100 reasons to love the Cubbies

JIM LITKE

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

CHICAGO -- One hundred years between your last World Series title and the next one isn't a slump, people, it's a century.

That's 14 years longer than Boston Red Sox fans had to wait, a dozen more than the hated crosstown White Sox endured, and still almost 60 clear of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The last time the Cubs won it all, as some people around here never tire of saying, the Dead Sea wasn't even sick.

But like almost everything else about being a Cubs fan since 1908, it turns out the joke is not just about them, but on them, too. At a Jewish cemetery in suburban Chicago sits a tombstone that includes, in Yiddish, "The Cubs stink."

HOPE AGAINST HOPE

Either way, come opening day, some 41,000 soulmates will emerge from hibernation wearing layers of Cubbie blue -- hats, coats, sweaters, scarves and scar tissue -- and check their sanity at the turnstiles. They'll hope against hope that this is that year.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella has enough talent to win it all, he isn't superstitious and he wasn't around when the franchise was cursed by a goat (1945), crossed by a black cat (1969) or undone by one of its own, be it Leon Durham (1984) on the field or Steve Bartman (2003) in the stands.

The Cubs rarely needed help losing. Following back-to-back World Series wins in 1907-08, they returned seven more times through 1945 and lost every one.

Who knows why, but no one has had more fun losing than Cubs fans.

Most wouldn't know how to answer the question about whether it's better to have loved and lost because they haven't known anything else.

The reason why has been sitting under their civic noses nearly the entire time.

It's Wrigley Field.

By the time William Wrigley got control in 1921 of both the team and the stadium he had an investment strategy that would hamstring the Cubs for decades.

Players come and go, but the ballpark wasn't going anywhere. An owner's money was better spent on the destination than the journey. As long as the joint was packed with beer, sunshine and the opposite sex, locals would stay for the game or in spite of it.

That's why the Cubs kept tickets affordable and why, in 1916, they were the first team to let fans keep balls that sailed into the stands. It's also why on a warm summer day, the grandstand at Wrigley Field could be mistaken for a singles bar or the biggest beer garden this side of Germany.

In a town that always prided itself on making deals, that was the deal the Cubs struck with their fans: You can't beat a day at the ballpark -- so long as you don't waste too much time worrying about what was happening on the field.

Chicagoans who paid two cents for the morning paper on Oct. 15, 1908, soon after the Cubs beat Detroit in the World Series for the second straight season, had every reason to believe the winning would never end. Their team was on top and their town was at the heart of an industrial juggernaut. The first Model T rolled off a production line in Detroit that fall.

ORIGINAL CURSE

Perhaps the civic hangover from that last victory party explained why a story in the Chicago Tribune two days later didn't cause an even bigger ruckus.

Cubs president Charles W. Murphy had feuded with fans all season. He worried that the antics of some were driving other fans away. When most of the team's Series tickets ended up in scalpers' hands, he became the target of a public backlash.

Murphy warned Cubs fans to be grateful for what they had. In hindsight, his words sound suspiciously like the original Cubs curse.

"Rome was not built in a day," he said, "and it takes time even in Chicago to get ready for a world's series."

Fine.

Is 99 years time enough?


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