I Ain’t Afraid Of No Goat
CHICAGO CUBS, World Series Champions for the First Time Since 1908
November 29, 2016
Filed under Sports
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Imagine yourself in a bar, or in a park in Chicago. You’re anxiously watching the seventh game of the World Series, in which the Chicago Cubs are facing off against the Cleveland Indians. It’s the top of the tenth inning, as both Cleveland and the Cubs have scored six runs, with Cleveland rallying in the eighth to tie the score after being down 5-3 at the beginning of the eighth, and neither team was able to score in the ninth. But as you watch, the Cubs drill home two runs before the Indians take the plate. Chicago is three outs from winning its first World Series in 108 years. It’s late, but you don’t care. You want to see the end of this. The crowd is tense, quietly watching the screen. Their tension is palpable and so thick it could be cut with a knife. You watch as young closing pitcher C.J. Edwards strikes out two of Cleveland’s batters. One out left. Edwards is pulled, and Mike Montgomery takes the mound.
The first pitches are strikes and balls. But then you hear the sickening crack of wood on the small white sphere. But it rolls towards third baseman Kris Bryant. He fields it in an excellent throw to Anthony Rizzo, the first baseman, and the final out is recorded. Chicago has just won its first World Series since 1908.
The crowd goes wild, cheers rise from the gathered mass of humanity, and the city lights up in celebration as an obstacle that had been in place for decades has suddenly been removed. Years of heartbreak, struggle, blood, sweat and tears have just been removed.
It’s a nice dream, right? The two baseball teams that have the longest franchise title droughts in baseball face off in the ultimate showdown between two teams and franchises that have not won a title in a combined 176 years.
But it’s not a dream. Not anymore.
The unimaginable has happened.
The Cubs – the Chicago Cubs – are the World Series Champions of baseball. The National League champions defeated the American League champions, the Cleveland Indians, 8-7 in an amazing Game 7 of the World Series that will surely and most deservedly go down in the ages as one of the best games of baseball ever played.
Yes, as in those Chicago Cubs; the famed “Loveable Losers” from the North Side, their name synonymous with failure and year after year of shortcomings, despair, and mismanagement; the same baseball franchise that adopted as its unofficial motto ‘There’s always next year’, and, yes, the infamously cursed baseball team supposedly doomed for eternity to failure and despair by an incensed Chicagoan by the name of Billy Sianis and his pet goat, Murphy. Kicked out of Game 5 of the 1945 World Series against the Detroit Tigers because many surrounding fans said that the goat was distracting them with its horrible smell (even though both of them had tickets to the game), Sianis, enraged and apparently feeling quite prophetic, threw up his hands as he left and proclaimed: “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”
The Cubs lost the game, lost the Series, and failed to return to the World Series for 71 years. Several times they came close; making it to the National League Championship Series, but each time, they managed to suffer collapses of epic proportions. In 1969, 1984, and in 2003, the Cubs, either through errors, poor judgment, poor management, or perhaps because of the sheer pressure they were under, folded under and self-destructed, the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and Florida (now Miami) Marlins instead taking their place in the Fall Classic.
It’s been a while.
This year’s team for the North Siders is a result not of a year or two of assembling odds and ends and creating a hodgepodge team that might either make it to the Series or blow it all (again), but rather of four years of careful planning, rebuilding, crafting, buying, selling, trading, and acquiring the best of the best in baseball, from the masterful minds of the management to the talent and depth of the players.
Major League Baseball has a schedule that includes 162 games per team over the course of six months. As recently as 2012, the Cubs posted a 101-loss season. Who would have predicted that four years later they would be hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy over the city of Chicago?
Thanks to the shrewd management of Theo Epstein, who busted the Boston Red Sox’s Curse of the Bambino (86 years long) and Joe Maddon, the Chicago Cubs went from worst to first, assembling the Major League’s best team with ace players such as Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Jason Heyward, Jake Arietta, Kyle Schubert, Addison Russell, Dexter Fowler, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, David Ross, and Kris Bryant.
