It’s almost time for Game 3 of the 2016 World Series. This year we have two teams that haven’t been to the Fall Classic in many years. The Cleveland Indians were last in it in 1997. They lost to the Florida Marlins in a tough, seven game series. The last time Cleveland won the World Series was 1948 when they beat the Boston Braves in a six game series.
The Braves would move to Milwaukee, WI in 1953, where they won the World Series in 1957 and then to Atlanta, GA in 1966, where they won it in 1995.
The biggest news of this World Series has to be the Chicago Cubs. They won 103 games in the regular season and then played two hard fought teams in the post-season: a best of five series that went four games against the San Francisco Giants and then a best of seven series against the Los Angeles Dodgers that went six games.
The Cubbies hadn’t been to the Big Show since 1945. They lost to the Detroit Tigers in seven games and according to folklore it’s all because of a goat named Murphy.
If you watched Saturday Night Live in the 1970s you might be familiar with one of the cast’s ongoing skit settings: the Billy Goat Tavern, known on the show as the Olympia Café. The famous line from every Olympia Café sketch was, “Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger. No Pepsi. Coke.”
Some of the cast members had been regulars at the tavern, along with members of the two major Chicago newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. Columnist Mike Royko mentioned the tavern many times in his columns for the Sun-Times and Tribune.
As the tale goes, tavern owner Billy Sianis, a Greek immigrant, brought his pet goat Murphy to Game 4 of the 1945 Series. When it started to rain and the goat began to stink up the place the owner of the Cubs, Philip Knight Wrigley, had Sianis and his goat ejected from the game.
Sianis put a curse on the Cubs, saying they would never again win the National League pennant and play in a World Series at Wrigley Field.
The Tigers won Game 4 and then the series and afterwards the disgruntled tavern owner sent Wrigley a letter saying, “Who stinks now?”
So for 71 years the Chicago Cubs and their fans have lived with the Curse of the Billy Goat. This year they broke the curse.
Team members will laugh at the mere mention of the curse because winning baseball games has nothing to do with superstition. It’s all about playing great baseball good enough to win at least four games in a seven game series.
But then watch as each hitter gets to the plate. Some, maybe most, will have a little ritual they do with their bats and batting gloves, how they situate themselves in the batter’s box.
Same with pitchers, from the way they tip the brims of their hats, to the way they “soften up” the ball, kick the dirt on the mound — it’s all the same with batters and pitchers.
They will all deny it’s superstition of course, that there are practical reasons for doing what they do as they prepare to throw or take a pitch and they are right. You hear it all the time in post-game interviews: whether they are hitting well or in a slump they all stick to the same routine. A batting or pitching coach might suggest changes to the mechanics of the pitching or swinging of the bat, but those little routines with the bat and gloves or on the mound — they remain the same.
So when a reporter asks the Cubs about the curse — which has now been broken — they will deny they believe it, but they won’t disrespect it.
The very real predicament for the Cubs is that they will need to win three more games against the Cleveland Indians. The series started at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. A staple at Indians home games is the pounding drums that lead the crowd in deafening cheers. The crowd loves it and so do the players. If you watched the first two games on TV you no doubt heard them. As a player from an opposing team on the field, it’s deafening.
In Game 1 the Cleveland bats made short work of Cubs ace Jon Lester and the Chicago bullpen. Indians catcher Roberto Perez hit two homeruns off Lester, scoring four runs. But that was just two-thirds of the Indians’ total for the game. Brandon Guyer and Jose Ramirez both got RBIs. Guyer’s came when Lester hit him in the back of his leg with the bases loaded. That allowed Mike Napoli to walk in a run.
As Claudia Gestro said in her video report from Game 1, “The Cubs bats were cold and the Cleveland pitching was nasty.” Starter Corey Kluber dominated the Cubs and the Cleveland bullpen kept Chicago from scoring.
In Game 2 Chicago came roaring back. Cy Young Award-winner Jake Arrieta went 5.2 innings, allowing just one run to score on a wild pitch in the 6th inning. That would be the end of the scoring for Cleveland.
The Cubs were able to activate slugger Kyle Schwarber for the World Series, and they used him as a designated hitter (American League rules). He had two RBIs in the game and scored when Cleveland pitcher Bryan Shaw loaded up the bases in the 5th and then walked Addison Russell.
The Cubs only used three pitchers Wednesday while the Indians tapped seven. Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer only went 3.2 innings. The final score was 5-1.
So the Cubbies enter Game 3 fresh off a win, for the first World Series game at Wrigley Field in 71 years. The historical nature of this series is making it the most watched Fall Classic since 2009. With the three games at Wrigley Field we can expect the rating to go up.
Just a side note: when Claudia was covering Spring Training in Arizona she covered all the teams, including the Cubs and Indians. She tweeted at the time she thought there would be the two teams in the 2016 World Series. Obviously she knows baseball.
Below are the video reports by Claudia Gestro from the first two games at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Photos by Claudia Gestro