The Chicago Cubs of the National League are a Major League Baseball franchise that is all too familiar with being a bottom feeder. In 1908, when Theodore Roosevelt was in office and before World War I even began, the Cubs won their second straight World Series title over the Detroit Tigers.
Thirty-seven long years later, in 1945, the Cubs were playing in what would be their last World Series up until 2016. During game four, Billy Sianis and his pet goat, Murphy, were in attendance, but he was asked to leave due to his goat’s intolerable odor. As a result, Sianis declared, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”
Thus began the Curse of the Billy Goat. The Cubs would go on to lose the series in seven games, and would not return to the World Series for 71 years.
The Cleveland Indians of the American League have had a similar history of heartache. In 1948, just three years after the end of World War II and while Harry S. Truman was in office, the Indians defeated the Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves) in six games to capture their second World Series title. Twelve years later, in 1960, general manager Frank Lane made the controversial decision to trade the fan-adored Rocky Colavito to the Tigers.
Thus began the Curse of Rocky Colavito. The Indians managed to win three AL pennants before 2016, but they were unable to capture another World Series title in each of their appearances. In 1997, despite a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning in game seven, the Miami Marlins would come back to tie the game with one out remaining and eventually steal the series from Cleveland in extra innings.
In 2012, the Chicago Cubs finished in fifth place of their division with a 61-101 record, while the Cleveland Indians finished in fourth place of their division with a 68-94 record.
If you were to seriously and wholeheartedly tell any fan of baseball at the time that these two franchises would be competing in the World Series against each other within the next four years, there probably would have been more than a few chuckles to go around.
“You take a step and you’re like ‘nobody’? You’re looking up and down,” Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler said in a post-game conference in reference to realizing he would be the African-American to ever play in a World Series for the Cubs. “It’s awesome to be the first, and hopefully the first of many.”
It is actually happening. Each team won their respective divisions and respective pennants. The two MLB franchises with the two longest ongoing World Series title droughts are currently playing in the 2016 World Series. The first game was played on Tuesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The second game will be played on Wednesday night, with games three, four and potentially five to follow at Wrigley Field over the weekend beginning on Friday. Games six and seven, if needed, will be played back at Progressive Field next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Both team managers have managed to remain stoic despite their accomplishments so far in the 2016 season. They see this World Series as their most important matchup yet, and understandably so.
“We are so proud to get to a World Series. But our work’s not done,” said Indians manager Terry Francona shortly after clinching the AL pennant. “We need to win the World Series. So nothing has really changed.”
With forty additional years of no postseason glory, Cubs manager Joe Maddon has a similar take on what it means to clinch the pennant.
“I promise you, our guys will be in the present tense. I think we all have a tremendous amount of respect for history,” said Maddon. “After you’ve actually done it, I think that’s when you really dwell on that particular thought.”
It’s the 108-year drought vs. the 68-year drought. One of them is guaranteed to come to an end. Regardless of the outcome, the 2016 World Series will most certainly be one to remember.