DigitalVision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — One way or the other, the 2016 World Series winner will make history.
The Chicago Cubs, with an army of electric young position players that emerged through the team’s farm system, like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, haven’t won a World Series since 1908.
The Indians, who have prospered this postseason with dominant pitching from ace Corey Kluber and reliever Andrew Miller, haven’t won since 1948.
It’s no secret that baseball fans like to obsess over numbers. But these numbers — the decades since these teams have won World Series championships — drive home just how much America has changed over the spans of time. For the Cubs, it’s been 108 years since victory and, for the Indians, it’s been 68 years. Here’s how life compared in their triumphant years.
The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Wrigley Field didn’t yet exist. The team’s beloved home stadium was first constructed in 1914 under the name Weeghman Park. The Cubs hosted their first game there on April 20, 1916.
By 1921, William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate, had acquired the Cubs. The stadium was called Cubs Park from 1920 through 1926.
Wrigley Field, a popular Chicago tourist attraction and a landmark associated with baseball’s rich cultural past, wasn’t given that name until 1927.
Today, the Cubs have a strong following throughout the country, in part because of their ties to baseball’s history and in part because of their identity as lovable losers. Ratings for the series are supposed to be strong because of this fandom.
Cubs fans now live in states that didn’t exist in 1908. The modern-day Cubs play their Spring Training games in Mesa, Arizona, where they have a strong residual following. But Arizona didn’t achieve statehood until 1912, four years after they won their last title. New Mexico achieved statehood the same year and Alaska and Hawaii joined in 1959.
The concept of Spring Training itself, however, did exist: historians point to organized camps for players existing as long ago as 1870.
Like 2016, the year 1908 was an election year. Republican candidate William Howard Taft and Democrat William Jennings Bryan squared off against one another in the general election over issues that bear little resemblance to our current discussion — like which candidate was best suited to carry out the reformist policies of the incredibly popular president, Teddy Roosevelt. Taft ultimately won the race by a comfortable margin that year due to his popularity in the business community.
But some elements of the race hold strange similarities: Eugene Debs, a candidate for the Socialist Party, and a hero of the American labor movement, has been cited frequently as an influence by Democratic Party challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The 1908 crowd paid around a quarter to see the Cubs play, an amount that by today’s standards would be closer to six dollars. These days, the average ticket costs somewhere close to eight times the inflated version of that price.
Still, it pales in comparison to how much fans are willing to pay to see the 2016 World Series. The cost of some Game One tickets on StubHub were going for upwards of $6,000 as of Monday.
Two major wars, World War I and World War II, separate the last Cubs title from the last Indians title. The latter’s victory took place in a cultural atmosphere forged by the state of the nations after World War II. President Truman signed the Marshall Plan in 1948, giving billions of dollars of aid to help repair Western Europe in the wake of World War II, and a new agency called the CIA was working on the front lines of what would soon become known as the Cold War.
Today, fans take for granted that speedy left-fielder Rajai Davis plays for the 2016 Indians. But the odds of him playing in 1948 would have been slim, given that the league only had three black players at that time. One of those three was Larry Doby, who starred for the 1948 Indians with an on base percentage of .384 in what would be his first full season.
This year, Dexter Fowler, who is similar to Doby in his patient approach to the plate and propensity to draw walks, will become the first black player to represent the Chicago Cubs in a World Series.
1948 was, like 1908 and 2016, also an election year. The result of that election is considered to be among the more stunning upsets in presidential history, when Democratic incumbent Harry Truman held on to defeat Republican Gov. Thomas Dewey of New York. The election gave rise to the infamous headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”, which was published on election night after the Chicago Daily Tribune assumed a Dewey victory to be in the bag.
Today, election coverage is considered to be much more scientific, but mistakes are still made and the lesson remains.
Tickets to sit in the grandstands of the old Cleveland Stadium cost as little as $6 dollars during the 1948 World Series, according to ticket stubs for sale as souvenirs on eBay. But it was not the only way to watch the game. The first televised World Series game occurred one year prior on September 30, 1947 when the New York Yankees played the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Very few fans had television sets back then. But today, people watch the game on television by the tens of millions.
That number doesn’t include all the additional fans who will watch on MLB.tv through a variety of different mobile devices that would have seemed like science fiction to fans living in 1948 — or for that matter 1908.
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