I’m going to have to watch someone play baseball this week. And, so are you. Let’s figure out which World Series team to root for.
The Chicago Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. The Cleveland Indians last won a World Series in 1948.
There’s a certain comfort in being able to shake your head at the end of a losing season and say, “Well, we always lose, that’s what we do.” Fans start to hang on to this excuse like a crutch. It becomes the excuse for every misplay, every error, every loss.
Just to be clear, Cubs and Indians fans, that ends today. No more are you “long-suffering.” You’re now winners. Enjoy the pressure that goes along with that.
A lot of thinking goes into choosing a World Series team to root for. Not by me, of course, but by other people.
You could spend hours poring over ERAs, WARs, FIPs, and Batting Averages.
You could study baseball stats and figures for the next seven hours and come out convinced that the Washington Nationals will beat the Red Sox in six.
Yup, and where does that put you? Back at square one.
Let’s look at more important things.
When choosing between the Cubs and Indians, here are some facts that may help you choose the best team for your needs.
First, let’s look at 1908, the last year the Cubs won the World Series, and 1948, the last year the Indians won.
Important things invented in 1908: The Model T. The Boy Scouts. The Times Square News Years Eve Ball Drop. Coffee filters. Paper cups. Cellophane.
Thank you, 1908.
Important things invented in 1948: Television stations – lots and lots of television stations. Transistor Radios. Frisbees. Velcro. Contact lenses. Kitty litter. Hand dryers.
We have five cats. This is important.
What can’t you live without? Cars? Coffee? Kitty litter?
The correct answer is kitty litter.
(Hand dryers in public restrooms should be banned. First, they don’t even really dry your hands and second sometimes you’ll be standing there, trying to dry them, and someone comes and uses the dryer next to you and the dryer sends their water splattering all over you. So you wipe your hands on your shirt and off you go. Hand dryers are stupid. Which is to say. Give me Frisbees, because they’re not as stupid as hand dryers.)
Like 2016, 1908 and 1948 were Presidential election years.
In 1908, Republican William Howard Taft defeated William Jennings Bryan.
In 1948, Democrat Harry S. Truman defeated Thomas Dewey.
Unless you were in Chicago, in which case this is what your newspaper reported.
Opening Day, 1910.
President Taft was, according to scholarly rankings, one of our mediocre Presidents. Not horrible, just meh.
Of interest: the portly President once got stuck in the White House bathtub (citation: my junior high history report) and went on to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice of the United States (citation: ibid.)
The Internet says this bathtub thing – the very best thing in Taft’s history – never happened.
So, who are you going to believe? The Constitution Center or an innocent 12-year-old who lived in a simpler, non-Internet time? Up to you.
A slimmed down Taft, who was the first President to throw out the ceremonial “first pitch” at a big league game, is now one of the Washington National’s Racing Presidents.
Opening Day, 1949.
President Truman is often considered by scholars to be one of our greatest – and hardest-working – Presidents.
He also attended more baseball games while President than any other sitting President, according to the Truman Presidential Library. This was, Truman believed, an opportunity to help instill a sense of peacetime in a nation still recovering from World War II.
President Truman was known to throw out first pitches ambidextrously – using his right arm for some games, his left for others.
“May the sun never set on American baseball,” he once said.
For the 2016 Cubs:
- They took Manager Joe Maddon out of the AL East, which has hobbled the Tampa Rays ever since, making life just a little bit easier for teams like the Orioles. Thanks, Cubs!
- They took closer Aroldis Chapman out of the AL East, when they got him in trade from the Yankees this summer. The elimination of 103-, 104-, and 105-mph fastballs was very helpful to the Orioles. Thanks!
- They traded for Orioles mediocre starter Jake Arrieta in 2013 and found a way to turn him into the NL Cy Young. Still not sure how that happened, but good for you!
