Rage against Wrigley? Not a chance
'Machine' guitarist Tom Morello, lifelong Cubs fan, hopes for that elusive World Series
Guitar hero. Political activist. Graphic novelist. These are all phrases that describe Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, a die-hard baseball fan who is still waiting for the day his beloved Chicago Cubs win their first World Series since 1908.
Growing up in nearby Libertyville, Ill., Morello dreamed of playing for the North Siders. Although he currently lives in Los Angeles, his loyalty and belief in the Cubbies remain strong, as does his love for the game. In fact, Morello even partook in a contest to recreate ESPN's Baseball Tonight theme song.
Recently, the guitarist spoke with MLB Insiders Club Magazine about how he became a fan, his first trip to Wrigley Field and his thoughts on the Cubs' curse.
What was it like to throw out the first pitch at the home of your favorite baseball team?
I've done it a few times and it's more nerve-racking than playing in any concert. I've watched the first pitch be thrown hundreds of times, and it's not like 40,000 people's attention is focused on you. Then again, I've been going to Wrigley Field since I was 4 years old, and to finally stand on that mound -- the first time I did it, Kerry Wood caught the ball -- it was pretty surreal and intimidating. I had to go to the local mound in Libertyville beforehand and practice since it had been a long time since I was a Little League star.
When did your love affair with the Cubs first begin?
All of my relatives are Cubs fans, but my dear departed Aunt Isabelle, in particular, watched games every day on WGN. She got me hooked by taking me to a game when I was 4 and I've never looked back, for better or worse.
Although you weren't in grade school yet, do you have any lasting memories from your first trip to Wrigley?
Yes, it was very cold (laughs). It was one of those frigid April days when it was about 30 degrees. I was with a few friends and we were dressed for the tundra. My favorite player was Billy Williams, and this was when the Cubs also had Ernie Banks and Fergie Jenkins, and to see them live with my own eyes was exciting.
Recently, ESPN did a feature on the heartbreaking -- for Cubs fans -- 2003 NLCS Game 6 in Chicago. Were you at any games during that playoff run?
Yes, and it changed me. They actually showed me on TV the pitch before the Steve Bartman incident, holding my sign, which said "We Can" with the C being a Cubs C. So technically, I'm part of the curse, too. I really thought we had it that year. I even made the mistake of joining in the "five more outs" chant, so I'm just as guilty as the next fan for jinxing the game. If you watch the video and take a look at my face, it's part rapture and part terror. The curse is real; don't make any mistake about it.
What would your younger self have done if he knew that you would be on TV at the potentially clinching game of the NLCS to send the Cubs to the World Series, showing a sign and then having this happen?
Given what happened 90 seconds later, the younger version would have cried the same tears that the 38-year-old me did! The Cubs teams I cheered for growing up never really got a whiff of the playoffs, so the fact that they were five outs away from making it would have been something to be very, very excited about. The only difference is the younger me would have assumed that I'd be playing shortstop for the Cubs by then.
How did you become involved in the competition to recreate the Baseball Tonight theme song?
As a big baseball fan, whenever there's been an opportunity to get involved in the game, I've always been very happy to do so. It was a bit of a challenge because on one hand, it's a well-established theme and I had to make it my own. So with the help of my backing band, The Freedom Fighters Orchestra, we came up with a version that at first sounded like a stereotypical rock version of a more orchestral theme, but when I added my guitar to the top of the song, it sounded more like my style. The key was not to recreate it in a rock context, but to inject my personality and my Cubs fandom into it.
With new management in place in Chicago, what are your expectations for the future of the franchise?
To go back to my dear Aunt Isabelle, she lived 82 years without a championship. I've got two sons and am raising a new generation of Cubs fans. Although I live in Los Angeles, I made sure that they have a very complete Cubs wardrobe. I need there to be a Morello alive when the Cubs finally win the world championship. I hope it's soon and I sure hope it's this season, but it definitely feels like there's a supernatural presence holding us down, so it may take some kind of breakthrough to finally win.
What has it been like to groom two young boys into becoming baseball fans?
Right now, my oldest is just starting to understand the word baseball. He has a glove and is learning to throw a ball, but he doesn't really know what to do. But he does know how to say "Go Cubs" -- those were two of his first 10 words. It took a lot of coaching, but I'm glad to see that he's on the right track to being a lifelong Cubs fan like his dad.
This article appears in MLB Insiders Club Magazine, vol. 5, issue 3. To subscribe and join the Club, Click Here. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.