The World Series begins tonight, and baseball fans will be tuning in to see which team — the Cleveland Indians or the Chicago Cubs — ends its long championship drought.
For non-fans, especially those in other countries, Roamin’ Gnomials offers a primer on this World Series, and why there’s a whole lot more riding on the outcome than you might suppose.
Unlike most any other sport you could name, baseball is in love with its history. I venture to say that you can’t even be a real baseball fan unless you have some appreciation for what has gone before, and with these two franchises, a LOT has gone before.
The Cleveland team, representing the American League, started in 1901 as the Cleveland Blues. They became the Bronchos in 1902, the Naps in 1903, and didn’t become the Indians until 1915. The Chicago team, representing the National League, started life as the White Stockings in 1876, became the Colts in 1890, the Orphans in 1898, and finally, the Cubs in 1903.
It would be a vast understatement to say that neither franchise has been very successful in terms of championships. The Indians last won the World Series in 1948, but the Cubs haven’t won it since 1908, so any way you slice it, this year’s eventual winner will be ending a very long dry spell.
You’ll probably hear some talk about the team logos, especially for the Indians. There’s just no way to mince words about it, the Indians’ team name and logo featuring Chief Wahoo is culturally insensitive and should be changed. Some people will root against Cleveland solely because of that name and logo, and I’m not here to dissuade them, though I will offer a different argument that might help balance the scales.
The Cubs have a fanbase that is more like a cult than anything else, and it is a cult that has embraced losing. How you can manage to be perpetual losers and still be obnoxious is a mystery, but Cubs fans manage to do it with aplomb. In baseball, you’re supposed to want to win, and you’re supposed to get very upset when you lose, but Cubs fans in particular have made a cottage industry out of losing, and it, er, really gets my goat.
And speaking of goats, you’ll probably hear talk about the Curse of the Billy Goat, which happened in 1945 when Chicago tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to remove his smelly goat from Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs. I can’t tell you why the goat was there in the first place, but apparently being asked to leave really torqued off Sianis, because he reportedly retorted, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more!” And thus the curse was born.
Now the Curse of the Billy Goat isn’t the only baseball-related curse. I’m absolutely certain that there’s a curse in Houston, though it hasn’t officially been identified yet, but recently, the long-running Curse of the Bambino was lifted when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 ending that franchise’s drought that extended back to 1918.
That is relevant this year because Boston’s general manager at the time, Theo Epstein, is now the general manager of the Chicago Cubs, so if Chicago wins, Epstein will have been the chief architect in the breaking of both curses.
As a longtime baseball fan, I want to say that there are worse things than having a curse against your team, because I’ve seen that bad things happen when they’re broken. For example, the lifting of the Curse of the Bambino empowered Red Sox Nation, and gave rise to some of the more despicable things in all of baseball that never would have received a national spotlight if the curse had remained safely in place.
Exhibit A: The Papification of baseball
If the Red Sox had not won the World Series, we never would have got to the point where it was Big Papi this and Big Papi that. We wouldn’t have had to watch week after week as Big Papi, aka David Ortiz, spit into one of his hands, smacked them together and glared menacingly at the pitcher, all the while glorifying the role of the designated hitter, which generally means you suck at everything else on a baseball field other than hitting.
Exhibit B: Curt Schilling
I’m not even going to dignify Schilling by reprinting his filth here, but you can find his quotes easily enough by Googling him. He’s utterly despicable, and of course gained most of his fame for his role in helping to lift the Curse of the Bambino. Sure, he went on to further his career in Arizona, but if not for Boston, we probably wouldn’t have had to endure as much from him as we have.
Exhibit C: Pedro Martinez
Okay, he apologized for throwing old man and baseball legend Don Zimmer onto the turf, and in interviews, he doesn’t seem like such a bad guy. But his actions that day provided one of the most haunting images in baseball history, and not surprisingly, Martinez is most readily identified as a Red Sox, and poor Don Zimmer is readily identified as being dead.
So now, here we are …
So now Epstein — the Curse Breaker — has brought his big-money road show to Chicago, and is threatening to break an even bigger curse than the Curse of the Bambino. It’s scary not because Cubs fans are so bad right now, but because of what they could become. Like Red Sox Nation, which should have been kept under lock and key, if the full force of obnoxious Cubs fans is finally unleashed upon the baseball world, it could become unBEARable for the rest of us!
Curses are in place for a reason, and I fear that breaking this last one will be akin to lifting the Seventh Seal. If the Cubs win the World Series, don’t be surprised when the sun starts rising in the west, dogs and cats start living together, and Donald Trump sweeps to victory in the presidential election, begins a nuclear holocaust and wipes out all life on the planet.
These are scary times, my friend, they transcend baseball, and you better be careful what you wish for. Chief Wahoo might be politically incorrect, but Cleveland can work on its team name and logo somewhere down the line. No curse I know of is associated with the Cleveland Indians, and that’s why I will be pulling for The Tribe!
Maybe you don’t think it’s a big deal, but a Cleveland win, at least, will not bring Armageddon! So before you root, root, root for the Cubbies, keep in mind what could happen if they win.