Wishes can come true, but not necessarily when we want them to. Or in the manner we want them to. This has been the case for me and my favorite baseball teams. I say teams rather than team because I’ve lived in a few different places and developed different loyalties.
I grew up in northeast Ohio, on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, and I grew up playing baseball. The small town I’m from is about equidistant between the American League Cleveland Indians and the National League Pittsburgh Pirates. I liked both teams and listened to their games on radio, but what tipped the scales toward Cleveland was that for several years I was a safety patrol in grade school, and each year the school system took all the safety patrols to Cleveland to see a game.
So I became a fan of the Cleveland Indians. Who always seemed to play the Boston Red Sox whenever we attended a game. Which meant that I got to see Ted Williams at bat. Hitting called to me. Good pitching makes nothing happen; good hitting makes something happen. I was absolutely for making something happen. And thus I became a big fan of the Red Sox.
After graduating from high school and college, I worked in Cleveland for several years, attending Indian games when possible. And then my husband and I moved to Boston. There we attended far more games than we had in Cleveland. Far more exciting games, too, featuring Red Sox players such as Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski. My love of the Red Sox deepened, as did Phil’s.
In the mid-70s we moved to Chicago, a city with two baseball teams. We took advantage of this by going to many, many games at both Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field. It didn’t take long for us to develop a love for both the White Sox and the Cubs . . . we could do this because we weren’t born in Chicago, where people who love the Sox hate the Cubs, and vice versa.
Round about 1980 or so, after Phil and I had been following either the Indians, the Red Sox, the Cubs, or the White Sox for almost twenty years, we realized something — the four baseball teams of the three cities we had lived in were precisely the four teams that had gone The. Longest. without a World Series victory. The Cubs had not won since 1908; the White Sox since 1917; the Red Sox since 1918; and the Indians since 1948. Even expansion teams such as the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, and New York Mets had a history that went back to only 1961, so no matter how long it might take one of them to win a World Series . . . they were still ahead of the four teams we supported.
We considered moving to a different city. San Francisco? Kansas City? Minneapolis-St. Paul? The problem was, we liked Chicago. And Cleveland. And Boston. Besides, we thought, we were being way too pessimistic: surely one of our four teams would win a World Series in the 1980s!
To our joy, and that of millions of Red Sox fans, Boston won the American League pennant in 1986 and went to the World Series. Which it looked as if they would win! But which they lost to the New York Mets.
Okay, then — the 1990s?
Cleveland was in the World Series twice during that decade, 1995 and 1997, losing first to the Atlanta Braves, then to the Florida Marlins.
Around the year 2000, though, I began to lose faith that any of our four teams would ever win a World Series. So be it, I thought. That’s life.
But then came 2004, in which the Boston Red Sox won the World Series!!!!
Followed by 2005, in which the Chicago White Sox won the World Series!!!
Followed by more Red Sox victories, 2007 and 2013!
So. Half of our four teams did, in fact, win a World Series and removed themselves from the list of Series-drought teams.
Only the Chicago Cubs (1908) and the Cleveland Indians (1948) remained on that list.
We never thought, we never anticipated, we never considered that . . . the two teams would face each other in a World Series.
What’s a fan to do?
A fan supports her team. Which is why I’ll be shouting Go, Teams!
Supporting four baseball teams wasn’t enough for Barbara Gregorich, so she invented the Chicago Eagles, a fictitious team, for her novel She’s on First.