Cubs Win 1st National League Pennant in 71 Years
Something happened on October 22nd, 2016 that we had wondered if we would ever see in our lifetime. The Chicago Cubs actually won the National League Pennant for the first time since 1945, and will finally return to the World Series. That’s a long time ago. No Cubs player from that 1945 team is even still alive.
In the first half of the 20th Century, the Cubs were fairly frequent pennant winners. In the Modern Era (since 1900), they were National League champions in 1906, ’07, ’08, ’10, ’18, ’29, ’32, ’35, ’38 and ’45. They won the World Series in 1907 and 1908. Then the drought began. It was another 39 years before the team reached the post season, only to lose the 1984 NLCS. Over the next 30 years, six more trips to the post season followed only to end in disappointment.
In 2015, the Cubs won 98 games and reached the playoffs as a Wild Card. They advanced to the NLCS, where they were shut down by the New York Mets. It was another disappointment, but this time the feeling was different. For once, the Cubs, a very young team, had overachieved. They had beaten Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game, then surprised everyone by beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the Division Series, before some superb pitching by the New York Mets ended their season.
As a result, expectations were high for 2016. The Cubs were the favorites to win the National League championship. But we’ve been down that road before, only to see the Cubs end up in the ditch. But these were not your father’s, or grandfather’s Cubs. The management team of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Joe Maddon had changed the culture of the club. They cared not for the futility of the past, they looked to the future, and as it turns out, the future is now. When the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 on the 22nd of October to take Game 6 of the NLCS, and the series 4-2 after trailing two games to one, it put an end to the Billy Goat Curse, the Collapse of 1969, losing three straight in the best of five 1984 NLCS to the San Diego Padres after being up two games to none, and especially the debacle in 2003, when the Cubs led the Marlins 3 games to 1, lost Game 5, and were five outs away from winning Game 6 and the pennant when the Steve Bartman Incident occurred. The Cubs unraveled, lost the game and then lost Game 7. And then there were the times the Cubs were considered the favorites only to fall short of reaching the post season.
The Cubs still have one more mountain to climb. It’s been 108 years since they won the World Series. The World Series opens in Cleveland on October 25th. The Cubs face a Cleveland Indians team that has not won a World Series since 1948, but compared to the Cubs, has been more successful in at least making it to the Fall Classic. Since ’48, the Indians won the American League pennant in 1954, 1995, and 1997. They also won the pennant and World Series in 1920. No matter which team wins the World Series, on team’s fans will experience ultimate victory for the first time in generations. This will be a great series for baseball.