In 1908, Albert Einstein was a 28-year-old lecturer at the University of Bern. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Medal of Honor recipient who led the 20th Maine and held the line at Gettysburg, was still living, at 80 years old. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was 79 years old and living in London, England. Apache chief Geronimo was the same age, living as a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was a spry 72 and still writing. Leo Tolstoy was 80 and living in Russia. Thomas Edison was 61, summering in West Orange, New Jersey and wintering on the Caloosahatchee River in what is now downtown Fort Myers, Florida.
And on October 14, 1908, the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series. Until Wednesday night, that is.
In the longest pass ever to connect two things of the same DNA in sports history, the Cubs broke the curse of the billy goat, which lasted 108 years. At the Cubs’ previous championship, the invention of the first airplane (notwithstanding Brazil’s claims) was just 5 years past. The Ford Model T had begun production just two weeks prior. Kingdoms rose and fell, leaders were born and died. The Israelites marched in the wilderness for 40 years—two and a half times.
The number of people still alive, who were mere preschoolers or toddlers or babies when the Cubs last took home the championship, is vanishingly small. Some number under 10,000 still live, based on U.S. Census projections. All we have to commemorate the event is old newspapers and press accounts. There are no eyewitnesses left.
We have plenty of eyewitnesses to the 2016 version. In one of the greatest (if not the greatest) game 7 performances ever, the Cubs roared back from a 3-1 deficit against the Cleveland Indians to take the series. The Indians are no slouches at extended championship droughts, currently sitting at 68 years and counting. Since 1990, they’ve won the AL Central Division eight times, including a nearly-unbroken streak between 1995 and 2001.
Both teams left it all out on the field. Being a Red Sox fan, I found it very satisfying that this series was the ex-Red Sox versus the ex-Red Sox. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was the front-office genius behind the 2004 Sox thrashing the curse of the Bambino (86 years without a championship) before he went to Chicago to kill the goat. Watching Jon Lester pitch to David Ross was a replay of 2013, when the Sox smashed the Cardinals in 6 games.
Then there was manager Terry Francona, whose freewheeling, player-centered style guided the Red Sox to their initial 21st century victory in 2004, and again in 2007. While with the BoSox, Francona never lost a World Series game. Not even one. He didn’t repeat that feat with the Indians—sadly for him.
Game 7: all I can say is “wow.” It looked like the Cubs were going to take the game easily, like they did in game 6. But the Indians powered their way back in the bottom of the 8th, leaving the score tied headed into the bottom of the 9th. The first time a World Series game 7 went into extra innings was 1924, which went to the 12th when the Washington Senators beat the New York Giants 4-3. In 1997, the Indians lost game 7 in the 11th inning to the one-championship-wonder Florida Marlins.
Free baseball in the deciding game of the World Series has happened another time, with the Minnesota Twins breaking a scoreless tie against the Atlanta Braves in 1991 in the bottom of the 10th. Pitcher John Smoltz started that game. At Cleveland’s Progressive field on Wednesday night, Smoltz was in the booth with Fox Sports’ Joe Buck calling the game. In 1991, the Twins’ Gene Larkin smacked an RBI single over Lonnie Smith to score Dan Gladden, who was walked by Braves reliever Charlie Leibrandt, to take home the championship.
Smoltz must have relived that moment when Indians’ Michael Martinez got up to bat with a runner in scoring position. But alas, Martinez hit a weak grounder to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, who joyfully tossed the ball to first baseman Anthony Rizzo for the final out—Rizzo stuffed the ball in his back pocket before joining the celebration.
And one last oddity. This year, there have been two ties in the NFL. The last time that happened was 1997, when the Indians lost in game 7. Coincidence?