Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Everyone Has a Bad Century

If you have been watching baseball lately, you'll know that the Major League Baseball playoffs have begun. In fact, as of yesterday, several of the first round series have finished, meaning that we are only two rounds away from another World Series Champion being crowned. Who is going to walk away with the trophy? Will it be the reigning American League champion Royals? The only Canadian entrant, the Blue Jays? The bloated payroll of the Dodgers? The reincarnation of the Miracle Mets? Or, will it be, somehow, incredibly, the Chicago Cubs that win the title? Because if you follow baseball even a little bit, you know that it's been a few years since the Cubs won a World Series. About, um, 107 years to be exact.
The long-cursed Chicago Cubs.
Several generations of Cubs fans have been born, cheered for the team, and died since last time they won a World Series. Harry Caray, the famous Cubs announcer, was born, lived, and died during the period since the Cubs last title. Heck, nearly 50% of American history has gone by since last time the Cubs won a World Series.
The eccentric Harry Caray, Cubs announcer who was born and died in the period between Cubs titles.
This post is going to be a little different than previous posts. Rather than choosing a strange story and describing it, I am going to do a quick review of some of the major things that were happening in 1908, in baseball, in the United States, and in the world. I do this because I think it is interesting to see how much life has changed, and to point out just how ridiculous it is that the Cubs have not won a World Series in that long.
Billy Sianis and his cursed, vengeful goat.

I am not making predictions about how the playoffs are going to finish. I have no idea if this is the year the Cubs finally break the "Curse of the Billy Goat," the curse allegedly placed on the team by Cubs fan Billy Sianis in 1945, after he was asked to remove his pet goat from the game because it's smell was disturbing nearby fans. Sianis allegedly said, "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more." Which was a bold prediction, because at that point it had already been 37 years since they had won. 70 years later, Mr. Sianis has yet to be proved wrong.
The elusive trophy for winning a World Series.

Baseball in 1908

Regular Season

  • The Cubs and Tigers won their respective leagues, the Cubs going 99-55 and the Tigers going 90-63.
  • Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers and Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates led their respective leagues in both average and runs batted in. Cobb hit .324 with 108 runs batted in; Wagner hit .354 with 109.
    The racist, hated, great Ty Cobb.
  • Tim Jordan of the Brooklyn Dodgers led all of baseball with an incredibly low 12 home runs (this was before the Babe Ruth era of lots of home runs).
  • Pitchers Christy Mathewson of the Giants and Ed Walsh of the Chicago White Sox led their respective leagues in games won: Mathewson had 37 wins and an earned run average (ERA) of 1.43; Walsh had 40 wins and an ERA of 1.16.
  • Cy Young, after whom the award for best pitcher in baseball is now named, threw his third and final no-hitter against the New York Highlanders (who would change their name to Yankees in 1912) in June.
  • Ed Reulbach of the Cubs threw both games of a double header and threw two shutouts (and pitchers now can't make it through seven innings).
  • 14 teams have joined Major League baseball since the Cubs won the World Series; there were no teams West of the Mississippi River at the time; African American players were banned from MLB and had to play in the Negro Leagues; this was before Babe Ruth, he would not play in MLB for another 6 seasons.

World Series

  • The World Series that year was a rematch of the 1907 Series, between the Cubs and Detroit Tigers. The Cubs had made the World Series by beating the New York Giants on a play that would later be know, rather poetically, as "Merkle's Boner."
    The headline describing how the Cubs made it to the World Series.
  • The World Series that year was the first to use four umpires instead of three.
  • Notable players for the Cubs were Mordecai "Three-finger" Brown, famous for having only three fingers on his throwing hand; Carl Lundgren; Johnny Evers; Joe Tinker.
  • Notable players on the Tigers were Ty Cobb, famous for being an incorrigible racist and also one of the greatest and most unpopular players ever; Sam Crawford.
  • The Cubs would win the Series four games to one.
    The last Cubs champions.

