The Chicago Cubs aim to win their first World Series since the Roosevelt Administration, the Theodore Roosevelt Administration, within the next 10 days.
The last Cubs player to win a World Series died 21 years before the birth of the oldest player on the current Cubs roster. Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Ryne Sandberg played all but a season’s worth of games for the Cubs and never competed in a World Series. Generations of Cubs fans lived and died never seeing what Chicago hopes to see over the next two weeks.
The last Cubs fan to witness a championship died a long, long time ago. And most claiming attendance likely lied a long, long time ago. Just 6,210 ticket holders watched the ultimate game of the 1908 postseason, the lowest attendance for any matchup in World Series history. The deciding game took place in Detroit, so geography and the lack of television technology meant that very few, if any, actual Cubs fans saw history happen. And if they did, coming as it did as a repeat of the prior season’s World Series triumph by the Cubs over the Tigers, they saw it as business as usual rather than the last time for a long time.
The Cubs plated five runs in the top of the ninth to come back to win Game One 10-5, exploded for six runs in the eighth to capture Game Two 6-1 in just an hour and a half, dropped Game Three after Ty Cobb went 4-for-5, shut out Detroit 3-0 in just 95 minutes in Game Four, and in Game Five watched Orval Overall, one of the great names in baseball history (only in a literal sense) strike out four batters in the first en route to a second victory in that series for the pitcher and second World Series title for the Cubs. Chicago’s stars shined brightly. Mordecai Brown won two games, Frank Chance hit .421, Johnny Evers batted .350, and Joe Tinker hit a home run and knocked in four runs.
How long ago did the Cubs win?
No player yet wore a number on his jersey; no team wore colored road uniforms, just home whites and road grays. No Harry Caray, or anyone else for that matter, sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. The song charted shortly after the Cubs won the World Series. The seventh-inning stretch didn’t enter the language until the 1920s (although the practice may predate the phraseology). World Series winners bagged a $1,318 share, which amounts to almost $33,000 today, which amounts to less than a tenth of the take that goes to winners of the 2016 Fall Classic. Baseball played as the only game in town then with no NFLNBANHL. The bricks and ivy of Wrigley Field did not exist; the team played in a wooden stadium. Baseball boasted no commissioner, no designated hitter, no Hall of Fame, no All-Star Game, no black players, no “Star Spangled Banner” before games, no divisions, no batting helmets, no warning tracks.
On Tuesday night in Cleveland, a city itself seeking to quench its thirst after a 68-year drought, the Chicago Cubs begin the process of expelling the past from the present.
After 108 years, ten days can seem like an eternity. But another offseason after again falling short surely amounts to a sad, stinging slow century crammed into five melancholy months on the North Side of Chicago.
“These are the saddest possible words/Tinker to Evers to Chance”? Never for a Cubs fan—not when Franklin Pierce Adams scribbled them down in 1910 and certainly not in 2016. “Wait until next year” beats that any day.