“May the sun never set on American baseball.” – President Harry S. Truman
1908, 1948, and 2016 share two very important historical similarities: They were/are all election years, and either the Cubs or Indians will end the baseball season as champions. 1908 gave us the final year of two-term president and famous sportsman Teddy Roosevelt, who gave way to our 27th president, Howard Taft. Taft, it’s worth noting, is well known in baseball circles for throwing out the first ceremonial first pitch by a sitting president on April 14, 1910 at Griffith Stadium to begin the season of the Washington Senators. 1948 was a narrow victory for Harry S. Truman, an election forever remembered for the incorrect headline from the Chicago Daily Tribune “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” 2016 brings its own election soon to be decided and a World Series that will end a championship drought of epic proportions for one of the participants – 108 years for the Chicago Cubs and 68 years for the Cleveland Indians.
It’s a beautiful thing when the World Series slots two classic franchises against each other. It provides a truly American feel that only baseball – so weaved into the fabric of our history – can provide. The Cubs, originally known as the White Stockings, were one of the charter members of the National League in 1876. For some presidential perspective, Ulysses S. Grant was in charge of the nation when the White Stockings defeated the Louisville Braves 4-0 in their inaugural NL game. Their fans are perhaps the most tortured in all of sports and have dealt with a variety of bizarre curses, ranging from barnyard animals and black cats to that unfortunate, bespectacled, headphone-wearing fella who shall remain nameless.
The Indians were a charter member of the American League, playing their first game in 1901 as the Cleveland Blues. William McKinley served as president at the time and was assassinated later that year – perhaps a bad sign. Sure, the Indians were champions in 1920 and again in 1948, but they also existed as a second division team for decades at a time. This changed with the opening of Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field) in 1994, which ushered in a baseball renaissance that sported some prodigious offensive teams led by Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar, Jr., and Manny Ramirez. Those squads made it to two World Series, losing to the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and in gut-wrenching fashion to the Florida Marlins in 1997.
Another interesting factoid about this years’ matchup? Two men who will neither take a swing nor field a ball have their fingerprints all over it. Lest we forget, two familiar faces were integral to the Boston Red Sox putting an end to their own “Curse of the Bambino.” Current Cubs General Manager Theo Epstein and current Indians Manager Terry Francona had those very same titles working for the Boston organization when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years in 2004 (another election year). You just can’t make this stuff up, and it adds to the intrigue that this particular Fall Classic provides.
1945 is another year historically linked to this particular series – especially from the perspective of a certain baseball-loving, family-owned tea company located in Fairfield, Conn. You see, while the Cubbies last won the NL pennant that year (losing the World Series to the Detroit Tigers in seven games), family matriarch Ruth Bigelow was busy in the kitchen of her New York brownstone, creating the tea recipe for what would become Constant Comment®. Soon after, R.C. Bigelow, Inc. was launched, forever changing the way Americans enjoyed their tea. Bigelow Tea now sponsors select MLB teams from coast to coast, showing an affinity for our National Pastime that’s been passed down through three generations.
The storylines are set. As in years past, a presidential election will be decided, and one of these long-suffering, iconic baseball franchises will be set free from the ghosts of yesteryear. For the other… there’s always next year.