The End of a Century of Grief? Chicago Cubs In the Playoffs Again
Since 1876, the Cubs franchise has been playing professional baseball at the most elite level (in fact, even before 1876 the franchise was playing in the National Association; so this franchise is really old, John McCain old). They last won a World Series in 1908. Since then they’ve had 12 playoff appearances.
In 1910, just two years after their World Championship, the Cubs were back in the World Series. Led by Frank Chance (of Tinker to Evers fame), the Cubs went 104-50 in the regular season. Unfortunately, the Cubs fell apart in the series against the Athletics (the Philadelphia Athletics).
Chief Bender and Jack Coombs shut down the Cubs offense while Chance couldn’t find a magical arm on his pitching staff. The Cubs barely avoided getting swept. The two teams had similar records but the Cubs had a stronger lineup and better pitching. This was just the opening salvo of a Championship drought of historic proportions for the Cubs.
Eight years later, in 1918, the Cubs were facing a team with a lesser record in the World Series. Even in the series, the Cubs scored more runs than their American League opponents. Unfortunately, that team featured the best left handed pitcher in baseball, Babe Ruth. Ruth, along with teammate Carl would-be-in-the-HOF-had-he-not-killed-a-man Mays combined to give up four earned runs in four winning starts to win the series in six games.
The World Series in 1929 was an excusable loss for the Cubs. The Philadelphia Athletics featured offensive wizards Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, and 20-game winners Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw. The Cubs, despite having comparable team stats during the regular season, lost the series in five games, managing to win only one game thanks to an error and a Kiki Cuyler single.
In 1932, the Cubs ran into Babe Ruth again. This time, it was his bat that did the talking. He, along with Murderer’s Row veterans Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri crushed the Chicago faithful in a four game sweep, outscoring the Cubs 37-19.
Just a few years later, the Cubs made the World Series again. This time they fought a talented Detroit Tigers and gave a spirited effort, losing the series 4-2. Schoolboy Rowe, a pitcher for the Tigers, proved to be the dominating performance. This series was one the Cubs allowed to get away as few could suggest their team was inferior to the Detroit Tigers.
How many more disappointments can there be?
In 1938, the Yankees crushed them again.
In 1945, an inferior Tigers team beat them in seven games. In fact, 1945 was the last legitimate chance the Cubs had at winning the World Series. Hank Borowy and Paul Derringer take the title of being the two biggest goats in Cubs playoff history. They gave up five runs in the first inning of Game Seven to end any hope for a Cubs victory.
In 1984, the Cubs made the playoffs and lost to an inferior San Diego Padres team. The cubs crushed the Padres in the first two games, outscoring their opponents 17-2. They lost the next three games. The losing pitchers in those three games? All-Star Rick Sutcliffe, future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley (as a starter) and Lee Smith.
The Padres would lose the Series to the Detroit Tigers in five games.
1989, National League Championship Series, Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell of the San Francisco Giants would combine for 15 RBI and 13 RS to account for 80% of the runs scored against the Cubs. Greg Maddux, pitching for the Cubs, had a 19-12 record with a 2.95 ERA during the regular season but was rocked for 11 earned runs in less than eight innings of work during the NLCS.
The Giants would later be crushed by the Athletics in the World Series.
Thanks the addition of a Wild Card to baseball, the Cubs made the playoffs again in 1998. They were wiped out by the Atlanta Braves.
The Wild Card is cheating anyway, so Cubs fans shouldn’t lament this lost opportunity.
Well, I’ll leave that one alone.
2007? The Cubs lost to the team that lost to the team that lost to the Red Sox in the World Series.
2008? Some say they’re best team in the baseball.
In 1876, the Chicago professional baseball franchise which would later become the Cubs went 52-14. Al Spalding went 47-12 as the primary pitcher and also had .312 batting average and 121 OPS+ for the franchise that year.
At night, just before the morning sunrise, you can see Al Spalding. He spends his time around dusty sandlots and municipal ball fields. Most baseball scribes know where to find him. Not that it’s any use, he doesn’t talk much.
But once, not long ago, I met him in a southeastern Minnesota crossroads. He looked excited. We walked together for a while then just before sunrise I asked him if this was the year. Was this the end of a century of tears for Cubs fans and closet Cubs fans everywhere?
He looked at me and decided to talk.
And as he spoke, he disappeared in the morning sunrise. He didn’t come back the next night.
And I knew…
It’s going to be good watching this playoff season.
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