cons. Liars. Connivers. Cheaters. I'd even take John
Kass' immortal description of the unholy political alliance that runs
things: the Chicago Combine. With the change in Cubs' ownership, now
might be a perfect time to replace the name. Many fans fear that the
new ownership will want to sell the naming rights for Wrigley Field.
Yes, that's a name steeped in history, but it's reminiscent of one of
the city's great failed sports franchise ownerships -- so get rid of
that, too, if you want.
But the ballpark's name isn't the real issue. Ditch Cubs, the loser name and all that goes with it. Give it a winner's name.
This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune.