By Steven Keys

Now that the Chicago Cubs have rediscovered their long dormant championship flair, a find expedited by an ownership (Ricketts) that acquired top manager (Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon) and player talent, the 2017 MLB spotlight swings Midwest, back to the region where major league ball was first imagined (Hulbert), empowered (NL – 1876) and then came to thrive.

Champions for the 9th time (Anson (6), Chance (2) & Maddon (1)), the new & improved Northsiders seem to have vision, egos largely in check, are still wearing their classic blue-pinstripes and still lovable even as ticket prices climb. All of it is, of course, a friggin’ nightmare for Cubs regional rivals (CWS, STL, etc.). But then teams of substance love a challenge, right?

cubs-wc-18k-1957-78-sportslogoThe toast of that “toddling town,” the “big shoulder(ed)” Bruins who last November won their first World Series since 1908, that being 2d in a back-to-back (07), making it the first dynasty in the Series era, the same year “Take Me Out To The Ball-Game” made the scene, currently hold the biggest championship sandwich in all of sport.

The Cubbies (you can still call ’em that) took Major League Baseball’s first title in 1876 when the great Al Spalding (Byron, IL) was a top moundsman precedent to launch of his sporting goods empire, and have sandwiched in that 140 years all the good & bad included therein, by way of their 2016 triumph over the hearty Cleveland Indians (4-3).

Baseball may not’ve been invented in the Northwest Territory but its people and their passions played the major role in turning the game and its value into America’s national pastime.

While the White Stockings (Cubs), led by legends like Spalding, Fred Goldsmith, Ross Barnes, Deacon White, Cap Anson, King Kelly, Larry Corcoran, George Gore & John Clarkson, were dominating the new NL in taking 6 of its first 11 championships, including 3-straight (1880-82), 250 miles southwest, German immigrant made-good-in-beer, owner Chris von der Ahe was building his St. Louis Brown Stockings of the rival American Association, a team featuring Charles Comiskey and Bob Caruthers, into an equally titanesque team, one that dominated their fraternity in fashioning their own dynasty in winning 4-straight AA titles (1885-88).

cubs-wc-bpl-1906-196kLook at the line: Harry & George Wright’s Cincinnati Red Stockings (1869), Chicago wheeler-dealer William Hulbert who first conceived of the major league and then worked to keep it alive (1875-6), acting with iron-fist as defacto Commissioner, the White (Cubs) and the Brown Stockings (Cards): Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Providence, they all had their glory, some of it sustained. But until Babe Ruth suited up for the majors (Red Sox / Yanks), regardless of what John McGraw might say, west of the Appalachians was where the game’s ‘main office’ would remain until the 1920s.

Since the Yankees gave up their World Series monopoly (1963), the joy of winning has spread from coast-to-coast. Good for baseball, good for fans, worldwide.

Today, it’s the Cubs who stoke Midwestern pride. And as the Bruins are the most popular sport franchise in the nation, even before they raised their latest championship banner, or will come April, that state means plenty.

Their biggest off-season news, exit of table-setter Dexter Fowler to St. Louis. Cubs will miss his run production (84 – 125g) and playoff pop. What they won’t miss of the 30-year old are his SOs (124) and low OBP% (.393).

arrieta-wsg6-11-2-16-a-pardavilaiii-3-2mCardinals: Though the Yanks have had rebirths in more recent times (70s / the Joes), from 1926 to the present it’s been the Cardinals who, while never fashioning back-to-backs, have been the consistent standard of excellence in the major league game on par with the Highlanders.

Tigers: It’s been 30+ years since Michigan’s pride won a World Series in that transcendent 1984 when Sparky Anderson & Company jumped out early and never looked back (.614). Two flags and a half dozen playoffs under Jim Leyland left the franchise hopeful yet frustrated. Aces remain in the aging Verlander and Cabrera, purse-strings tighten on big payroll and Tigers’ ownership seem content to lick their wounds for now.

Indians: Like Detroit, after Mike Hargrove’s two pennants and two World Series losses, the Tribe lowered expectations for a time. Now back on a mission with the same man who helped quench the Red Sox championship drought (x2), hoping Terry Francona can get his club back to another Series, up 3-1 and able to close the deal.

Royals: Cast-off from Milwaukee, Ned Yost has managed Kansas City to two pennants in three years and a World Series win (‘15), Royals first since 1985 when Dick Howser skipped, Brett hit, Saberhagen won and Quisenberry closed. KC Stumbled a bit in 2016 but kept heads above water (81-81) and expect to contend again.

rizzocelebrates-wc-11-3-16-642k-a-pardavilaiiiBrewers: Kick themselves for thinking Yost the wrong man (fired 2008, 83-67). For a club priding itself on thrift, even with one flag in 47 years (‘82), they should kick themselves, hard. Good call on Prince Fielder but at 5’11” near 300 lbs., how long could it last? Wisconsin taxpayers still wait for a return (WS) on their Miller Park investment (2001). Patience is a virtue, until it’s not, Mark.

White Sox: Cubs southside rival (1901), Sox play in a park (Guaranteed Rate) whose name changes for dollars, making it occupant’s poor play seem of lesser importance. Champs in 2008, Pale Hose now remind Chicagoans of ‘85 Bears whose single Super win stands as both a testament to excellence and unfulfillment.

Reds: Last pennant, 1990 (W).

Twins: Last pennant, 1991 (W).

Pirates: Last pennant, 1979 (W).

canned-cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: RizzoCelebrates, wc.cca, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; Cubs-logo, wc, 1957-78, sportslogo; CubsTeam, 1906, BostonPublicLibrary, wc; CubsCelebrate, wc, 11.3.16, A.PardavilaIII; J.Arrieta, wc, 11.2.16, WS-G6, A.PardavilaIII; can-of-corn
Posted: 1.4.17 @ 3:36pm EST; Copyright © 2017

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