World Series with a difference

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This week saw the start of the World Series in Baseball taking place between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs. The series could be headlined as ‘the battle of the droughts’, as that is one thing that these two franchises share is their lack of success in the post-season and where both rank first and second for the longest wait for another title in Major League Baseball history.

Cleveland have gone 48 years without winning a championship and saw their last title success coming way back in 1948, when they defeated the Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves). For the Chicago Cubs, them and their fans have had to wait twice the as long of their opponents and more so. The Cubs have gone 108 years since they last boasted about a championship Pennant and was after they had previously over it overa two-year span between 1907 and 1908.

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Cleveland Indians logo 

Looking firstly at the Cleveland and it has witnessed their sporting sides rise and fall over the last 48 years and the ‘Forest City’ as it is sometimes known, has seen mixed fortunes. Since their last success back in 1948, it has saw their American Football side the ‘Browns’ win five titles in that time, however this was pre-Superbowl era and has saw the side being one of the worst sides in football currently in the NFL. In the case of the ‘Cavaliers’ in Basketball, it has saw them going from the ‘outhouse to the penthouse’ in the NBA, with LeBron James rejoining the side for a second time and saw him guiding his side to their first ever NBA title last season.

On the subject of Baseball and it hasn’t been great reading if you are a ‘Indians’ fan, as despite making the World Series three times since they last tasted victory back in 1948, they have had to settle for second place in 1958 and then twice in three years during the mid 90’s. A sweep by the San Francisco Giants in ‘58 saw them then returning to the Fall Classic and suffering losses to the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and then the Florida Marlins (now Miami) two years later in 1997. Back in 1995, the side had achieved their first AL (American League) pennant since 1958 after series wins over the Boston Red Sox and then the Seattle Marriners en-route to their first World Series in 37 years.

Their search for a championship would go on though, as they lost out to the Atlanta Braves in six games going down 4-2 on that occasion. Cleveland then made their way back two seasons later, and would faced the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series and was one that was arguably the most tightly contested series that there has been. The teams traded wins in every other game that series, with Game 7 going right down to the wire and needing extra innings to determine a winner. Florida’s Édgar Renteria proved to be the hero for the Marlins that night, as his hit down the middle brushed the glove of the pitcher for Cleveland that night and saw Craig Counsell running home for the telling score to give Florida the championship.

The franchise has always been embroiled in controversy over the use of their name and logo going as far back as 1915, when the club changed their name from the Cleveland Naps to the Cleveland Indians. They then started to then use a logo called ‘Chief Wahoo’ of which was a red-faced caricature of a Native American that many deemed to be a ‘Racist’ symbol and has led to many protests over the years, especially by Native American groups. The same argument has been levelled against the Washington Redskins in the NFL and now has many reporters in the US even refusing to mention the team name due to the nature of the discussion. However in 2013, the club took the decision to move the logo and have it as secondary for the team and was replaced with a capital “C” logo instead for Cleveland. 

Cleveland have reached the American League Championship Series (ALCS) twice in the last 10 years, and on both occasions they were beaten by the eventual winners of the World Series in the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. They set a franchise record this past July, by winning 14 straight games en route to their 8th Central divisional title and saw them making light work in the playoffs of their respective opponents. In the divisional series they swept the Boston Red Sox 3-0, before making their way to the World Series with a comfortable four games to one win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

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Chicago Cubs logo

Facing the Ohio outfit is the team dubbed by many over the years ‘the Loveable Losers’, as the Chicago Cubs will finally play in a World Series since 1945. Chicago have the most unwanted record in all of North American sports, for the longest wait to win another title by any Professional sports team within the four major sports (MLB,NHL,NBA,NFL) as the drought currently sits at just..108 years.

