CLEVELAND: Long-suffering Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians supporters dream of a fairytale finish when the 112th World Series opens Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), but only one of Major League Baseball’s longest championship droughts will end in the epic showdown.
The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908, the longest title drought in American sports history, and they had not even reached the best-of-seven championship matchup since 1945 until dispatching the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday for the National League crown.
“There has been so much emotion over the years from this fan base,” Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist said. “It’s not just Chicago. I know they are watching all over the country and all over the world.
“What a special moment. We’ve been wanting to do this for the fans all year long. Now that we’ve accomplished it, it’s time to move on to bigger things. The ultimate goal is still out in front of us.”
While it’s not as jaw-dropping as the Cubs’ 107-season wait, the Indians have not taken the crown since 1948, the longest American League drought, and they last played in the World Series in 1997.
“It’s a blast to be a part of,” Indians relief pitcher Andrew Miller said. “We have one more big step. We’re going to the World Series. That’s what you dream of. I can’t wait to see what it’s like in Cleveland.”
More than a century of futility could end for the Cubs, whose 103 wins led the major leagues this season — not so long after they lost 101 games in 2012.
“We’re definitely on the verge of doing something wonderful,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I didn’t want to run away from negatives and pressure. I wanted us to run toward them.”
A Presidential ‘Holy Cow’
Partying fans jammed the streets outside iconic 102-year-old Wrigley Field for hours after Chicago advanced.
“I’ll say it: Holy Cow, Cubs fans,” tweeted US President Barack Obama, using a catchphrase made famous by the late Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray.
The long-time Chicago resident supports the cross-town rival Chicago White Sox, who until 2005 had not won a World Series since 1917, but Obama admitted, “Even this White Sox fan was happy to see Wrigley rocking last night.”
Generations of Cubs players and fans had known only frustration, even joking, “Any team can have a bad century.” They were tagged as lovable losers playing in a stadium nicknamed the “Friendly Confines” by Ernie Banks, the Hall of Fame infielder nicknamed “Mr. Cub” who owns the dubious record of 2,528 games played without a playoff appearance.
A Cubs team with five starters age 24 or younger shook off the notions of a cursed team and a history of hard luck, moving four wins from a title for the ages by a team that played 11,309 games between World Series appearances.
“We’re too young. We don’t care about it,” said Kris Bryant, who scored a league-high 121 runs. “We don’t look into it. We’re having the time of our lives. And we’re just getting started.”
Pitching has powered the Cubs’ rise, with Jake Arrieta keeping rival batters to a .194 average and allowing only 6.29 hits per nine innings, both major league bests.
“To be four wins from a goal that hasn’t been achieved here in such a long time is really impressive,” Arrieta said.
‘Were still not there yet’
Kyle Hendricks had the lowest earned-run average in the major leagues at 2.13 with 19-game winner teammate Jon Lester next at 2.44.
“The history means a lot,” Hendricks said. “It puts it in perspective for us. We enjoy it more because we know it means to the fans of this city.”
“We’re still not there yet. We have four more to go. So as good as this feels, as much as we’re going to enjoy it, we know what we’ve got to do come Tuesday.”
The Indians are happy to let the Cubs draw the attention with their futility streak even as a similar hunger burns within them.
“We like being the underdogs,” said Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. “We like guys not believing in us because we love going out and proving people wrong.” AFP