For years, I’ve told friends that my dream World Series would be a match-up between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. I would usually add, “One of them has to win,” ending the Championship drought one of these teams have suffered since 1908 and 1948, respectively. For years, I thought it would never happen, as both teams languished. But as I watched the way both teams were playing this summer, I began to wonder, could this be the year? And it was!
Wednesday night ended a truly epic seven game series, one that I think people will talk about for years. An underdog team, the Indians jumps out to a 3-1 lead. Chicago comes roaring back to take the last three games. It goes down to a seventh game, tied at the end of nine innings. The only way I think it could be a better series would be if the Indians had won at home.
And so I show my true colors. I grew up rooting for the Indians from childhood. My first major league baseball game was an Indians game. I used to listen to Herb Score call play by play on my transistor radio on summer evenings. I remember Terry Francona’s dad, Tito Francona when he played for Cleveland. I remember Rocky Colavito, whose trade led to the purported “curse of Rocky Colavito on Cleveland,” “Sudden Sam” McDowell, Luis Tiant, before he went to a great career with Boston. There were the mediocre teams of the 70’s and 80’s, with a few standouts like Andre “Thunder” Thornton and Rick Manning. I lived in Cleveland at the time and would go to cavernous Cleveland Stadium on summer evenings when only 3,000 or so would show up. Then there were the powerhouse teams of the ’90’s with Mike Thome and so many others managed by Mike Hargrove who I’d watched as a player. There was the Series loss to Atlanta in ’95 and the heartbreak loss to the Marlins in ’97. I so hoped this would be the year.
And so I understand the joy of all the Cubs fans who have waited even longer. The last Indians World Series Championship was six years before I was born. The last Cubs championship twelve years before my late father was born. Congratulations Chicago! You’ve waited forty years longer, and it was truly a well-played series, representing so much of what I love about the game. Players who gave it all they had. Two shrewd managers who built teams that played as teams.
I don’t begrudge the fact that much of the nation was rooting for you. People love a fairy tale ending to a nightmare. The faithful of Wrigley have waited and endured through so much. As long-suffering fans, we’ve been on similar journeys. If it had to be anybody else but Cleveland, I’m glad it was you.
At the same time, here are some musings of a Cleveland fan already thinking of next year:
- I’m hopeful. These are young players still getting better. They’ve nothing to be ashamed of–they accomplished more than almost anyone imagined this year. And they know what it is like to play in the World Series.
- I hope to get to more Columbus Clippers games in my home town. The guys playing in Cleveland were guys I watched within the last few years. There seem to be people with an eye for talent in the organization.
- I read somewhere that Cleveland’s payroll is 21st on the list of major league teams. It says something about Francona and the front office that such a team could contend so well.
- That’s even more striking when you consider they went without standouts like Michael Brantley (another of the guys we used to watch in Columbus!).
- On a more serious note, I hope Cleveland will retire the Chief Wahoo logo. It is demeaning to Native Americans. Let’s show how great we can be as a team without being demeaning.
This series is why I’ve been a lifelong baseball fan. I hope our political candidates can learn from this. Fight hard. Play fair. Give it your all. And praise the other team in victory or defeat. Win graciously. Lose without whining about it.
Next year in Cleveland–Believeland! #RallyTogether.