The Cubbies or ‘Cubs’ for short, have seen them and their long-suffering fans put through the mill so to speak time and saw them time and time again left disappointed. Chicago have suffered with so much bad luck in the post season that it is almost hard to start where it all began. They were the first Major League club to play in three straight World Series matches, as they lost out to their South City rivals in the Chicago White Sox in 1906, but would then win the following two years with a sweep of the Detroit Tigers in 1907 and then repeated their success twelve months later with a 4-1 win, again over the Tigers.

Since that time though, the Cubs have failed to make it back to another World Series and so has started this prolonged wait to see them reaching this point again. They did go on to win the National League Pennant another eight times since their victory in 1908, but they have failed to take the extra step and been runners-up instead on the other occasions. Their luck or lack of it, would take an even stranger twist during their 1945 World Series match up with the Detroit Tigers, when a Greek Immigrant that came to watch and brought his pet goat along, would lead to one of the bizarre and talked about curses in Baseball history and sports in general.

During Game 4 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago, a Greek gentleman by the name of Billy Sianis who had emigrated to the United States from Greece, saw him owning a bar in down in the Illinois area called the Billy Goat Tavern and had Mr Sianis taking in a game and watching the Cubs. However, Sianis decided to bring his pet Billy Goat ‘Murphy’ along and was asked by those from the Cubs to remove the goat from the stadium and leave. This was due to complaints by people watching the game and was subjected to the bad odor that his pet goat was giving off. The request by the club angered Sianis, to which he is believed to have said “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. This has led to speculation over what he meant by this, as some interpret it as never winning a Pennant or that he meant another World Series success or winning a World Series game.

Chicago would go on to lose the game in question and then lost the following two games to the Tigers and went down 4-2 overall to Detroit. The North Siders have failed to reach another World Series since that year and the phrase that used get rolled out every year is ‘The Curse of the Billy Goat’ whenever it s featuring the Cubs. Over the decades though, it has seen a few strange incidents occurring during Cubs games in the postseason or just linked with the ball club, with the 2003 National League Championship game really bringing the curse to the attention of every baseball fan.

This is certain moments that have been said to be down to the so-called curse of the Billy Goat. On September 9th 1969, it saw the Chicago Cubs facing the New York Mets in a Pennant game and witnessed a stray black cat running out onto the field of play and going between the Cubs Captain at the time in Ron Santo and the Chicago dugout. After this incident, New York would win the game and moved ahead of the Cubs in the series and beat Chicago as the Mets went on to become the champions that year.  

In 1984 it saw Chicago then facing the San Diego Padres and after going two games up in a best-of-five series, the Cubs would lose the next two games and in the deciding Game 7, it saw first baseman for the Cubs in Leon Durham having a ball get past his glove and allowed the Padres to score and would see them eliminating Chicago. One of the most famous incidents in all of baseball came back in October 25th 1986, when the New York Mets faced off against the Boston Red Sox. Boston had picked up Chicago’s Bill Buckner in a trade during the 1984 season and so with Boston having their own Curse to deal with, with ‘the curse of the Bambino’, with the Bambino being Babe Ruth’s nickname. Ruth had been sold to their rivals the New York Yankees and Boston go from a winning team to a losing one and many said it was down to Babe Ruth being moved on.

During Game 6 of the 1986 World Series it saw Bill Buckner making a huge error, as a ground ball slipped through his legs and allowed a Mets player to run to home base and give New York the victory. It saw apparently Buckner wearing a Cubs batting glove under his catching mitt as when the replay of the error was shown on television.

Without doubt though the most famous or infamous moment in recent times came during the 2003 National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Florida Marlins in Game 6. With Chicago leading 3-2 in the series and 3-0 up in the eighth Inning and were just four outs from reaching winning the Pennant, it saw Marlins Luis Castillo hitting a fly ball down the line towards the foul line and saw one of the most played moments in baseball occur. It looked to be going a foul ball and with the Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou looking to try to make a possible catch and leave the visitors having one out remaining, a couple of fans tried to grab the ball and in doing so stopped the ball from being caught and had Alou furious with the fans. This then led to a fan who had a headset on with a green turtleneck sweater and blue baseball cap, becoming a well-known figure to everyone from that point on wards due to the resulting actions.

