The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Chicago Cubs

         Carrie Muskat, who started covering the Chicago Cubs in 1987, has written The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Chicago Cubs (Triumph Books 2021; $16.95).

         “Really there are more than 50 moments because it was hard to limit them so it’s 50 plus,” Muskat tells me in an early morning phone interview. “I always say I’m bad at math.”

Totally immersed in baseball and the Cubs, Muskat’s latest book has an introduction by Anthony Rizzo, the first baseman for the Chicago Cubs and a three-time All-Star who in 2016 helped the Cubs win their first World Series title since 1908. Her other books include Banks to Sandberg to Grace: 5 Decades of Love & Frustration with Chicago Cubs.

Carrie Muskat

Described as “the perfect primer for new Cubs fans and an essential addition to a seasoned fan’s collection,” the book recounts the living history of the team and features such greats as Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Anthony Rizzo, and Ernie Banks among others.

 Muskat, who has conducted numerous interviews with players, at times takes a different approach in her book by not only relying upon her own interactions but also by talking to people who worked behind the scenes about the moments included in  The Big 50. It was a way to gain a new perspective on some of the players such as Sammy Sosa that she knew so well.

“I talked to broadcaster Craig Lynch about Pat Hughes, the radio play-by-play announcer for the Chicago Cubs and got his insights,” she says, as a way of giving an example.

In some ways, the those decades covering the Cubs was like being part of a large family.  In her time writing about Major League Baseball—she started in 1981—Muskat says she’s watched players like Kerry Woods, the two-time All Star former Cubs pitcher who is now retired, grow. The same goes for Anthony Rizzo.

“I’ve enjoyed talking to people’s families, like Anthony’s, just talking about things,” she says. “I covered Shawon Dunston and then his son.”

In her book, Dunston shares his insight on Andre Dawson in Moment 16 of  titled “The Hawk.” Dunston recalls having a locker between Dawson and Ryne Sandberg, who he describes as the quietest guys in the world. “Combined, they didn’t say more than 20 words a day, and I’m not exaggerating.”

At the time, Dunston says he was “talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.” But by being between them, he learned to be quiet and think about the game before the game. “I learned how to be a professional because of Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg.”

These scenes from the book support Muskat’s contention that players are really just people.

“That’s one of the biggest things,” she says. “Even if they’re superstars, they’re just people when you get to know them.”

There have been changes. Reporters used to sit in the dugout but not anymore.

“It’s not as relaxed,” she says. “My favorite time is spring training which is more relaxed.”

Muskat is freelancing now but she still is on the sports beat.

“There’s always a story, every player has one,” she says.

My Cubs: A Love Story by Scott Simon

Change is an important part of life says Scott Simon, now a devoted husband and father who at one time was
 happy being single and childless.

But for Simon, the award winning host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, there’s one change that’s just not going to happen. Enamored (or should we say obsessed) with the Chicago Cubs is a never ending constant.

“I can’t imagine not being a Cubs fan,” says Simon who grew up in Chicago and attended games with his father.  “I’ll be a Cubs fan until the hereafter. I’m convinced the Almighty God would say to me in heaven, I gave you a big test–like the trials of Abraham and that was the Cubs.”

After 108 years in the proverbial desert, Simon has written about this passion in his recently released (The Blue Rider Press, 2017; $23).

It didn’t occur to me that I’d ever write this book,” says Simon who like many of us thought our Cubbies would always find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

But their enduring losses weren’t because of a goat says Simon.

Sure, Cubs authorities kicked Billy Sianis and the baby goat he nursed back to health out of the box office seats that had cost him $7.20 during the 1945 World Series against Detroit. There was talk that the goat, named Murphy, smelled like a…well…goat. But the cops and the ushers had always accepted free drinks at the Sianis’s tavern which he’d renamed—in honor of his goat–the Billy Goat Tavern. Sianis was angry and for years told reporters he sent a telegram to Phil Wrigley reading “Who stinks now?” at the end of each season when the Cubs failed to make the Series.

But the real reason they didn’t play in the World Series for another 71 years has to do with racism.

“Historically, though it eventually got hung on the Sianis family but no one at the time thought that,” says Simon who when he was writing his book Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball learned that the Boston Red Sox had a chance to sign the Hall of Famer three months before the Brooklyn Dodgers added him to their roster in 1947. “Ernie Banks and Gene Baker didn’t come to the Cubs as their first black players until 1953. They could have signed some great players before that but they didn’t. So it wasn’t the Curse of the Billy Goat but the curse of not signing African Americans until later that made the Cubs lose.”

Simon isn’t sure if the Cubs will repeat their victory.

“I think the hardest thing to do is repeat a professional championship, everyone thinks they figured out how to beat you,” he says. “But the core of this team is signed and is very good. But, as anyone will tell you, only so much of what gets you to the World Series you realize there are so many unforeseen things that can happen like injuries is talent.”

Even if they don’t win—ever again—Simon won’t waiver in his devotion to his team.
“I would have continued to be a Cubs fan even if they never won,” he says. “And I will always be a Cubs fan not matter what.”

Ifyougo:

What: Scott Simon has several book signings in the Chicago area.

When & Where:

April 11 at 6 p.m.

The Seminary Co-op Bookstore

5751 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL

April 12 at 3:45 p.m.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Conference Center

130 East Randolph Street, First Floor,

Chicago, IL

April 12 at 7 p.m.

Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville

123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL

April 13 at 7 p.m.

Barnes and Noble

55 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, IL

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