This year’s team was the completed version of last year’s 2015 club, which made a miracle run at the National League Championship Series, in which they dispatched the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild-card round and the Saint Louis Cardinals in the Divisional Series but lost to the New York Mets in the Championship, the Chicago Cubs made the most of this year’s offseason, making the final adjustments to their curse-busting squad.
As a result, they came out of the starting gate swinging, took control, and really never looked back the whole season, finishing with an amazing 103 wins to 58 losses in the regular season and more than securing their place in the postseason. (And, worth noting, they finished 14 games ahead of their nearest division rival, the Cardinals, and eight games ahead of the second-best record in the majors.)
From there, the Cubs rampaged through the National League playoffs, crushing the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series and battering the Dodgers in the Championship.
Their American League opponent, the Cleveland Indians, gave them a run for their money, taking a 3-1 lead in the first four games and pushing the Cubs to the brink of elimination.
That’s where the Cubs took over.
They stormed back from the deficit to force a final, deciding game. The game started off rather slowly, with Chicago’s lineup facing off against Cleveland’s star pitcher, Corey Kluber. Over the next six innings, Kluber, who had allowed only one run in the previous two starts he had against the Boys in Blue, gave up six runs to give Chicago the lead. To be sure, the outcome was never quite fixed in that game, and several times it appeared as if the Cubs were about to inflict a knockout blow on themselves, such as giving up three runs in the eighth to tie it up. But for all their curses, years of heartbreak, failure, and despair, this team did something that hadn’t been done by any Cubs team since Theodore Roosevelt held office:
An earlier Cubs team might have collapsed under all the pressure, crumbling like every good Cubs team since 1908 had seemed to do. The 2016 Cubs would have joined the 2003 Cubs, the 1984 Cubs, and the 1969 Cubs as one of those teams who just didn’t have it in them to succeed under pressure, only this time having failed on the ultimate big stage of baseball. And Cubs fans would have moved on, slowly, painfully awaiting the next year, scratching another tally mark into the chart of years that had passed since a Chicago Cubs World Series win, 108 long years transforming into 109.
But that is not how the 2016 Cubs will be remembered.
They will rightfully be remembered as “The Team”, the one that brought the Curse of the Billy Goat down forever. Yes, they are not the best baseball team in history, but they certainly have etched their name in the history books – for good. The North Side of Chicago can celebrate for the first time in a long, long time.
No more curses. No more pain. No more almost-but-not-quite teams.
As for the saying “There’s always next year?”
Next year’s finally here.
By The Numbers
To say the Cubs’ appearance, and victory, in the Fall Classic was overdue is an understatement. Here’s some statistics.
Number of years since Cubs last won the Series: 108
Number of Presidents who have served in that span: 19
Amendments added to the U.S. Constitution in that span: 11
Number of years after last title that African-Americans could play in Majors: 40
That school was integrated: 46
Number of years after last title until women could vote: 12
That the zipper was invented: 3
That sliced bread was created: 12
That radio was used to broadcast sports: 13
That TV was used to broadcast sports: 31
Years until Arizona and New Mexico became states: 4
That Alaska and Hawaii became states: 42
Days before Cubs won 1908 World Series that Henry Ford introduced the Model T: 13
Number of winter and summer Olympics held since 1908: 42 (Rio included)
Number of years after last title that the South Pole was explored: 3
Until the end of the Ottoman Empire, Imperial Germany, Imperial Russia, and the Austria-Hungarian Empire: 12
Until the end of the last Imperial Chinese Dynasty: 3
That the Soviet Union was created: 14
That the Soviet Union was dissolved: 83
That the first transatlantic flight was made: 19
Years that had passed in 1908 since the end of the American Civil War: 43
In 2016: 151
Years that had passed in 1908 since the American Revolution: 125
In 2016: 233
Years until the outbreak of World War I: 4
Until the Second World War: 31
That man walked on the Moon: 61
That the first Super Bowl was played: 58
That the first black President was elected: 100