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A Flagstaff fan at the Fall Classic: Dispatch #10 -- Heading home

A Flagstaff fan at the Fall Classic: Dispatch #10 -- Heading home

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Editor's note: Kevin Schindler, a lifelong fan of the Cleveland Indians, is the Lowell Observatory historian. He was in Cleveland this week for the first two games of the World Series, then at Wrigley Field for Games 4 and 5, then back in Cleveland for Games 6 and 7.  This is his final dispatch.

Dispatch #10

From the grounds of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum in Fremont, Ohio

Nov. 3, 2016

Twelve hours after an exhausting, exhilarating, excruciating final game of the World Series, I’m visiting the home of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president of the United States. After a brief night of sleep, I’m on my way driving back to Chicago, where I’ll catch a 5 am flight tomorrow morning and return to Arizona. The Hayes home was on the route back to Chicago—sort of—but I chose to stop here instead of other potential stops because Hayes was elected president in one of the more contentious and controversial races ever, and so this stop seemed an appropriate one with less than a week to go in this year’s contentious and controversial edition.

The World Series came to an end in the wee hours this morning. In a stadium with as many fans for the visiting Cubs as the hometown Indians, one of the best baseball games ever, in one of the best World Series ever, played out. As so many observers have already noted, the only shame is that one team had to lose.

But this loss by Cleveland feels unlike those of the past, those tortuous failings remembered for their singular moments such as The Drive, The Shot, The Catch. I didn’t get to bed until after 4 am this morning and when I woke up, for good, at around 9 am, I realized that the Sun had come, birds were singing, and I was at some sort of peace with the Indians losing the Series.

The more I thought about it, and the more I talked to friends and listened to news reports, the more I felt that, while this was disappointing, the Indians left everything on the field, as they say. They pulled out all the tricks they could think of and followed a formula that had gotten them this far. In the end, it just wasn’t quite good enough to overcome a team that clearly has more talent and in better health. This was a nip and tuck Series which could have gone either way, but the best team ultimately came out on top. And somehow, after a lifetime of disappointments with Cleveland sports teams, this loss was OK because the team really gave it their all, and that’s all any of can do in life. If you do, sometimes you will win and sometimes you will lose, but you can look in the mirror and feel content that you stood up to a challenge.

My brother summed up how I and so many others are feeling. In his brief text to me, he said he had never been more proud of a Cleveland team. As for the Cubs, they overcame many struggles to win a close race. That’s what keeps going through my mind as I walk around the grounds of the Rutherford B. Hayes historic site, thinking about Hayes had overcome his own struggles to eke out his own victory.

Dispatch #9

Indians Dugout at Progressive Field

Nov. 2, 2016

I’m sitting in the 3rd base dugout at Progressive Field, looking across a quiet stadium of green grass, empty seats, and a haze hanging over Cleveland composed of equal parts excitement, anxiety, and hope for what will unfold here later tonight. For players and fans of the Indians and Cubs, the scene holds the aura of a real Field of Dreams.

Before the clock strikes midnight tonight, the time will have run out on one of the teams and this will be their Field of Broken Dreams, where they came so close to ending decades of frustration, only to see the prize snatched from their collective grasp, again. The beleaguered fans will quietly and meekly gather their belongings and trudge home, dreading how tired they will be at work tomorrow. They will not listen to the ad nauseam sports news about how their team came up short, again. They will dejectedly collect their used ticket stubs, rally towels, ballpark cups, and World Series programs, drop them all in a box, then bury the box in some corner of the garage. By spring, the sting of loss, again, will turn into hope that 2017 will be our year.

For the other side, this will turn into a magical Field of Dreams That Come True, where players and fans remember exactly where they were when the final out was made. The fans will stick around and celebrate, not worrying about such trivial matters as sleep. They will triumphantly watch a stage get rolled out onto the field and see their heroes accept trophies, congratulations, and a place in history. They will remember this year, this night as the one on which their team finally reached the pinnacle of their profession after so long a wait. For them, it will ease past heartbreaks of the blown save or the Bartman interference, curses of a billy goat or popular outfield named Rocky, of being the butte of jokes on late night comedy shows. They will not tire, in fact, for days, riding a wave of euphoria and sucking up every single second of coverage of their team’s march to victory. They will gobble up tomorrow’s newspapers that blare with some sort of banner pronouncing the wait is finally over. Christmas will be easy this year, as they buys shirts, pennants, shot glasses, and other mementos of World Series victory.

