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Naw. It turned out not to be.

The following is a column I did in 2016. It was the Chicago Cubs and their shot to win a World Series, first in over 100 years. They did go ahead and win that year, besting the Cleveland Indians in seven games. Following that banner season, they have reverted to form and haven't been back.

There are Cubs fans right here in Pea Ridge, though they tend to be younger than say, old folks like myself. When I was growing up, Arkansas was solidly a St. Louis town with a lot of Arkies playing for the Cards over the years. The Redbirds had the closest professional team to the Natural State, well before there was a team in Kansas City, Dallas, or Houston.

Since they both were original members of the first professional baseball league that began in the 1800s, the Cards and Cubs have been mixing it up for a very long time, one of the oldest rivalries of any sport on the face of the earth. Hopefully, we can get this pandemic lock down shut down over with and the summer can really begin in earnest with the return of the boys of summer.

The following was my column in 2016.

Way back in 1909, little boys born in Chicago would grow up to be Chicago Cubs fans. The Cubs had just repeated as World Series Champions, winning both the 1907 and 1908 championships, the first major league team to win two straight titles in the sport.

A lot of these boys would look forward to seeing the Cubs win another title, as they were the dominant team in the still young sport. Alas, the boys born in the late part of the first decade of the 1900s would not live to see another title. Nor would their children or their grandchildren or even most likely their great-grandchildren. One hundred eight years has passed since that last World Series championship trophy.

The last time the Cubs won was a decade before the United States entered World War I, before most folks had automobiles, electricity and before the advent of radio.

Some say the Cubs have just had an incredible streak of bad luck the past 100 years, but speaking of luck, their last title would not have happened if it had not been for a lucky event for the Cubs in 1908.

The Cubs and New York Giants had tied for the National League crown that year, forcing a one-game playoff to see who would play Detroit's Tigers. The game came down to the last inning with the Giants having two outs but with the winning run on third base while another runner, Fred Merkle, was sitting on first base. The next Giant batter hit a single into the outfield, with the Giants runner coming home to score. The crowd went wild and began to storm the field and when Merkle saw that, he turned around on the base path and headed for the dugout.

However, the runner from third would only count if the runner from first made it safely to second. A force play would make the third out, negating anyone scoring on the play. When the Cubs realized that Merkle never touched second, they threw the ball down to second, recorded the third out, and the inning ended with the teams still in a tie. The Cubs would later go on to win the game and after that, the World Series in five games.

Since that time the Cubs have come close a number of times, but still no cigar. In previous columns, I have documented the Curse of the Goat, a story of how a good luck goat was kicked out of Chicago stadium when they were almost certain to go to the World Series, leading to a curse pronounced on the team by the goat's owner.

In the movie, "Back to the Future" part two, the year was 2015 and a joke of the movie was that the Cubs won the World Series. The movie was made in 1985, 30 years before that date in history. It seemed like the movie would be prophetic, with the Cubs getting red hot last summer, piling up the best record in the majors after the All-Star break. They upset division champion St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs, then were set to play the New York Mets, a team they beat seven times that season without a loss. Of course, the Cubs were swept and thus the curse continued.

The Cubs got a new manager last year in Joe Madden, and for a fact, he has changed the culture of the franchise and maybe even their luck. They got John Lackey, the Cardinals' best pitcher in 2015 to change team and hurl for the Cubs. They even got All-star outfield Jason Heyward to bolt St. Louis for the Windy City.

To date, the Cubs have the best record in baseball with a sparkling 24-6 ledger. They winning ratio has been the best since, well, the last time they won the World Series.

They have tremendous young talent along some seasoned pros, like Lackey. Lackey was a big part of the last Red Sox championship season, and he has been the go to guy for the Cards continued string of division championships. At 37, he is a bit old, but his competitiveness is incredible. Had the Cards kept Lackey, they would be close to leading the division this season as their pitching has been lackluster a lot this campaign.

This may be the year the Cubs finally win it all, ending their streak of bad luck. Madden has his team loose and focused. In a recent road trip, he had the players dress up in wild prints and colors while traveling and he seems bent on making the game enjoyable for his players. That's a winning combination when you throw in youth and talent.

The Cubs may win; the world may end.

Not to make a bold prediction, but the last time the Cardinals won the World Series, they stumbled out of the gate and didn't even qualify for the post season until the last game of that campaign. They won the one-game playoff with the worst record among playoff qualifiers and went on to win it all.

Last year, the Cardinals were tearing it up, winning 100 games and at one time, they were on pace to win 110 or more. Injuries, worn out pitchers, etc., and they were quickly eliminated from World Series contention. As a long time Cardinal fan, I have seen their best seasonal record teams fare badly in the post-season. Maybe the Cards will come on late to make a charge into the playoffs and get their 12th World Series championship.

It would be nice to see the Cubs win as a sport fan in general, as they are the long time underdog. As a matter of fact, I have seen more Cubs games in person that Cards games. My wife had a business trip to Chicago several summers in a row in the '90s and I usually went to see the Cubs play as they were only a short ride on the "L" from the hotel I was staying in.

Having said all that -- I still hope the Cards can come back to represent the National League in the fall classic, but if they don't, I wouldn't mind rooting for the Cubs if they can finally break the curse.

•••

Editor's note: This column was first published in 2016. John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at [email protected]

Sports on 06/03/2020

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