The Wonderful World Series

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^Top image: The venerable lions guarding the Art Institute of Chicago received their first Cubs hats on Oct. 24, 2016, the day before the Cubs first World Series appearance since 1945. Credit: Art Institute of Chicago

Tonight, October 25, the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series begins in Cleveland, Ohio. The World Series determines the MLB champion each autumn, but the teams involved in this year’s series make it a little extra special. The teams—the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians—have the two longest World Series droughts in baseball. A drought is a long period of dry weather, and when applied to baseball, it means a team hasn’t won a championship in a very long time.

How long are we talking about? Well, the Indians last won the World Series in 1948 (68 years ago), and the Cubs’ last title was in 1908—yes, 108 years ago. Do the math, and you have 176 years of combined futility. But with just two teams left—the two hungriest teams in baseball—something has to give. Somebody has to win. One team will end their title drought and elate generations of frustrated fans. But somebody has to lose, too. For one team’s fans, the disappointment will continue, and the ball club will have to “wait ‘til next year.” Again.

On Saturday night, the Cubs won the best-of-seven National LeagueChampionship Series (NLCS) by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 2. The Cubs won it in their home ballpark, Wrigley Field, which was built in 1914—six years after the Cubs last World Series win. The Cubs haven’t even played in a World Series since 1945, when they lost to the Detroit Tigers. The Cubs have been close, however—painfully close. In 2003, the team blew a 3-games-to-1 lead in the NLCS, losing to the Florida (now Miami) Marlins in seven games. In 1984, the Cubs squandered a 2-games-to-0 lead in the NLCS (it was then best-of-5), dropping the series to the San Diego Padres.

^The Cleveland Indians hope to win their first World Series title since 1948. Credit: Erik Drost (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Last week, the Indians took the American League pennant by defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 4 games to 1. The Indians’ title drought is long, too, but their last World Series appearance was a bit more recent. In 1997, Cleveland dropped a heartbreaking seventh game of the World Series in extra innings to the Marlins. The Indians also reached the World Series in 1995, but lost to the Atlanta Braves 4 games to 2.

Several MLB teams have yet to win a World Series, but none of them even existed the last time the Indians won one or the Cubs competed in one. For the cities of Chicago and Cleveland, the World Series is more than just a sporting event. It is a cultural happening, an all-consuming thing that is the point of all conversation. The teams represent an identity, a history, and a common connection. And for the team that wins this year’s wonderful World Series, it will be their fans’ dream come true.

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