Well, it finally happened: the Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions! As far as I know, hell did not freeze over, nor did the second coming of Christ occur. There were times when I wondered if I’d live to see it happen, and of course there were thousands and thousands of Cubs fans who didn’t. This has been a 108-year dream. But as the Cubs won, the Indians and their fans lost out on a 68-year dream, and that’s been on my mind for the last couple of weeks too.
I’ve lived my whole life in Ohio, but my top two baseball teams are the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs. Don’t worry, it confuses everyone. I grew up in central Ohio, where about a third of the people are Cincinnati Reds fans, about a third of the people are Cleveland Indians fans, and about a third of the people either root for some other baseball team or just don’t care. Like many Atlanta fans around the country, my love for the Braves is largely due to TBS, which used to show the majority of the games the Braves played every season, since Ted Turner owned both the channel and the team. The Braves were really phenomenally good for a while, winning their division thirteen years in a row, and they were managed by Bobby Cox, one of the classiest and most talented skippers to ever stand in a dugout. My grampy and my dad came to really like the Braves because they were a great team that played the game with strong integrity, so I automatically became a Braves fan when I got really interested in baseball at age eleven.
I also consider my love for the Cubs to come from family loyalty, albeit not biological family. Bob Larson grew up in or near Chicago and went to college at Northwestern, and I don’t remember how he eventually ended up living in central Ohio, but he was a member at the church my parents joined right before I was born. Mr. Larson was like an extra grandfather to ALL the kids in our congregation. He gave out candy, sent birthday cards, and delivered pumpkins in the fall. He was also the biggest Cubs fan I’ve ever met, which is definitely saying something. He thought it was great that I loved baseball, and he thought it was great that I was a Braves fan. We would talk in the social room after church about recent games and standings, or he would teach me things about baseball history, like “Spahn, Sain, and pray for rain,” which every good Braves fan should know. He gave me pages from an old baseball calendar he had, a book of reminiscences from old-time players from his personal collection, and a baseball covered in signatures that I never, unfortunately, got the full story behind. He signed the ball too, which probably makes it worthless to collectors, but it makes it even more valuable to me. Mr. Larson lived long enough to see the Cubs beat the Braves in the 2003 NLDS (we had a lot of fun ribbing each other) but lose the pennant, and then he passed away in August 2004. I think he was eighty-one; in any case, he never saw his beloved Cubbies win it all.
So Mr. Larson, coupled with the romantic heartbreak of a team that went out there day after day, year after year, always believing they would someday get it done, created my love for the Chicago Cubs. Every play of the World Series, I was thinking about Mr. Larson looking down from heaven on the edge of his seat, and when the Cubs finally won, I just bawled and bawled. My first Facebook post was “MR. LARSON THEY DID IT!!!”
But the Cubs did not win this World Series easily, and they came very close to losing it. Despite a season plagued with injuries and a lot of overshadowing from the Cleveland Cavaliers (the NBA team, in case you’re not familiar. I don’t try to be; it just happens), the Indians put up one heck of a fight. Both teams made mistakes; both teams had spectacular moments. If you look at the scores, the balance is remarkable. The Indians won games 1 and 4 by at least four runs, and the Cubs won games 2 and 6 by at least four runs. Games 3, 5, and 7 were all decided by a single run — game 3 was just about the closest thing you can have to a pitchers’ duel tie (Cleveland won 1-0 but Chicago had two men on in the ninth), and game 7 was just about the closest thing you can have to a not-pitchers’ duel tie.
That game 7, man. In sixteen years as a baseball fan, I’ve never seen more of a nail-biter. Even when the Cubs were up 5-1 at one point, I knew Cleveland could surge back at any time — and of course, they totally did. They tied it up, 6-6, in the bottom of the eighth, and it was still tied at the end of the ninth when a rain delay was called. Facebook started freaking out at that point, and I asked whether God was indicating that the two teams should just call it a draw. Fortunately the delay only lasted seventeen minutes — I have no idea what the protocol would have been if the rain had lasted for hours. Even when the Cubs scored two in the top of the tenth, the Indians scored one more run in the bottom of the frame.
In all seriousness, this was the most evenly matched World Series I can remember, and it couldn’t have come at a more interesting time. For those of you keeping score at home, I moved from central Ohio back to the northeastern part of the state just over a month ago, and my boyfriend, whom I now live with, is an Indians fan. It’s fortunate that he’s pretty calm and even-keeled about most things, and it’s fortunate that I really, truly have nothing against the Indians. Yeah, I really wanted the Cubs to win, but it never crossed my mind to say anything harsher against the Indians than some playful trash talk. I know the Indians had the second-longest World Series drought in Major League Baseball, and I know how much that means to so many of my friends who are Indians fans, here in northeast Ohio and elsewhere. (Believe me, I’m connected with a lot more Indians fans on Social Media than Cubs fans!) If the Indians had been playing any National League team other than the Braves or the Cubs, I would have been rooting for them 100%. If the Cubs had lost the pennant to the Dodgers, you’d better believe I would have been pulling for Cleveland!!
Honestly, though, there’s a small part of me that’s as glad the Indians didn’t win as much as I’m happy that the Cubs did, because the Indians deserve to win on their own merits, not riding the coattails of the Cavs. Until the Cavs won the NBA championship this year, Cleveland had gone longer than any other major U.S. city without a big-time sports championship. Then the Cavs won in June, and then the Lake Erie Monsters (American Hockey League) won their championship, and then everyone turned their attention toward the Indians, and I know if they had won the World Series, there would have been a whole lot of people, in Cleveland and elsewhere, saying the Cavs had turned the tied and created the momentum for the Indians to go all the way. No. Just no. That’s not true, and it’s not fair. In general, I don’t give a darn whether the Cavs win or lose, but next year I hope they don’t win their championship and the Indians do win theirs, with no imaginary strings attached.
For a number of reasons (which I don’t really want to go into here), I haven’t been paying nearly as much attention to Major League Baseball over the past two years as I have in the past, and now I really regret that. I missed the chance to watch the Cubs climb their way to the best record in MLB, and I missed the Indians’ fantastic ride too. This World Series has really re-energized my love for baseball, and I can’t wait for Opening Day 2017. And this coming year, I’ll actually make an effort to pay attention to the Indians during the whole season, even though they’ll never replace the Braves or the Cubs in my heart.
Great job, Indians. I’ll see you next year. Great job, Cubs. I’ll see your stadium and buy one of your shirts next week when I’m in Chicago, visiting my sister and her boyfriend, who live just over a mile from Wrigley Field!!!