Dan's Dugout: Can Cubs' Streak End Drought? • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Can Cubs’ Streak End Drought?


Even if Jack Brickhouse had not become a legendary broadcaster, he will always be remembered for his one-line description of the Chicago Cubs:

“Anybody can have a bad century.”

For the Northsiders, it’s actually been more than a century. They last won a World Series in 1908, when Theodore Roosevelt was president and Brooklyn residents were so busy dodging trolley lines that the local team picked up a new nickname.

Cubs have been shooting blanks since 1908

Cubs have been shooting blanks since 1908

A friend actually has a brand-new T-shirt that says, “Chicago Cubs: 1908 World Champions.” She figures she’ll never get a newer version.

To be sure, the Cubs have been the Flubs in more ways than fans care to remember.

When they last reached the World Series, against the Detroit Tigers in 1945, they refused to let Billy Sianis bring his pet goat to any of the games — even though he had done so all season. The tavern owner then placed a hex on the club that said it would never reach the Series again, let alone win it.

After decades of futility that included a five-year experiment with a board of rotating “head coaches,” the Cubs encountered a black cat at Shea Stadium and blew a big late-summer lead to the 1969 Miracle Mets.

In 1984, facing a vastly inferior San Diego Padres team in a playoff series that was then

Cubs have been flying the W flag over Wrigley quite often this season

Cubs have been flying the W flag over Wrigley quite often this season

best-of-five, the Cubs lost the last three games — including a finale frought with GatorAid after Ryne Sandberg knocked over the jug in the dugout and inadvertently poured the sticky mess over the gloves of teammates.

Then there was the Steve Bartman game of 2003, when the Cubs again lost the last three games in the Championship Series. The Florida Marlins, a wild-card winner known more for pitching than offense, overcame a 3-0 deficit with an eight-run explosion so sudden that it consumed less time than a quick trip to Dunkin’ Donuts.

Bartman’s error was trying to catch a foul ball that Moises Alou had in his sights. The fan deflected it, prolonging the inning — and the agony.

Nobody has seen him since.

Manager Joe Maddon has a magic touch

Manager Joe Maddon has a magic touch

Okay, now it’s 2016 and the Cubs seem primed to reverse the curse. They have creative forces at work in manager Joe Maddon, who believes in crazy clothes and late-night pizza parties, and general manager Theo Epstein, the erstwhile Boy Wonder of Boston who promised a five-year plan that is coming to fruition.

Although the Ricketts family has spent more money on ancient Wrigley Field than the team within, the Cubs have created a nucleus that rocketed to the top of the National League Central standings with the best start in club history.

Stealing Jason Heyward and John Lackey from the arch-rival Cardinals via free agency helped but the scouting department deserves most of the credit. The sleuths pilfered pitcher Jack Arrieta, the league’s best, from the Baltimore Orioles and developed such home-grown talent as Kris Bryant, the slugging third baseman, and Jorge Soler, who plays everything but the bass fiddle.

Maddon likes moving men around like chess pieces and is a virtuoso of versatility. Only Heyward,

Jason Heyward has helped the Cubs immensely

Jason Heyward has helped the Cubs immensely

the gifted rightfielder who may yet realize his power potential, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are sure to appear in the same spots every day. Even Bryant has played in the outfield a few times.

As for Arrieta, he’s thrown no-hitters twice in his last 11 starts and is already the odds-on favorite for his second straight National League Cy Young Award.

Another showdown with the pitching-rich New York Mets in the final playoff round appears inevitable but the Cubs are deeper, stronger, more versatile, and more experienced than they were a year ago. Plus the club wants to win one for David Ross, the veteran backup catcher who is retiring after this season.

Since the Boston Red Sox ended the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, the Cubs have been trying to end the Goat Curse of Wrigley Field — plus the longest championship drought of any of the original 16 clubs. It could happen this summer.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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