- They traded for Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter in 2015. Hunter is the kind of reliever that makes you sit on your hands and hold your breath every time he starts warming up in the pen. Some days, he’ll throw smoke and completely steamroll batters. Some days, he’ll give up home run after home run. There’s no middle ground with Tommy.
Tommy can be the boisterous heart of a team. I was not happy about this trade. The Cubs let him go at the end of the season … (stay tuned)
For the 2016 Indians …
- They are an American League team.
- They have two University of Virginia alums on their roster – Brandon Guyer, outfielder, who is known for being hit by pitches, and Kyle Crockett, reliever.
Ouch. Guyer’s Hit By Pitch “Map” for 2016.
- They have reliever Andrew Miller. When the Orioles got Miller from the Red Sox in trade in the summer of 2014 he carried the O’s to the post-season. Miller and his Spaghetti Legs are beautiful to watch (as long as your team isn’t batting). He signed in 2015 with the Yankees and they traded him to the Indians this summer, but I will never forget what he did for the Orioles. How could I root against him?
- Remember Tommy Hunter (What, no? I just wrote about him in the previous section, come on!) The Cubs let him go after the 2015 season (because they are horrible) and the Indians picked him up.
Hunter fractured his back in a fall this summer (I’m not kidding: he fell trying to protect his baby!) and the Indians cut him. (Apparently the Cleveland Indians hate babies.) Fractured back or not, the Orioles re-signed him in August and went to the post-season for the first time since 2014. To Tommy’s credit, both his previous teams are now in the World Series, so maybe the Orioles should cut him next, that seems to work. NO. No, no, no. He’s like the spirit animal of the Orioles and must never be traded again.
Where he belongs.
- Oh, almost forgot. I played a Cleveland Indians fan in a movie.
In 1993, the movie Major League II was filmed in Baltimore. If you’ve seen the movie (and, seriously, it’s ok if you haven’t. I understand), you’d know it was filmed in Baltimore because big-budget Hollywood movies can only afford so much cheap tarp and bunting to cover up things, and so you’ll see signs for the Inner Harbor and other tell-tale Baltimore things prominently displayed in the film.
Most of the filming was done at the Oriole’s Camden Yards in October with real “extras” who got fed and wore Indians caps.
But, in September, before an actual game (and I’m almost entirely certain it was an Orioles-A’s game on a Friday night – a game that the Orioles lost and that resulted in pitcher Mike Mussina straining his shoulder) fans were asked to be in a crowd scene. We were told that Charlie Sheen – playing pitcher Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn — was going to come out of the bullpen and into a game at a pivotal moment. We were told to pretend to be excited. To cheer and dance and carry on. Oh, one more thing, they told us: Charlie Sheen wasn’t really going to come out of the bullpen. We would have to pretend that we saw him out there on that empty baseball diamond. This is how great actors get their start, so we all went along.
The song “Wild Thing” came on over the PA and for the next few minutes we were all Indians fans.
You can see the scene (with Spanish subtitles) here.
Look for me at the corner of where the third base line pivots near the foul pole. You won’t see me, but I promise you I’m there.
In researching this life-changing movie debut this week, I discovered a story in The Baltimore Sun claiming that the first filming was done at Camden Yards in October, after the season ended.
Shut up, Baltimore Sun. I was in that movie. And, they filmed a crowd scene at a game in September.
I needed proof. So, I emailed the one person who would know. The person who went to the game with me that night. My longtime friend Suzanne.
Suzanne emailed me right back – which is what friends do, even when you haven’t talked to them in years. “Yes I remember. I totally cherish that outing.”
So there you go.
It happened. I was an Indians fan in a movie. (And, so was Suzanne.)
OK, that’s all I’ve got. Root for the Cubs. Root for the Indians. Up to you.
Baseball rooting is hard work. I hope that some of this context will help you choose the best team for you …
… and for me …
Tuesday Update, 8:00 p.m.
VOTES are in! And so, I’ll be rooting for the Cubs 62% of the time and the Indians 38% of the time through the World Series.