Back when Hector was a pup, the World Series provided an advanced course in furtiveness for students and teachers as transistor radios were sneaked into classrooms for secret listening.
My family subscribed to The Sporting News, a weekly publication that began in 1886 and presented box scores (novels in names and numbers) of every MLB baseball game. It was nicknamed “The Bible of Baseball” and continues in a digital-only version. We perused the box scores of the Cubs. My father was a long-suffering Cubs fan. They gave him hope tempered with experience. The Cubs wore the badge of mediocrity with pride. If you told a diehard Cub fan to have a good day, he’d reply, “I didn’t know that was an option.”
The Cubs had last won the World Series in 1908. You can’t fix the past, but in 1969, they began the season by winning 11 of 12 games, and on September 2, were five games ahead of second place New York. Bright days quickly turned gray for Cubs fans. In a united effort, they lost 17 of their last 25 games and finished eight games behind the Mets, who won the World Series. It was one of the most devastating late season collapses in history and no surprise to Cub fans because they’d seen that movie before and knew it didn’t end well. Some cruelly called them the Flubs or lovable losers. The Curse of the Billy Goat was supposedly placed on the Cubs in 1945 by Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis. Because the odor of his pet goat, Murphy, bothered other fans, Sianis wasn’t allowed into the Cubs’ ballpark during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series. Outraged, Sianis said the Cubs would never win another World Series as long as his goat wasn’t allowed into Wrigley Field. The Cubs lost that World Series to the Detroit Tigers. The curse was broken when they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5–0 in Game 6 of the 2016 National League Championship Series and defeated the American League champion Cleveland Indians 8–7 in 10 innings in Game 7 to win the 2016 World Series.
The Twins came to Minnesota in 1961 and by 1965 they were in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Harmon Killebrew, Zoilo Versailles, Tony Olivia, Jimmie Hall, Earl Battey, Muscat Grant, Camilio Pascual, Jim Kaat and Bob Allison were stars. They lost the seventh game as Sandy Koufax pitched a shutout against them.
I’ve seen one World Series game from the stands. Four fathers obtained four tickets for each of the four games against the Atlanta Braves in 1991. We drew lots and I got the seventh game, with a good chance of there not being one.
There was a Game 7 and it was won by the Twins 1-0. Gene Larkin got the game-winning hit and I was snapped in the ear by a wet Homer Hankie, but Jack Morris was the hero. Morris started three games of the Fall Classic allowing three runs in 23 innings and earning World Series MVP honors. He pitched all 10 innings of Game 7, tossing 122 pitches in the process. It’s considered by many non-Cub fans as the greatest World Series ever, with three games going extra innings and four games won in the last at-bat. In five of the games the margin of victory was one run.
During my formative years, baseball was the biggest frog in the puddle. Fantasy baseball wasn’t a thing in my culture, but baseball board games based on actual statistics were. Strat-O-Matic, APBA, Pennant Race and Negamco. I listened to radio broadcasters paint games with word pictures. Vin Scully, Joe Garagiola, Herb Carnell, Curt Gowdy, Harry Caray and Jack Buck made listening to ballgames a magical experience. Other than Harry, there was little incoherent babbling.
I tried to get Dad to dump the Cubs for another team. Any other team. He liked the Twins, but they were in a different league. I’d fan out baseball cards in my hand and ask Dad to pick a card, any card. The team shown on that card would become his team. Except if he picked the Yankees. Nobody was supposed to like the Yankees. He refused to participate in such foolishness, dooming the baseball cards to a life of being clothespinned to the spokes of my bicycle, turning it into a motorcycle.
The Cubs didn’t make the playoffs this year. They made their manager the goat and fired him.
Murphy is cursing from his grave.