Cause for Celebration in Chi-Town


Starting pitcher Jon Lester was a big reason for the Cubs' success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

By Matthew Michaels 

Starting pitcher Jon Lester was a big reason for the Cubs' success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)
Starting pitcher Jon Lester was a big reason for the Cubs’ success this season. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Misery does not endure eternally. If you want proof, talk to a Cubs fan.

Chicago’s lovable losers became America’s heartthrob, and with their backs against the wall, the Cubs did not fail to disappoint. On Nov. 2, Chicago’s National League franchise squeezed out a nail-biting, extra-inning victory against the Cleveland Indians. The Game 7 win clinched the World Series for the Cubs, and by reigning as the supreme baseball team of 2016, the organization ended its 108-year title drought, a record for a major North American sports league.

It is difficult to put the Cubs’ playoff foibles into proper prospective. Few living people were sentient when Chicago last took home postseason glory in October 1908. Nonagenarian actress Betty White has been making light of her advanced age for years, but even she was born more than 13 years after the double play team of Tinker to Evers to Chance won the World Series. For fans of baseball’s north side team, the 2016 champions are the best thing since sliced bread, which was invented after the drought had commenced.

Aside from the Cubs winning the World Series, the sports world appeared vastly different in 1908. The fourth modern Olympic Games were held in London over six months of competitions. While MLB was extremely popular by 1908, the NHL, NBA and NFL were all years away from being formed. That season, Tim Jordan of the Brooklyn Superbas, later Dodgers, led the league with a dozen home runs. Fordham attendee Ed Walsh paced the way with 40 pitching victories. Each of baseball’s two leagues consisted of eight teams for a much smaller competitive field than today’s 30 clubs offer, and the winner of each league automatically went to the Fall Classic. And of course, baseball was segregated for close to 40 more years. Since this was the Cubs’ first appearance in the World Series since 1945, 2016 was the first time black players were on the Cubs’ World Series roster.

The world itself has changed drastically since the Chicago’s repeat performance in the 1908 Series. The Ottoman Empire was still standing and the USSR was not even nascent. World War I was several years away. William Howard Taft won the Presidential Election by carrying a majority of the country’s 46 states. Fewer than eight million people, or the current population of New York City, voted for Taft, in large part because of the much smaller population and lack of women’s suffrage.

Wrigley Field is the oldest ballpark in the bigs, but the friendly confines were not yet built on Addison and Waveland in Chicago. If fans wanted to follow along to the Cubs in the 1908 World Series, they would have had to have attended West Side Park, capacity 16,000. Television was a far-off dream and radio was not yet commercially available. The 1908 Cubs won the World Series in Game 5 in Detroit in front of only 6,000 spectators in a game that took one hour and 25 minutes to complete, a far cry from the lengthy playoff games of today.

Cubs’ legends Ernie Banks and Ron Santo both passed away in recent years and along with broadcaster Harry Carey, they lived and died without their team ever being on top of the sport. Millions and millions of loyal fans also experienced this unfortunate fate.

Of course, the Cubs’ accomplishment means that Cleveland Indians fans are in turmoil. The Tribe now owns baseball’s longest title drought with its last series win coming in 1948. Sixty-eight years in championship purgatory is a miserable state to be in, but the Indians are unlikely to match the Cubs’ drought by going 40 more years without winning it all. The Indians’ basketball counterparts, the Cavaliers, won the NBA title earlier this year to end the city’s title drought which encompasses all sports teams. Unfortunately, a pennant for the Tribe was still not enough, especially after blowing a three games to one lead in the World Series. But despite the agony of defeat, Indians fans can still find solace in their loss. When the Indians finally do win it all, it will be that much sweeter. In the meantime, they can enjoy the game that bridges generations, whether they are winners or losers.