Well, it’s finally on, a World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, and somebody’s guaranteed to get the victory parade of the century out of this thing.
I thought it might be fun to look back on the American sports scene in the years that these two franchise last won a World Series. That would be 1948 for the Indians and 1908 for the Cubs.
We’ll start with 1948.
Don Shula, a son of Northeast Ohio, was a freshman on the John Carroll University football team in Cleveland. Did pretty well for himself, too, with a 175-yard rushing performance and two touchdowns against the Penguins of Youngstown State.
The Cleveland Browns were not a joke that year. They won the 1948 championship of the All-America Football Conference, an NFL rival, by crushing the Buffalo Bills 49-7 to complete a 15-0 season. Imagine, the Browns and the Indians winning championships in the same year, just as the Indians will try to join the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
There was no NBA franchise in Cleveland in 1948, but the league had teams in Rochester and Providence and Fort Wayne.
In 1948 Babe Ruth died and NASCAR was born.
Larry Doby and Satchel Paige became the first African-American players to win a World Series with the Indians of 1948. It was only one year earlier that Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line.
The 1948 World Series between Cleveland and the Boston Braves was the first to be televised on any kind of national network, but it took some doing. A retrofitted B-29 bomber had to fly a continuous pattern over Pennsylvania to help transmit the signal between Eastern and Midwestern cities.
Now on to 1908.
Trains got major league baseball teams from one city to another. That’s because Henry Ford’s Model T automobile first rolled off the assembly line in 1908 with a price tag of $825. Meanwhile, the Wright brothers were still hustling to convince the U.S. military or anybody else that the flying machine they built would work and it would make sense to place some orders.
Sports results got to Americans slowly, perhaps weeks after the fact depending on location. Ninety percent of U.S. homes lacked electricity in 1908 and there was no commercial radio, much less TV.
Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack, born during the Civil War, had yet to win a World Series in 1908. He eventually won five and managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years, retiring at the age of 87.
Wrigley Field did not exist in 1908. The Cubs played their home games at West Side Park, a wooden structure on a rectangular lot that required a 560-foot drive to clear the fence in center field.
The 1908 World Series between the Cubs and Detroit Tigers was played on five consecutive days with games usually lasting about 90 minutes. Attendance for the final game in Detroit was 6,210, still a record low.
Jim Thorpe was just beginning his athletic career at Carlisle Indian School in 1908. Years later, after he gained fame as an Olympic champion and a professional star in football and baseball, Thorpe was voted the Greatest Athlete of the Twentieth Century in an ABC Sports fan poll.
If women had wanted to vote for president in 1908, however, forget it. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was still more than a decade away.
The Chicago Bears didn’t exist in 1908. They came along 12 years later and the Chicago Bulls weren’t established until 1966.
The 1908 Summer Olympics were in London, with a pool built on the infield of the main stadium’s track and tug-of-war as an official medal sport.
You get the picture. So much has changed that the Cubs and Indians World Series of 2016 might as well be played on a different planet than those early years.
It adds a layer of romance, however, to what often turns into a series of four-hour marathon games ending well after midnight on the East Coast.
Enough to keep me watching, though, and hoping that it will all be worth the wait.