The Stanley Cup has the claim to fame of being the oldest trophy in sports. The Super Bowl is a unique one shot deal spectacle to crown the NFL champion. The NBA Finals may bring out glitz and celebrities, but there is one special championship series that is a piece of Americana-the World Series.
The Fall Classic has been around since 1903, longer than any professional championship in North America. Throughout its now 113 year history so much has happened. We’ve seen perfect games, walk off championships, back and forth seven game battles. We’ve also seen upsets and miracle teams that won a series to cap their first winning season. The advent of the Wild Card in 1997 brought a new dimension, teams that weren’t division (or regular season league winners) coming out on top.
The Yankees have won the series 27 times, far and away the most of any franchise. The Cardinals have won it a National League leading eleven times. There are however many fan bases who haven’t seen baseball played in late October. This year is the poster child for those long-suffering followers.
Before I get into droughts and curses I must mention the teams that haven’t seen the big show in their locality. Consider Seattle and Montreal. The Pacific Northwest saw the Pilots begin play in 1969 only to see them leave for Milwaukee prior to the following season. They wouldn’t even see Major League Baseball again until 1977 when the Mariners began play. The Mariners have seen their expansion brothers in Toronto win the World Series twice (1992, 1993). Although they have made post season appearances over the years the World Series continues to elude Seattle.
In 1969 the city of Montreal was awarded the first Major League franchise outside of the United States. Though marginally successful through most of their existence, the Expos franchise made the post season only once, the strike shortened season of 1981. The Montreal franchise won the second half National League Eastern Division title of the strike interrupted season that year. They made it to the National League Championship Series only to be denied on what has become known as Blue Monday in Montreal. The Dodgers Rick Monday’s ninth inning home run in game 5 (in Montreal) sent the Expos home and the Dodgers to the World Series. The city of Montreal would see its Expos leave for Washington DC following the 2004 season. Since their arrival in America’s Nation’s Capitol the Nationals have not made a Fall Classic appearance.
A total of six franchises have made appearances in the big show but have not brought home the prize (San Diego, Texas, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee Brewers, Houston).
This year we have a matchup of the two longest droughts in World Series history. The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians have waited longer than any of the teams I just discussed since their last World Series victory.
The plight of the Cubs fan has been well documented. Wrigley Field saw its first Fall Classic action since 1945 on Friday night. It was also the first World Series night game played in the historic venue. The ultimate “W” flag hasn’t flown above Wrigley since 1908. As of this writing it’s not looking good right now for this year either with the Tribe holding a 3-1 lead in the series.
So much has been made of the 108 year drought on the Near North Side of Chicago. There has been a bar owner with a billy-goat that was denied entry into Wrigley Field during the ’45 series. There was the black cat at New York’s Shea Stadium that crossed the Cubs on-deck circle that lead to a collapse of a nine game lead over the second place Mets. There was Steve Bartman, the poor fan that went after a foul ball in the 2003 NLCS with the Cubbies six outs away from the World Series. Can the tide turn at Wrigley beginning tonight?
Like the Boston Red Sox, who finally broke an 86 year drought of their own in 2004, the Indians have made appearances since their last victory in 1948. Most notably Cleveland made it to the Fall Classic twice in three years in the 1990’s (1995, 1997) only to lose to the Braves and Marlins.
So many stories that have been told. Carlton Fisk trying to wish a ball fair at Fenway in 1975, Reggie Jackson hitting three consecutive home runs against the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium in 1977. There were walk off home runs by Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter. A walk-off single by Edgar Renteria in the eleventh inning of Game 7. Babe Ruth calling his shot in 1927 at Wrigley. Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Will history be written as early as tonight? Will the Cubs stage a comeback? Stay tuned to the Grand Daddy of them all!