The fact that the Chicago Cubs haven’t won it all since 1908 is a well-worn factoid, known by anyone with even a passing interest in baseball, and lamented by Cubs fans. We’ve all heard it so much that it has almost lost its power to ruffle feathers.
I have to confess, then, that 71 is the number the pokes at me more regularly.
The Cubs have not been to the World Series since 1945. They haven’t even had the opportunity to end the other streak in any of the previous 70 seasons. No one will argue that the ultimate goal is to see the Cubs win the World Series, but you can’t win it if you don’t get there, and the Cubs’ streak of not even getting there is barely believable.
For the first time since 2003, the Chicago Cubs have an opportunity today to punch a ticket to the World Series. The Cubs also made NLCS appearances in 2015, 1989, and 1984, but only 1984 gave the Cubs an actual chance to win the series in a given day (three chances, actually, but we don’t have to get into that).
When you put it that way, and you factor in the stretch from 1945 until 1984, when the Cubs were almost completely uncompetitive, regardless of the playoff format that existed at that time, you realize that it’s not just a matter of the Cubs losing out when they’ve had the chance. This is a franchise that barely ever has had a chance!
That’s what makes a day like today so important. So special. There have been just six days like today for the Cubs – three chances in each of 1984 and 2003 – in the last 71 years*, when it was THE DAY they could finally lock up a trip back to the World Series.
I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it, even as the tension builds. I try to imagine that final out tonight, and then what happens … and I genuinely cannot. I have no idea. There is almost no precedent for it. At least not in my lifetime. Or my parents’ lifetime. Or anyone else born after 1945.
*To put a finer statistical point on it, just for funsies, just 0.02% of days since 1945 have been a day like today.