CLEVELAND — Welcome to the 112th World Series, the rare Fall Classic where there’s more at stake than simply a championship. There’s a curse to be shattered, one of two historic droughts to be ended and further longing awaiting either the Cubs or Indians since whichever team loses will have to forge on, title-less, a while longer.
As Jon Lester, the Cubs’ starter in Game 1 put it: “One of us has to win, right?”
It’s got all the makings of a classic, particularly when you add in a unique backdrop for Tuesday night’s Game 1: Mere footsteps away from Progressive Field, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers will be getting their championship rings at Quicken Loans Arena before their opener with, of all teams, the Knicks. It’s been quite a sports year already in the 216 area code.
LeBron James and the Cavs won the city’s first crown in a major sport since 1964 last June and it “sent a vibe through the city,” Cleveland’s Game 1 starter Corey Kluber recalled. “It’s been great for Cleveland, the fact they won a championship and hopefully we can bring them another one.”
“You talk to people about the reaction to the basketball team when they won and it’s pretty special,” added Andrew Miller, the ex-Yankee reliever who has been a vital part of Cleveland’s October success. “And our hope is to get to live that in the baseball world.”
The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 and haven’t even been here since 1945. The Indians haven’t won it all since 1948. A heading on one section of the media notes for the Series reads, “Something’s Gotta Give.” The notes go on to say that the 176 combined years between wins for the two teams is the largest in World Series history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Mike Napoli, the Indians’ slugging first baseman, knew that facing the Cubs would add even more oomph to this World Series , so he says he was rooting for them to win the National League pennant.
“I wanted to play against them,” Napoli said Monday on the Series’ workout day. “What they’ve gone through? I thought it would be an amazing scene to play in both of these stadiums at this time. I thought it would be something cool.”
Jon Lester is slated to start Game 1 for the Cubs in Cleveland.
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
He even admitted he was happy for Cubs fans, the most consistently disappointed baseball fans this side of, well, Indians fans. “They’ve gone through a lot,” Napoli said. “I think it’s pretty cool for them to make it.”
There are plenty of threads linking these teams and even clues that optimistic fans can cling to, like Kluber’s dad growing up an Indians fan.
Does the fact that Addison Russell plays short for the Cubs mean something banner-ish, since the “L” station stop for Wrigley is Addison, named for one of streets outside the ballpark?
Chicago’s baseball boss, Theo Epstein, was the GM in Boston when Terry Francona was the Red Sox manager. Both men know from ending curses — the two were in Boston when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. Before that, the Sox hadn’t won since, all together Yankee fans: 1918.
Since Francona is now the Indians manager, both teams can claim a curse-breaker on their side. Francona even has a link to both teams from his playing days — he was on each team for one season in the 80s.
Cubs skipper Joe Maddon admitted he’s watched “Field of Dreams” since the Cubs ousted the Dodgers in the NLCS. “I’m that guy,” Maddon said. “I cry easily, so the connection to the past is very important.”
Jason Kipnis, the Indians second baseman, grew up in Northbrook, Ill., a Chicago suburb. He used to dream of playing in the World Series at Wrigley Field. That will indeed happen in Game 3 when the Series shifts to Chicago.
“Always thought it’d be the bottom of the ninth I’d be hitting, but it’s going to be the top of the ninth,” Kipnis said in his Midwestern twang. “Two outs, top of the ninth, full count, bases loaded. That’ll be the only difference.”
Before they play at Wrigley, though, there are two games in Cleveland, a city whose teams are changing the way we think of the place. There’s so much excitement around the Indians right now that when Kipnis went to grab Mexican food at Chipotle the other day, the clerk said, “Oh, no, you’re not paying.”
The Cubs’ drought is longer, so it gets more national attention. Kipnis understands that.
“I don’t think there’s any series that can embody ‘Cleveland vs. The World’ as much as this one does, because that’s what it feels like — ‘Cleveland vs. the The World.’ We’d be talking about our own drought if we were playing any other team,” Kipnis said.
“With how big of a team and how likeable those guys are over there and their fan base, hopefully, it’ll be a series for the ages.
“Man, will it be fun if we come out on top.”
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News