#Hot Corner

Papa Elf and the Chicago Cubs

Last night I started reading Bob Newhart's memoir -- you might know him from little holiday favorite called Elf -- and before long I came across this passage:

My mom was a Cubs fan and so was I. She and a friend often took me to games when I was young. My dad was a Sox fan. I never went to Sox games.

Listening on the radio to a typical Sox game, I would hear that Nellie Fox would walk. Then the next batter, Luis Aparicio, would bunt, and Nellie Fox would run to second. Next, Minnie Minoso would hit a fly ball, and Fox would go to third. Finally, somebody would single and Fox would score. It was dull.

But the Cubs were exciting. Bill Nicholson could hit a homer at any time and clear the bases. I can still name the lineup from the 1945 Cubs, the last team to win the pennant. They were: Phil Cavarretta at first base, Don Johnson at second, Roy Hughes at shortstop, Stan Hack at third, Mickey Livingston behind the plate, Hank Borowy on the mound, and Peanuts Lowrey, Andy Pafko, and Nicholson in the outfield. Really, that was from memory!

I believe it's from memory! If only because he got the wrong shortstop, sort of. See, Roy Hughes started only 30 games at shortstop that season. Lennie "Boots" Merullo, on the other hand, started 111 games at short. Ah, but maybe Newhart is recalling the World Series, in which Hughes started six of the seven games.

Anyway, Newhart continues ...

Until 2005, when the Sox won the World Series, both Chicago teams had underachievement in common. The Cubs, known affectionately as the lovable losers, had not won the series since 1908, and the Sox hadn't won since 1917. While the White Sox have forever been plagued by the Black Sox scandal of 1919, in which several players took bribes from gamblers and threw the World Series, the Cubs are famous for the curse that happened in 1945‚ the last time they made it to the World Series.

As legend has it, a bar owner named Billy Sianis brought his pet goat to game four of the 1945 World Series and was ejected on orders of owner P. K. Wrigley midway through the game because the goat smelled. Sianis, who owned the Billy Goat Tavern, hexed the Cubs, declaring that they would never win the World Series as long as the goat was not allowed at Wrigley Field.

Over the years, every time the Cubs have gotten close to winning the pennant and advancing to the World Series, something bizarre has snatched it away and talk of the curse is renewed. When I lived in Chicago, I was never familiar with the curse. I was just perennially disappointed.

None of which is particularly surprising, if you know anything about Chicago baseball history. But I've adored Bob Newhart since I was a little boy, and so it's nice to discover that he loved baseball when he was a little boy. When he'd grown up some, he recorded the following routine for his wildly successful first record ...


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