It will now be 104 years since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, and my, how some things have changed in these United States.
It was so long ago that Chicago’s National League franchise called its home West Side Park—on a larger block bounded by Taylor, Wood, Polk and Lincoln (now Wolcott) Streets—and not Wrigley Field.
Back then, Major League Baseball had just 16 teams, including the Cleveland Naps, St. Louis Browns, New York Highlanders, Washington Senators, Boston Doves and the Brooklyn Superbas.
That’s right, the Superbas, brother.
And to show how much things have changed since then, I have compiled a list of fun facts to demonstrate how much our country has evolved.
In the 1908 Summer Olympics, 22 sports, representing 24 sporting disciplines, were contested, and the sitting US president was Theodore Roosevelt.
The Republican Party ran William Howard Taft for president in the 1908 election, while the Democratic Party ran William Jennings Bryan. So, at least one thing hasn’t changed much.
Taft ended up winning the election by a fairly comfortable margin.
As far as home life in America way back then, 18 percent of households had at least one full-time servant or form of domestic help, and 95 percent of births took place at home.
Only eight percent of homes had a telephone; just 14 percent had a bathtub, and most women only washed their hair once a month and used either egg yolks or Borax for shampoo.
Also at the time, there was no such thing as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and the Great Depression was still over two decades away.
Motorized transportation was also a relatively new thing, and there were only 8,000 cars, 144 miles of paved roads, and the maximum speed limit in most cities was just 10 mph.
At the grocery store, sugar was just 4 cents a pound, eggs cost 14 cents a dozen, and coffee was 15 cents a pound. Try finding a cup of coffee, let alone a pound, for 15 cents these days.
Also, canned beer and iced tea hadn't even been invented yet.
Literacy-wise, two out of every 10 adults in the United States couldn’t read or write, and just six percent of all Americans actually graduated from high school.
Also, 90 percent of all doctors had absolutely no college education—they attended pseudo-medical schools, most of which were condemned by the government and press as “substandard.”
In 1908, the population of the country was 88,710,000, and the five leading causes of death, in order, were pneumonia and influenza, tuberculosis, diarrhea, heart disease and stroke.
Imagine the strange looks you would get today if you told a friend you knew someone that died from diarrhea.
The United States flag had only 46 stars after Oklahoma became a state—New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawai’i hadn't been admitted yet—and the population of the city I’m writing this from tonight, Las Vegas, was just 30.
I can tell you with great confidence right now that there are at least 30 people at a casino down the street playing on just one craps table. Simply mind-boggling.
Also, our neighbors to the north, Canada, passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 86.15 on Dec. 31, 1908 (it settled at 12,976.13 after trading today), and the average wage was 22 cents an hour, while the average worker made somewhere between $200 and $400 a year.
An accountant earned about $2,000 a year in 1908, a dentist $2,500, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 and a mechanical engineer around $5,000.
Or another way to look at it, that high-end average worker ($400/year) would have to work 386 straight years to make what Pujols did today for simply playing one game against the Texas Rangers.
Also worth noting, the average life expectancy in the country was 47 years; there were about 230 reported murders in the entire nation in the year, and the tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
And check this out Bubba: Marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstore, and pharmacists at that time claimed, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.”
So, back then, you could go to the drugstore and get some heroin and morphine, but you couldn’t get an iced tea or a can of Budweiser. Yes, my friend, you just read that right.
Whether we blame the bleeding billy goat, Leon Durham’s Gatorade-soaked glove, Steve Bartman, bad luck, just lousy management through the years or all of the above, Cubs fans have truly suffered like no others in all of professional sports.
And before you go and accuse me of getting a little bit too much satisfaction out of writing this, be forewarned that this is coming from a die-hard Cubs fan who went out to Wrigley Field on a sunny Thursday afternoon in 1979 and witnessed his Cubbies put 22 runs on the board—and lose.
So let’s hope the Cubs can somehow win a World Series in the next five decades or so and get this damn monkey—or should I say billy goat—off our collective backs.
By the way, do they still make billy goats?
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