Jay-Z immortalizes Chicago baserunner

By Scott A. Rowan

The Cubs’ connection to the movie Major League doesn’t end with Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams. In fact, life soon imitated art when the Cubs benefitted from another team with management woes that chose to follow the plot of the movie.

This excerpt is from “The Cubs Quotient: How the Chicago Cubs Changed the World” by Scott A. Rowan. Available now at Amazon and SherpaMultimedia.com.

Major League tells the story of an unscrupulous team owner intent on moving her franchise from Cleveland to Miami. She assembles a team of misfits whom she believes will play so horribly that no fans will show up, and that the resulting poor attendance will allow her to move the team.

Back when the movie was made, there was no baseball team in Miami. But the Florida Marlins began to play in South Florida in 1993 (and were renamed the Miami Marlins in 2012). The Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and 2003, but team management copied the selfish actions of the owner from Major League when, following their second championship, they began to dump players (and their costly salaries) in order to squeeze more money out of the franchise. The Marlins cut nearly all of their productive players after the 2005 season, lowering the team’s salary from $60.4 million in 2005 to just $14.6 million in 2006. One of the players traded was outfielder Juan Pierre, a fleet-footed base stealer who bagged 65 steals during the 2003 championship season. Pierre went to the Cubs in exchange for Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolasco, and Renyel Pinto. Pierre became an instant spark plug for the Cubs, playing in all 162 games and bagging 58 stolen bases and a .292 batting average.

Chicagoans weren’t the only ones to take notice of Pierre’s skills. Jay-Z, one of the most famous hip-hop entertainers in the world, included a line about Pierre in a duet he sang with his wife, Beyoncé Knowles, called “Deja Vu”:

I used to run base like Juan Pierre,

now I run the bass, high-hat and the snare

Juan Pierre

“Deja Vu” reached No. 4 on the Billboard singles chart and helped Beyoncé’s album, B’Day, debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with 541,000 units sold the first week.

It had been 114 years since the last time a Cubs player was the topic of a song that topped the charts—back when Mike “King” Kelly was the subject of “Slide, Kelly, Slide.”

Pop is not always a lasting art form, however, as exemplified by the fact that Beyoncé’s album spent only one week atop the Billboard 200 and Pierre spent only the 2006 season with the Cubs before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent for the 2007 season.

Other Cubs songs have had more staying power than Pierre’s tenure with the Cubs. Steve Goodman wrote his song “Go, Cubs, Go”—which WGN-TV often uses as the theme music for Cubs broadcasts—in 1984. Goodman, a Chicago native and lifelong Cubs fan who died of leukemia in 1984 at the age of 36, also wrote the second most famous Cubs song, “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.” This touching song is about a Cubs fan asking that his ashes be scattered at Wrigley Field. After several years of Cubs officials denying the family from scattering Goodman’s ashes the singer’s brother, David, convinced a member of ballpark security to let him complete the singer’s final request and release his ashes in the outfield bleachers before the start of the 1988 season.

Musician Eddie Vedder may very well have written the most enduring Cubs song ever, his 2008 tune “All the Way.” An Evanston native and lifelong Cubs fan, Vedder was able to do what no other songwriter has ever accomplished: play his Cubs ode before a packed audience at Wrigley Field. Vedder and his band, Pearl Jam, played a sold out Wrigley Field in July 2013. Only time will tell if Vedder’s ode has the lasting effect of Goodman’s. But given the poetry of his lyrics (and Pearl Jam’s immense popularity), we’re willing to bet it will. Here’s a sample of Vedder’s lyrics:

Yeah, don’t let them say that it’s just a game.

Well, I’ve seen other teams and it is never the same.

When you go to Chicago, you’re blessed and you’re healed, The first time you walk into Wrigley Field.

Heroes with pinstripes and heroes in blue, Give us the chance to feel like heroes do.

Whether we’ ll win and if we should lose, we know

Someday we’ ll go all the way.

Yeah, someday we’ ll go all the way.


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