It’s Been a Long Time

How have the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians done in the World Series versus each other? Well, we don’t know, because they haven’t faced each other in all of the more than 100 years that they have been around. The last time Cleveland played in the Fall-Winter Classic was 1997, long before Google had replaced the public library system and Bill Clinton had begun grooming himself to be First Gentleman. As you must have heard Joe Buck say a thousand times during the National League championship series, the Cubs haven’t been there since 1945, which was even before the Ed Sullivan show. One would have thought that these two ancient organizations would have battled each other at some point, but nope. I looked it up, with very little help from Google.

It seems a bit quaint now, but 1945 occurred in a period once described as the war years, roughly the first half of the decade of the 40s as far as the United States was concerned. Wars weren’t supposed to last forever then and another difference was the military draft, which meant that many ballplayers either enlisted on their own or were “selected” to join the fight. The effect on major league baseball was a well documented dilution of the talent pool that meant that more youngsters and aging veterans of the baseball wars dotted every roster. The 1944 Cubs had finished fourth in the eight team league, 30 games behind the pennant winning Cardinals. Stan Musial was one of the Cardinals who wasn’t around for the 1945 season and Chicago replaced St. Louis as N.L. champs by three games. Those Cubs were led by Phil Cavaretta, Stan Hack, Peanuts Lowrey and Andy Pafko. The pitching staff was strong,as Hank Wyse and Claude Passeau, who had combined for 31 wins the previous year, upped their total wins to 39 in ’45. Those Cubs lost to Detroit in seven games as Hank Greenburg returned from military service in time to slug two World Series home runs and the Tigers were champs. It was the tenth pennant of the 20th century for the Cubs and we haven’t seen them in the Series since. Some goat kicked Mrs. O’Leary’s cow or something.

Three years later, The Cleveland Indians had to beat both Boston teams to do it, but they were World Series winners over the Boston Braves in six games after beating the Red Sox in a playoff for the American League pennant. Cleveland has been to the Series thrice since then, getting swept by the Giants in 1954, losing in six games to the Braves in ’95, and losing in seven to the Florida Marlins in ’97. So an organization that hasn’t won it all since the forties is going to do it this year provided both cities on the Great Lakes are not frozen over before Halloween.

The 1995 Cleveland team had a parallel to the ’54 bunch in that it dominated its league with a 100-44 short season record followed by a sweep of the Red Sox and a six game league championship series win over Seattle. The 1954 Cleveland team won 111 games to beat the perennial A.L. winning New York Yankees by eight games. However, though the World Series losses by each team were considered upsets, the National League teams may well have been the stronger teams overall. The Mike Hargrove managed Cleveland teams would win their division again in ’96 and ’97, but the team that made it to the World Series in ’97 finished just 11 games over .500. Those Indians had the fewest wins of any of the post season entries for the A.L. but Jaret Wright and Orel Hershiser led the team that had a regular season team ERA of 4.73 past the Yankees and Orioles to face the wild card team of destiny from the N.L., Florida, for all of the marbles. There were some sluggers on that Cleveland roster:Albert Belle, who had hit 50 homers in 1995 and 48 in ’96,was no longer around but Jim Thome, Matt Williams,Manny Ramirez,David Justice and Sandy Alomar Jr. all hit between 21 and 40 home runs and the team totaled 220. There were no rumors that the clubhouse water cooler had been replaced by a steroids bar. It was just the times, man. At any rate, Miami’s team of destiny won it in seven games and now, 19 years later, Cleveland is back.

It says here that Joe Maddon and the cuddly Cubbies are stronger defensively, have more power, more pitching, and better depth. It also says here that Terry Francona and the team he manages have been under rated all season long and are likely to push it to six or seven games and maybe even win. Perhaps all drones have been grounded and the talent that many of us haven’t seen enough of will surprise the experts yet again. They have Francisco Lindor, Cody Allen, Corey Kluber and others we have not heard so much about or seen play very often. They also have good veteran strength with Mike Napoli, Carlos Santana, and the unbelievable Andrew Miller. There will be different people celebrating this year, that is assured. I only ask one thing of each contestant. If Chicago wins, please go back to just day baseball at Wrigley Field. If Cleveland wins, please please please lose that hideous Wahoo Sam logo.

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