The United States in 1908

  • The President was Theodore Roosevelt; his vice president was Charles Fairbanks.
    Then President Teddy Roosevelt.
  • A ball was dropped in Times Square on New Years Day for the first time ever.
  • New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were not states yet.
  • Harvard Business School was opened.
  • Mother's Day is observed for the first time.
  • The company which becomes General Motors is founded.
  • Thomas Selfridge becomes the first person to die in an airplane crash, in a plane flown by Orville Wright (that's right, the Wright brothers) in September.
  • Henry Ford releases his first Model T, which sells for $850.
  • William Howard Taft wins the Presidential election over the heroically unlucky William Jennings Bryan.
    Election results for 1908 election, showing where President Taft won and where Mr. Bryan did not. Notice the map is missing Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii.
  • The Converse shoe company opened it's doors.
  • The first upright vacuum was patented and sold to the Hoover company.
  • This was also before both World Wars, before women had the right to vote, before the NFL and NBA were founded, and before the end of the Jim Crow laws.
  • We have had 16 presidents and 11 amendments to the Constitution since the Cubs last won the World Series.

The World in 1908

  • Ernest Shackleton leaves on his expedition to explore Antarctica.
  • The Boy Scouts are effectively founded.
  • King Carlos I of Portugal is assassinated.
  • 1908 Summer Olympics in London are held; the event included a tug-of-war; the U.S.A. sent 122 athletes who won 47 medals including 23 gold, finishing in second but well behind the host, England.
  • Oil is discovered in the Middle East for the first time, in Persia (now Iran), setting up the world for a century of delight afterwards.
  • The Tunguska asteroid explosion above Russia occurs, estimated to have released 15 times the energy of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in WW2.
  • The first animated film, Fantasmagorie, is released.
    The first animated film, Fantasmagorie.
  • The Austro-Hungarian Empire annexes Bosnia Herzegovina, setting up the powder keg that will eventually result in the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of WWI.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are allegedly killed in Bolivia, although no grave has ever been found.
  • The last Emperor of China, Puyi, ascends the throne at the age of 2, only to be dethroned three years later.
    Emperor Puyi of China, age 2.
  • Klas Pontus Arnoldson and Fredrik Bajer win the Nobel Peace prize for negotiating peace between Sweden and the break-away nation of Norway.
  • China was still an Empire; the Ottoman Empire still existed; Russia was still ruled by a tsar; the Austro-Hungarian Empire still existed; television and radio did not exist yet.

Notable Births and Deaths


  • Louis L'amour
  • Bette Davis
  • James Stewart
  • Milton Berle
  • President Lyndon Baines Johnson
    President Lyndon B. Johnson, born the same year as the Cubs last title.
  • Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond
  • Nelson Rockefeller
  • Senator Joseph McCarthy, of the Red Scare fame


  • President Grover Cleveland
  • Guangxi Emperor of China, second to last Emperor
    Empress Dowager Cixi of China. Pretty remarkable that someone who dressed like her lived as recently as the last Cubs World Series.
  • Empress Dowager Cixi of China
  • Thomas Selfridge, first aviation-related fatality
    The Plane crash that killed Thomas Selfridge, the first aviation fatality.


I know that the post I just finished is something that you can find fairly easily by searching Wikipedia. My goal was to point out how much the world has changed since last time the Cubs won the World Series. It's been 107 years, people. The world is drastically different. How crazy is it that in all that time, the Cubs have never been good enough to win even one World Series. It is mind-boggling. As the MLB playoffs start to heat up, and the Cubs get closer to their goal, don't be surprised if Cubs fans start doing crazy things like sacrificing goats to help their team break "the curse." So I just want to wish the Cubs good luck as they get closer and closer to this elusive goal. If the Cubs don't win the Series soon, the world may start to leave them behind!
Cubs fans eat a forty pound goat to try to break the "Curse of the Billy Goat."

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