Halftime Sports

The Cubs’ Unlikely Chance to Make History

October 21, 2015


USA Today

It’s official. The Chicago Cubs, who have not won a World Series in over a century, are well into the National League Championship Series. For the first time since 2003, it seems as though the Cubs have a legitimate chance at overturning the infamous “Curse of the Billy Goat.” Many Cubs fun are dreamily asking: “Is this finally our year?”

The Cubbies last won the World Series in 1908. Their World Series berth came off a win against the New York Giants in a one-game playoff, in which Giants rookie Fred Merkle made perhaps the biggest blunder in baseball history. The Cubs went on to win the second one-game playoff to break the tie resulting from the Merkle incident. In the World Series, the Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers four games to none.

Obviously, the Cubs have not won a World Series since. The 107-year drought is the longest championship drought in the four main American sports—in fact, the Cubs’ 1908 championship came before the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association even came into being. The Cubs’ last World Series appearance, in 1945, still preceded the founding of the NBA.

The Cubs have become perhaps the most beloved baseball team in the Major Leagues, the “Lovable Losers,” as their drought has extended. There are many events that have come to define the Cubs’ story, and many great players who have called Wrigley Field their home. The Cubs, although they have suffered from poor luck for over a century, have perhaps the greatest history of any North American sports team.

In 1932, Babe Ruth, the legendary Yankees slugger, called his shot at Wrigley Field during the World Series, in one of the most famous at-bats in Major League Baseball history. That home run would be Ruth’s last-ever postseason home run.

In 1930, Hack Wilson set an MLB record with 190 runs batted in—the record still stands today, and has never even been threatened.

In 1938, Gabby Hartnett launched a home run in the ninth inning of a game about to be called off due to darkness—the so-called “Homer in the Gloamin’.”

In 1976, in an act of patriotism, Cubs outfielder Rick Monday snatched the American flag from a father and son who were about to set it on fire in an act of protest.

In 1984, a year in which the Cubs reached the National League Championship Series, Ryne Sandberg launched a game-tying home run in the ninth inning against the Cardinals… and did so again one inning later.

In 1998, slugger Sammy Sosa slugged a record 20 home runs in the month of June alone; he would finish with 66 homers to win the National League MVP Award.

Also in 1998, Kerry Wood, making his third Major League start, tied a record with 20 strikeouts in one of the most dominant pitching performances of all time.

In 2003, The Cubs came within five outs of their first National League pennant since 1945. Then, the “Steve Bartman Incident” occurred—Bartman interfered on a foul ball, batting away a ball that likely would have been caught by Moises Alou. The Marlins proceeded to score eight runs in the inning to win that game, and the next, to eliminate the Cubs from contention. This incident has come to characterize the misfortunes of the Chicago Cubs’ drought, much like how the Bill Buckner error in the 1986 World Series came to characterize the Boston Red Sox’s eighty-six year wait.

Right now, the 2015 Chicago Cubs stand with a huge opportunity—with a pennant win and a World Championship, the most infamous curse in the history of American sports could be overturned, and the faithful fans of the Cubs who have suffered for decades could be rewarded. Perhaps Steve Bartman will be forgiven too.

This was not expected to happen this year. Last winter, when the Cubs signed veteran left-hander Jon Lester to a lucrative contract, many predicted that it would be next year, or perhaps two years from now, that the Cubs would be in a position to contend. Instead, with unexpected growth and performance from Chicago’s younger players—Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, etc., and a Cy-Young caliber season from right-hander Jake Arietta, the Cubs propelled themselves to the third-best season in the Majors with 97 wins. This is the best Cubs team in decades. The Cubs’ window is open now, and a World Series win is in sight.



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