Television stations that were showing the game kept showing the image of this baseball fan cutting a lonely figure and would later be named as Steve Bartman. Bartman was lambasted by the commentators at the time for stopping the catch and bad mouthed him and made reference to the ‘Goat curse’ and that this fan had cost his team. The whole incident is documented on a brilliant ESPN 30 for 30 film, entitled ‘Catching Hell’ and shows just some of the abuse this poor fan got from his fellow Chicago supporters over that incident. Things spiralled against the Cubs and saw them walloped by Florida 8-3 and would see the Marlins take the series in Game 7 too.   

The team would flounder along for a while with a couple of trips to the playoffs, before being swept in successive seasons by firstly the Arizona Diamondbacks and then the LA Dodgers in the 2007 and 2008 post seasons. By 2013 there seemed to be some light finally at the end of the tunnel for the ‘North Siders’, as in 2009 the club got new owners in the Ricketts family and was led by chairman Thomas S. Ricketts, who seemed to begin getting the wheels in motion for awaking a sleeping giant from it slumber. Players in Chicago’s Minor-League started to impressed and saw the Cubs acquiring first baseman from the San Diego Padres in Anthony Rizzo, while the likes of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were all progressing nicely as the 2014 season came around.

November 2, 2014 saw Joe Maddon stepping into the Chicago hot seat, after he put pen to paper on a five-year deal to become the new Cubs Coach. One of his first movements was to bring in Free-Agent Jon Lester and also brought in former Houston Astros center fielder in Dexter Fowler, with both being very shrewd signings by Maddon. Three rookies were added to the organisation by mid-June of 2015, with Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber all in the line up for the Cubs. Last year saw the emergence of pitcher Jake Arrieta having a breakout year and earlier this season, Arrieta threw for his second no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds back in April.

Chicago made it to the National League Championship Series once again, after they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game in Pittsburgh and then defeated their bitter rivals in the St Louis Cardinals 3-1. Sadly Chicago would be swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS and was to denied a place again in the World Series. CHowever twelve months later and it has seen a stunning year for the Cubs side, as this season had them celebrating 100 years at Wrigley Field and saw them saw them finishing the regular season with the best record in the Major League. Chicago also passed the 100 wins barrier, as they finished with 103 victories over the season and was the first time they had done that since 1935, plus also achieved the most wins the franchise has won since 1910.

This post season was to be the acid test for the Chicago side and whether they could grit it out and prove handle the pressure of being the favourites to lift the championship. It saw them facing stern opposition in the National League playoffs, as their first foes were the San Francisco Giants and it saw the Cubs beating the Giants in California in Game 4 and taking the series 3-1. In the National League Championship Series game, they met the LA Dodgers and despite winning the first game at home, they would then drop the following two games to the Dodgers while also being shutout 1-0 and 6-0 in Games 2 and 3. This saw the Cubs falling behind for the first time in the playoffs and had fans worrying if they were going to fail again in an NLCS series. Those worries were put to bed in Games 4 and 5 in Los Angeles, as the Cubs beat the Dodgers twice with two big wins to see them moving 3-2 ahead in the series.

Clayton Kershaw who had put on a clinic of pitching against the Chicago side in Game 2 and shut them out at Wrigley Field, saw the Dodgers coaching team putting him in for the Game 6. However talk before the game was of good pitching needed by either side to win the game from all the broadcast journalists and writers, and it saw a marvellous performance by Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who saw hit only twice in the game and led his side to their first World Series with a dominant 5-0 win and a chance to “Fly the W” once more. 

What this series also represents, is a break to one of these teams respective droughts and will see a long streak snapped by either Cleveland or Chicago. Whoever it is, it is bound to be an exciting series with twists and turns through out. 

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