Those Sporting Gods are a funny bunch of deities. Not funny like a “clown,” oh no, but curious, like that monkey on PBS (“George”).
At times they seem asleep at the wheel, having no interest whatsoever in the goings-on of sport, letting just about any Whosit on a hot-streak hoist the championship hardware (‘86 Mets, ‘06 Heat, ‘15 GSW, ‘15 Seahawks), then, at other times, the Gods can’t keep their all-guiding hands off of the controls.
It’s the latter practice that looks to’ve been in operation for baseball’s World Series 2016 that pitted two Title-starved foes in the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago Cubs.
The Gods must’ve had themselves a good long laugh.
Not with the winning Bruins (4-3), the team most pre-season prognosticators pegged to take the title, but in affecting the crazy course by which the Cubbies finally navigated their way, once again (‘07-08), back to the champion’s podium.
As for the Indians, Mgr Terry Francona and Cleveland brass will have ‘em back.
Emphasis on the adverb ‘again’ as most people, even the raucous revelers on State Street, have no idea (interest) that there were times, like in the 1880s (Cap Anson, King “Hook-Slide” Kelly, John Clarkson) and then early 1900s (Chance, Evers, Tinker, Brown, Kling, Overall, Steinfeldt, Reulbach) when the name Chicago Cubs struck fear into the hearts of men, even the likes of Cobb, Wagner, McGinnity & McGraw.
First, the Gods put the Tribe out front (3-1), building hope for their frustrated fans who hadn‘t had a championship since Red River was in the theaters (“Yeeee-ha!” (‘48)), then they set the Cubs, who hadn’t taken pennant since that heart-wrenching year of 1945 (FDR – WW2), storming back to even it up at three, most of their wins coming on the road at Progressive.
And if that weren’t enough to trigger the PVCs, then the deciding game 7 goes extra innings (Zzzz), has a rain-delay and had baseball writers pulling their hair out not knowing which title they were gonna’ post (’Cleveland, City of Champs!’ or ‘Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Cubs Win!’).
But if there are any fans in sportdom who can fully appreciate both the lows of losing the big match (Indians) and then the cathartic joy that comes with winning the Chalice of a Champion (Cavaliers), it would be those who reside in and around the Forest City, Ohio.
So after all their fun n’ games, why’d the Gods tab Chicago?
If there’s one thing the Divinities will not tolerate, something they simply abhor, it is the haphazard stewardship of baseball records.
If you write often about rounders you will come to rely on the wealth of statistics made available on the web at baseball-reference.com. The same sort of repository exists for other major US sports. When you cut through all the sabrmetric snooze (WAR, OPS, etc.), the site’s smorgasbord of stats is a tremendous baseball resource for which this user is grateful.
But when the boys who run the site brazenly decided in-Series to award championship rings to the Indians (appearing as a gold icon next to the relevant year in “Postseason” sections (all now removed)), as early as the close of game three with Tribe up 2-1, the Gods decided on a winner: The Cubs. There’s that, and the fact that Northsider’s dry-spell for a World Series win (1908), whether based at West Side Grounds or Weeghman-Wrigley Field, had Cleveland’s beat by 40 years. Plenty parched.
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He was near demigod status in his role shaping the Francona Red Sox teams that ended their own championship drought in 2004 and reigned again in 2007. But in doing the same for the parched pin-strippers on Chicago’s Northside (See Also; GM Jed Hoyer), Theo Nathaniel Epstein (b.12.29.73 (NY)) left behind the wunderkind tag and joined a select group of baseball executives (GM – PBO), builders who, when funded ($), create dream seasons and dynasties. It’s a membership that includes Branch Rickey (OH) and Ed Barrow (“born in a covered wagon in Springfield (Ill.)(Wikipedia)).” Big stuff.
But with progress comes a cost, a quid pro quo of sorts. You gain something, you give something up. Law of the Universe. For the Cubs and their followers that price may be the ‘lovable’ they’ve been serving up since 1945.
The legendary actor and Milwaukee native Spencer Tracy (“Henry Drummond”) spoke to this yin-yang thing in Stanley Kramer’s highly acclaimed Scopes Monkey Trial movie, Inherit the Wind (‘60):
“Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. And Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.’”
The faithful, the Cubs ownership in the Ricketts family and Manager Joe Maddon, both deserving of the Rainmaker tag themselves, the sports media, all may have failed to seriously consider what it will really mean to the Cozy World of Confine now that the Cubs have won their 3rd World Series championship.
The red, white & blue Bruins have built so much out of “nothing” it became the most beloved brand in all of sports. Everybody likes the Cubs, even before 2016. The undying love they engender in their fans nationwide is admired on par with Yankees’ prowess in play.
Winning changes everything. Fenway fans in their 40s understand that. There’s now a new expectation, a new standard in Bean Town and Chicago, too. Anything short of a World Series championship gets an incomplete grade. Tension easily rises, especially amongst those fair-weather fans who jumped the bandwagon and have the wherewithal of a wet peanut.
Finally breaking that championship drought (‘04 (1918 v Cubs)) can be cathartic for those who still hold the pain from chances that got away (‘67, ‘75, ‘86). But it’s a different mood in Boston these days. Success is sweet but it can be a pretty girl with a fickle heart: Warm when in clover, cold when the chips are down.
And that’s half hyperbole.
The ticker-tape parade down Michigan Avenue in November, so thick with confetti The Fugitive could’ve eluded police for days, was a beautiful sight to behold.
A man who knew a thing or two about progress was at the Allied controls when the Cubs were in spring training and about to embark on a season that would take them to what was to be their last NL pennant and fall classic prior to 2016 (1945). That man was U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – April 12, 1945 (d. Warm Springs, GA)):
This is what 4-termer FDR, the standard by which all Presidents are measured, had to say about progress: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (Yankees & Cardinals), but whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Royals (2015) and Cubs (2016)).”
Hooray for progress!
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: T.Epstein, wc.cca, 10.22.16, A.PardavilaIII; Sporting(MeetingGods), wc, 1630, CV.Poelenburgh; J.McGraw-F.Chance, wc, 5.2.1911, GG.Bain, LoC; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 4.27.8; gold-medieval-ring, wc, Britain, Sonofthesands; Inherit-the-wind, S.Tracy, UA, 1960; Epstein, wc, 9.8.10, S.Slingsby; MichiganAve., wc, Chicago, L.Fuss, 4.9.11, Canned-corn
Posted: 11.6.16 @ 12:40am EST; Copyright © 2016
Filed under: MLB
Tagged with: 1945, aheadofthecurve, Allies, baseball, baseball-reference.com, big stuff, Boston Red Sox, Branch Rickey, can of corn, championship ring, Chicago Cubs, chinmusic, cinema, Cleveland Indians, Cool Hand Luke, Curious George, demigod, Ed Barrow, expectations, FDR, film, Frank Chance, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Frederic March, history, Honus Wagner, Inherit the Wind, Jed Hoyer, Joe Maddon, Joe McGinnity, John McGraw, Kansas City Royals, Michigan Avenue, movies, New York Yankees, PBO, progress, PVC, quid pro quo, rainmaker, Red River, Spencer Tracy, Sporting Gods, sports, Stanley Kramer, statistics, Terry Francona, The Fugitive, Theo Epstein, Tom Ricketts, Ty Cobb, U.S. President, Whosit, winning changes everything, World Series 2016, Wrigley Field, wunderkind, WW2