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The World Series Finally Returns to the North Side

October 25, 2016
Hugh Atkins

Hugh Atkins

For the first time in over 71 years the Chicago Cubs have taken the field for a World Series game. The Cubs lost the 1945 World Series to the Detroit Tigers in seven games and have not returned to the Fall Classic since.

More importantly the Cubs roll into the World Series with a chance to end a lifetime of misery for their fans. As any baseball fan knows by now, it has been 108 years since the Cubs last won the World Series. That’s right, the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since the Roosevelt Administration–the Teddy Roosevelt Administration.

© T.C.G.

© T.C.G.

Even though the Cubs have been absent from the World Series since the Truman administration, they were actually in the Fall Classic on a fairly regular basis through 1945, having appeared in 10 of the first 42 World Series.

The Cubs first made it to the World Series in 1906 but lost to their crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox. They won back-to-back titles in 1907 and 1908, defeating the Tigers both times. The Cubs were back in the Series in 1910, but lost to the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1918 the Cubs lost to Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox. They had a shot at the World Series title in 1929, but again they lost to the Athletics.

In has been 84 years since the Big Bambino’s “called shot” helped lead the Yankees sweep of the Cubs in the 1932 World Series. The Cubs were back in the Series in 1935, but lost to the Tigers. The “Homer in the Gloamin’” from Gabby Hartnett propelled the Cubs back to the World Series in 1938 but they lost to the Yankees in another sweep.

After the 1945 season, the Cubs fell on hard times. From 1946-1966, they finished under .500 every year but one; they went 77-77 in 1952. They hired Leo Durocher as manager in 1966 and quickly rose to respectability in the National League, finishing third in both 1967 and 1968.

Longtime Cubs fans still remember the collapse of 1969. The Cubs jumped out to an early lead in the National League Eastern Division. They led by as many as eight games before a late-season losing streak allowed the Amazin’ Mets to climb into the top spot on September 10. The Mets would go on to win the division by eight games over the Cubs.

The Cubs blew a great shot at a return to the World Series in 1984. They won the National League East and then won the first two games of the National League Championship Series against the San Diego Padres. The Cubs headed to the west coast needing only one more win for a berth in the Series. But the Cubs came up empty after losing three straight in America’s Finest City. The 1984 Cubs are the only team in League Championship history to lose three straight games after leading two games to none in a best-of-five series.

The Cubs were back in the playoffs again in 1989 but lost to the Giants four games to one. The Cubs went to the post season in 1998 as a Wild Card team but the Atlanta Braves swept them in the National League Division Series.

In 2003 the Cubs finally won a postseason series when they beat the Braves in the Division Series. In the NLCS against the Florida Marlins, the Cubs were up three games to two and led 3-0 going into the eighth inning of Game 6. It looked as if the Cubs finally were going to make it back to the Fall Classic. But then disaster struck.

A sure inning-ending, double-play grounder went through the legs of shortstop Alex Gonzalez. The error turned what would have been a one-run inning into an eight-run frame for the Marlins. To be fair to Gonzalez, manager Dusty Baker waited too long to go to his bullpen and when he finally did, his bullpen failed miserably. Even though Game 6 ended in disaster, the Cubs still had a chance to advance, but they lost Game 7 to the Marlins the following night.

The Cubs won consecutive National League Central titles in 2007 and 2008, but the Arizona Diamondbacks swept them in the Division Series in 2007 and the Los Angeles Dodgers did the same in 2008. The Cubs were in the playoffs last season, but Arizona swept them in the Division Series.

The Cubs are very good this year. They won the National League Central going away, finishing 17.5 games ahead of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. They won 103 games; no other team in baseball won more than 95. The Cubs won 100 games in a season for the first time since 1935. But getting to the World Series is just the first leg of a long journey.

The Cleveland Indians are a good, well-rested team, with an excellent manager, and they have a streak of their own that they would like to end. The Indians last won the World Series back when Satchell Paige was pitching for them in 1948.

Either way, hang in there Cubs fans because, as Harry Caray used to say, “The Cubs are for real this year.”

(Statistics are from baseball-reference.com; game details are from retrosheet.org)

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