On the surface, it may not seem like such an interesting story: the National League’s best team (and consensus preseason pick to win the World Series) will play tonight against the American League’s second-best team in game 1 of the 2016 World Series. But it’s incredibly unlikely, given the two teams representing their respective leagues.
The AL champion Cleveland Indians, the class of the Central division from 1995-99, are making their first World Series appearance since their heartbreaking seven-game (extra innings in game 7, of course) loss to the Florida Marlins in ’97. They also appeared in the 1995 Fall Classic, their first postseason participation since being swept by the New York Giants in ’54. Their only titles came in 1920 and 1948; the ensuing 67 year drought is the second-longest streak in baseball.
The longest, every decent fan knows, belongs to the Chicago Cubs. Not only does their title deficiency stretch all the way back to 1908 (107 years!), they haven’t even appeared in the World Series since 1945. Game 7 was played October 10, just over one month after V-J Day–the official end to World War II.
Obviously, it would be too easy to put this historical awfulness in perspective by comparing modern amenities and conveniences with those available in ’45. “Gah! No smartphones?! What sort of cultural backwater was that?” “Forty-eight states? What’s up with that?!” “Politicians trying to drum up support among the electorate by singling out people different from them? Appalling!” (Okay, so that second example technically started in ’47. But, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and all that, amirite?).
Instead, I thought it would be a little more fun and obscure to do so with baseball-specific trivia. So, without further, potentially one last jab at the expense of the Cubs and their fans.
- Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon (b. 1954) wasn’t born yet.
Same for owner Tom Ricketts (b. 1963). Maddon’s predecessors (Rick Renteria, Dale Sveum, and Mike Quade) weren’t born yet, either. Lou Piniella was 2 when the Cubs last represented the NL in the World Series. The last Cubs manager to likely have any memory of their participation was Don Zimmer (b. 1931); he was fired from that position in 1991.
- Interleague play wasn’t even a faint glimmer in Bud Selig’s eye; in fact, he turned 11 the summer of the Cubs’ most recent postseason success.
- The AL wouldn’t adopt the designated hitter, forever rendering that league inherently inferior to the NL, for another 28 years.
- The streak turned 13 shortly after current commissioner Rob Manfred was born (1958).
- Blacks were still banned from baseball in 1945. To put it another way, 69 years after Jackie Robinson integrated MLB, Chicago will finally have a black player appear in the World Series. Way to be behind the curve! Dexter Fowler (assuming he leads off for the visitors’ half of the first) will be the first; Addison Russell will also likely start, but Jason Heyward is a toss-up, considering he started NLCS game 6 on the bench and has had an all-around miserable postseason (.071/.133/.179). For whatever it’s worth, Cleveland’s Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the AL less than three months behind Robinson and appeared in the ’48 World Series.
- Among its 16 member franchises, MLB had two teams in Boston, three in New York, two in Philadelphia, and two in St. Louis. Those four cities used to make up 56.25% of the league’s teams; now it’s 16.67% (5 of 30). Only the Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Tigers, Phillies, Pirates, Reds, and Yankees still play in the same metropolitan area.
- The Boston Red Sox ended their futility (1918-2004) and have won the World Series three times (2007 and ’13, too)! Even Chicago’s south-siders, whose previous triumph came in 1917, won it all in 2005.
- Six expansion franchises (est. 1962-present) have won the World Series:
- Mets in 1969 and ’86
- Royals in 1985 and 2015
- Blue Jays in 1992 and ’93
- Marlins in 1997 and 2003 (see inset)
- Diamondbacks in 2001
- Angels in 2002
- The clock on the NL’s second-longest title drought, belonging to the Giants, began ticking with their win in 1954 and lasted until their recent string of success started in 2010.
- Connie Mack would manage the Philadelphia Athletics for another five seasons. He was born in December 1862, during the American Civil War. The Battle of Antietam had just been fought the previous fall, and Gettysburg was still over six months away.
- Ty Cobb was baseball’s career hits leader, with 4189; Pete Rose would not surpass that mark until forty years later, in 1985.
- Babe Ruth was baseball’s home run king, holding both the single season record of 60 (he’s now 8th on that list) and career mark of 714 (3rd).
- Walter Johnson held the record for the lowest single season ERA recorded in the post-dead-ball era (1919-present): 1.49 in 1919. Any good Cards fan knows Bob Gibson was the first (and only) pitcher since to come in below that number, when he posted his remarkable 1.12 in 1968.
- George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns laid claim to the longest hitting streak in baseball’s modern era, beginning in 1901, with hits in 41 consecutive games in 1922.
- Lou Gehrig was still baseball’s “iron man,” and would be for another forty years.
- Only three perfect games had been tossed since 1901; the current count is at 21.
- The Yankees had already won ten World Series, and lost four more. Seventy-one years later, the Cardinals are the only franchise to have made it to double-digits, which they accomplished in 2006. To this day, only four other franchises (Giants, Cardinals, Dodgers, and A’s) have even appeared in at least fourteen Fall Classics.
- The Red Sox, Giants, White Sox, and Cubs are the only franchises that had won a World Series when the Cubs won their latest and last in 1908.
Care to take any other cracks at the Cubs’ futility? Comments on this matter are most definitely encouraged below.