The 2016 Chicago Cubs are more than just a really good team. Some might call them a team of destiny, a team that would lift a so-called curse of over a century without a championship. But, with all that nonsense aside, they are really really good. So good, they could be good for a long time, and that's the scary part.
The Cubs won 103 games this year, and led major league pitching in earned run average. They were third in strikeouts (the Dodgers were number one), and in offense, were sixth in the National League in batting average, fifth in home runs, and second in runs scored. They also have one of the best managers in Joe Maddon (a former Angels bench coach), and, maybe most importantly, are one of the youngest teams in the big leagues, meaning their stars will be stars for a long time. This is a team, that by all rights, could be a dynasty. But we don't really want that, do we?
Exhibit A: The Boston Red Sox. Hadn't won it all since 1918. That was until 2004. We loved it. They became the first team to come back 0-3 in a seven game series, and did it against the rival Yankees. They would win the Series again just three years later, and again just three years ago. Theo Epstein, who was the architect of that '04 club, is now in charge of the Cubs. The Lovable Losers of the North Side could rapidly become the Evil Empire of the Midwest. We love Bill Murray and all, but no thanks.
Remember the movie Fever Pitch? The cute romantic comedy with Jimmy Fallon as a rabid Red Sox fan despite the heartache of losing, and his relationship with baseball novice Drew Barrymore who gets sucked into the Red Sox culture and ends up loving it? Well, that movie was filmed in 2004, the year the Red Sox ended their drought. They had to re-shoot the ending. Sure it was only a movie, but that Red Sox win changed history. Besides, the Cubs have ruined one line in a song about them. That should be good enough.
The Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908, but, until now, they hadn't even been to there since 1945. Or as a line from A Dying Cub Fans Last Request goes, “The law of averages says anything will happen that can, but the last time the Cubs won the National League pennant was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan.” It's a good line, but now it's no longer accurate. Too bad.
But let's not be selfish and cold hearted. What about all of those people who have waited so long to see their beloved Cubbies finally win? There was the story Saturday night of Dodger executive Ned Colletti's uncle Frank. Uncle Frank's brothers got to go to the 1945 Series, but they didn't have a ticket for him. He was told, “Don't worry, you can go next time.” Next time is now, 71 years later.
A World Series championship 108 years in the making, however, is a really long time. How long, you ask? Theodore Roosevelt was wrapping up his presidency (William Howard Taft would be elected a month later). Just a year prior, Oklahoma was admitted as the 46th state of the union. It would be four more years, when Arizona and New Mexico would join, and the 'lower 48' would be complete. Jack Norworth wrote Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and the oldest known recording was made by Harvey Hindermeyer. Chicago's Wrigley Field (known originally as Weeghman Park), wasn't built yet (they played at a place called West Side Park). My grandfather, who died 23 years ago at the age of 91, was six. And because it's been 71 years, tomorrow night, Dexter Fowler will become the first black Cubs player to appear in a World Series (a note I just saw today, but staggering).
The truth is, there is probably no one alive today who remembers that 1908 title, or if so, very very few. According to the Census Bureau, there are 53,364 Americans over the age of 100 (latest estimate). That would almost fill Dodger Stadium, but would overflow Chicago's Wrigley Field or Cleveland's Progressive Field. Whittle that number down, about nine thousand are over the age of 105 (could fill a college basketball arena), and that's still three years before the Cubs last won it. The Gerontology Research Group goes even further, saying only roughly 700 are what are called 'supercentinarians'—people age 110 or older. The oldest reported living American is a woman named Adele Dunlap of New Jersey. She'll be 114 in a couple of months. That would have made her five when the Cubs beat the Detroit Tigers in five games. We don't know if she's a Cubs fan, though.
And while, of course, it pales in comparison, the Cleveland Indians haven't won in a long time, either. They defeated the Boston Braves in six games in 1948. World War II was over, the state of Israel was created, and the National Basketball Association was getting ready to open its third season. That was 68 years ago, but three years since the Cubs were just in the World Series.
Whichever team wins it, we know this. An awful lot of people have been waiting for an awful long time.