The Chicago Cubs: Loveable Losers
The North Siders. The Lovable Losers. The Boys in Blue. The most wonderful baseball team of all time. Okay, I made the last one up. However you refer to them and whatever your personal thoughts on the team may be, you cannot talk Chicago without mentioning the Cubs.
The Cubs’ earliest roots trace back to 1876 when William Hulbert, who had been financing a Chicago team dubbed the Chicago White Stockings, became disgusted with the unethical behavior that pervaded baseball at the time. He seceded from the already existing National Association of Baseball Players and developed the National Baseball League, which gave rise to the Chicago National League Ball Club. The name Chicago White Stockings was eventually adopted by a rival Southside American Baseball league team (which, of course, morphed into the Chicago White Sox), and Hulbert’s original team, after being known as the Chicago Colts and then the Chicago Orphans (weird, right?), finally came to be called the Chicago Cubs in 1902.
I suppose, in a way, the Cubs are like that kid in third grade who has a massive growth spurt and, for several years, towers over his peers; however, come high school he is the shortest one around since he hit his peak too early and now frequently gets shoved into his locker by the bigger kids. From 1905 to 1912, the Cubs won four pennants and two World Series. Hence, the growth spurt era. Now, in 2010, the Cubs have not won a World Series in 102 years (that would be since 1908, for those as mathematically challenged as I), granting them the longest dry spell of any other major North American sports team. As of 2010, we still remain the embarrassingly short high schooler. But no worries, fellow Cubbie diehards; even the little guy gets his break eventually… right?
The Cubs’ inability to win a World Series title has become the topic of Chicago folklore, with various strange events only fueling the fire that the team is cursed. The curse, known as the Curse of the Billy Goat, was allegedly cast by Billy Sianis, who, along with his goat, was ejected from Wrigley during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series due to the animal’s foul odor, despite the fact that both Sianis and the goat had box seats. As legend has it, Sianis proclaimed, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” as he exited the park. The Cubs have not returned to a World Series since (insert creepy music here).
Despite the fact that loyal Cubs fans have lived entire lifetimes without witnessing a World Series win, the team has managed to retain a following of faithful fans throughout the its many ups and downs. In addition to having the best fans in the world, the Cubs roster has boasted a wealth of talented players over the years, including Ernie Banks (lovingly known as Mr. Cub), Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, and Greg Maddux. The Cubs also drew national attention in 1999 when Sammy Sosa, whose bat may or may not have been corked at the time, faced off against the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire in a home run derby. Sosa lost, but it gave Cubs fans something to cheer about.
Two more famous names that are synonymous with Cubdom are those of Cubs broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray. Brickhouse’s signature “Hey Hey!” slogan is immortalized on the two foul poles that flank Wrigley, while Harry Caray, who became nationally recognized for his enthusiastic renditions of “Take me Out to the Ball Game” and spontaneously shouting “Holy Cow!”, is honored with a statue outside the ballpark. Regardless of how poorly the Cubs were playing, these two beloved figures always remained optimistic, inspiring Cubs fans everywhere to follow suit.
The Cubs are part of the National League’s Central Division, and as a result maintain rivalries with fellow Central Division teams the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. Perhaps the most intense rivalry, however, lies between the Cubs and the Sox. Twice a year, one weekend at Wrigley and one at U.S. Cellular, Chicago hosts the Crosstown Classic. During these six games (three games per series at each ballpark), friends turn against friends; family members cease to speak to one another; fights break out in bars and, occasionally, on the field (Barrett vs. Pierzynski, anyone?). I think once someone was actually even killed. But despite the intense rivalry, for six games a year, the city comes together, divided but still united, forgets the larger problems of the world, and devotes itself to America’s favorite pastime.
Their approximately 140 year history has been dramatic, encouraging, heartbreaking, unpredictable, and thrilling. Some people have given up hope of ever living to see a Cubs World Series win. But, as my Dad, whose veins pump blood a bright shade of blue, always reminds me, there is a magic about the Cubs that is irreplaceable. One of these days, this year WILL be the year, and Cubs fans worldwide will be able to hold their W flags and heads high…and then spontaneously combust as the world comes to an end.