Phil Pash's Simply Sports: Babe's Beans, Wrigley's ivy walls and kudzu

The Babe’s Beans book written by Rockford’s P. J. Sullivan was in the news again recently. Actually, it was in advertising—an ad in the April 13 edition of USA Today’s Sports Weekly.

The ad was based on remarks made by Sullivan before the Cubs’ home opener, according to Sultan Press of Rockford, the book’s publisher:

“For those of you not familiar with the story told in my book, Babe’s Beans, the ghost of Babe Ruth visited me right after Boston clinched the pennant. He said that he hated being associated with the ‘Curse of the Bambino,’ and that he LOVED the Red Sox, having won three World Series while he was on the team.

“He enlisted my help in getting his magic beans into the hands of Red Sox fans, and the rest is history. His magic worked, and the Sox ended 86 years of frustration by sweeping to the world championship.

“The Babe returned to me after the Series, and to reward me for my assistance, he promised to help the Cubs in 2005. This time I’m to get his magic beans into the hands of the Cubs faithful to assure that our long wait for a championship will end.

“Just as he was leaving, I remembered the ‘Billy Goat Curse’ and asked him if that would still be a problem. After thinking about it, he said he was going to go on a ‘little goat hunt.’ Then he left, and that’s where the book ends.

“But there’s more to the story. The ghost of the Babe visited me a third time at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning, dressed like Santa Claus. He said, “Kid, I told ya I was goin’ billy goat huntin’, and the Babe always bags what he’s after. I gotta little present for ya.’

“Then he gave me 33 goat-skin pouches. ‘Kid,’ he continued ‘the Billy Goat Curse’ is dead, but the Magic Beans are still the answer to gettin’ a World Series in Wrigley Field. Cubs management brought the ‘Billy Goat Curse’ down on the team in the first place by turning away Billy Sianis and his lucky goat in the 1945 Series. So Cubs management has to step up this time and do the right thing.’

“The Babe told me, ‘You put three of this year’s beans in each pouch. Take ‘em to Wrigley Field. Give a pouch to each player, to Dusty Baker and his five coaches, to Jim Hendry and Andy McPhail. I’m telling ya, kid, if management helps you distribute all 33 pouches, the magic is guaranteed to work. But if they’re like the 1945 Cubs’ honchos, well … I don’t know if any amount of magic can help the Cubs.’

“Then he said, ‘Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas, kid!,’ and disappeared right through the wall.

“Well, I’m going to do exactly as the Babe said. The first beans will be ready in early August. I’m putting Andy McPhail and Jim Hendry on notice right now that I’ll be at Wrigley Field for the Cubs-Cardinals game on Aug. 14 to distribute the 33 pouches. It’s up to them to accept the magic, and not be like the ’45 management team that brought about the ‘Billy Goat Curse,’ which has bedeviled the team for 50 years.

“Babe’s Beans ends with the words … I believe, and I DO believe. Let’s hope Cubs management learned something from the Billy Goat Curse, and embraces this talisman. Rejecting the lucky goat in 1945 caused a 50-year curse. I would hate to see history repeat itself.

“The faithful must make their belief known.” To help make that happen P.J. is giving away ‘I BELIEVE’ wristbands, stadium banners, car magnets and T-shirts with every copy of his book ordered (

A ploy to sell more books, or will it work? Who knows? I don’t. I just tell you about some of the weird things that come my way. Read on for an idea that came to me while watching the Cubs on TV.

The ivy vines on the walls at Wrigley Field still are brown. They will green up, but right now it looks like the Cubs’ park has been taken over by kudzu. Kudzu?

Yes, kudzu, which is taking over the Southeastern U.S. Estimates are it covers more than 7 million acres of the deep South, and is spreading every day. The vines grow as much as a foot per day during summer months, climbing trees, power poles and anything else they contact. Under ideal conditions, kudzu vines can grow 60 feet each year.

While they help prevent erosion, the vines also can destroy valuable forests by preventing trees from getting sunlight. This problem led Dr. James H. Miller of the U.S. Forest Service in Auburn, Ala., to research methods for killing kudzu.

In 18 years of research, he has found that one herbicide actually makes kudzu grow better while many have little effect. Miller recommends repeated herbicide treatments for at least four years, but some kudzu plants may take as long as 10 years to kill, even with the most effective herbicides.

Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Countries were invited to build exhibits to celebrate the 100th birthday of the U.S. The Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country. The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms of kudzu captured the imagination of American gardeners, who used the plant for ornamental purposes.

Florida nursery operators, Charles and Lillie Pleas, discovered that animals would eat the plant and promoted its use for forage in the 1920s. Their Glen Arden Nursery in Chipley sold kudzu plants through the mail. A historical marker there proudly proclaims “Kudzu Developed Here.”

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. Hundreds of young men were given work planting kudzu through the Civilian Conservation Corps. Farmers were paid as much as $8 an acre as incentive to plant fields of the vines in the 1940s.

The U.S. government stopped advocating the use of kudzu in 1953, and the USDA declared kudzu to be a weed in 1972. Common names for kudzu include: Mile-a-minute vine, foot-a-night vine, and the vine that ate the South.

Babe’s Beans, the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley and a short history of kudzu—where else will you find that combination?

From the April 27-May 3, 2005, issue

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