Right now, the park hardy seems like the place where such dreams will be realized or broken by the end of the day. The place is busy, to be sure, but activity is limited to groundskeepers tending to some field maintenance issues; vendors behind the scenes restocking gift shops and refilling coolers with adult beverages; and media setting up cameras, writing notes for today’s stories, and taping pregame analyses for tonight’s epic Game 7. Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci, for instance, is now sitting next to me after taping a video piece talking about how this might be the biggest World Series game ever, given the combined 176 these teams have waited to win. Meanwhile, deep within the bowels of the stadium, accessible by an underground labyrinth of tunnels and hallways, managers and other team personnel are arriving early to answer emails, review game strategies, and otherwise work off nervous energy.

Yesterday, Indians officials tried to harness the spirit off baseball glories past to bring good juju to the team. Former pitcher Dennis Martinez—who helped lead the Indians to a successful run—except they didn’t win the World Series—in the 1990s, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Len Barker, another former Indians pitcher most remembered for throwing a perfect game in 1981, took the official game ball to the mound prior to the game. The Indians didn’t take any chance, though, and flew in former first baseman Eddie Robinson to watch the game. Robinson is 95 years old and the last remaining player from the Indians second, and last, world championship, in 1948.

For my own part, I was an Indians fan yesterday and so tried my best to supplement the team’s efforts to summon spirits from the past. I visited the grave of Indians shortstop Ray Chapman, ate lunch outside of League Park, where the Indians won their first championship, then went to the Brown First Energy Stadium. It sits on the site of Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium, where the Indians won their 1948 title.

None of these efforts by the Indians or me led to victory yesterday, but at this point, that is ok. This Series seems almost preordained to go the full seven games, making the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, to quote the motto of the old sports TV show Wide World of Sports, more dramatic.

After last night’s game, I could finally book transportation back home because I knew that, unless the weather or the hand of God or the spirit of some ancient billy goat unexpectedly intervenes, tonight will be the last game. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out and know that I will find some sort of joy in the outcome—as a Cleveland fan, I’ll be thrilled to see the Indians win. As a baseball fan, I’ll appreciate being there when the Cubs finally broke their curse. As a human, I enjoy people—whether athletes, entertainers, writers, or anyone else—reaching the height of their profession. For at least that singular moment, they are the best, and I enjoy watching the unadulterated passion of those people and their supporters fulfilling lifetimes of hard work, dedication, and hope.

All this will play out on the field right in front of me, by players sitting where I’m sitting at this very moment. What a thrill!

Dispatch #8

Section 42, Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio

Nov. 1, 2016

This journey to watch the Indians play the Cubs in the 2016 World Series continues into November, as a Cubs win two nights ago meant the Series shifts back to Cleveland for the sixth and, if necessary, seventh game. So far, I’ve traveled by van, plane, car, train, bus, and foot to get around, with a path zigzagging from Flagstaff to Phoenix to Chicago to Columbus to Medina to Cleveland, back to Phoenix and Flagstaff, then again to Chicago, Medina and Cleveland. It’s been a baseball pilgrimage, for sure, but on a deeper level, an exploration of roots—of family, of community, of history.

Eight hours before Game 6 of the Series tonight, I decided to go to Lake Side Cemetery on Cleveland’s East Side. Known locally by many as “Cleveland’s Outdoor Museum”, its wooded, rolling landscape serves as the final resting place of more than 100,000 people. But I didn’t come here to see the markers of James Garfield, John D. Rockefeller, Elliott Ness, or other prominent individuals. This being a baseball excursion (except for a most entertaining stop at the house where “A Christmas Story” was filmed), I came here to pay homage to a baseball player, Ray Chapman, who played shortstop for the Cleveland Indians a century ago.

While his name doesn’t resonate like that of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, or, in these parts, Bob Feller, it is one familiar to historians of baseball history, particularly those of the Indians. On August 16, 1920, Chapman was batting in a game against the New York Giants’ Carl Mays at the Polo Grounds in New York (this was more than three decades before the team moved to San Francisco). Chapman was struck on the temple by a Mays pitch and collapsed. He was rushed to a hospital but never regained consciousness, dying the next day and becoming the first—and to date only—player to die as a result of injuries suffered in a Major League game.

Chapman’s death was a devastating loss to his teammates, the Cleveland community, and baseball fans across the country. The Indians, led by player-manager Tris Speaker, rallied around the tragedy and went on to win the pennant and then the World Series, dedicating the effort to their fallen teammate. This was Cleveland’s first World Series championship, but it was much more than just a win by the local sports team. It was an opportunity for a community to gather together and start moving on past a tragedy, much as the New York Yankees march to the World Series in 2001 helped a grieving New York deal with the tragedy of 9/11 (our Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in one of the more emotional World Series ever).

Sure, the World Series is only sports, and we have much larger problems in the world. But it is part of the fabric of our country and identity. Perhaps Franklin Roosevelt captured the sentiment best in a January 15, 1942 letter to then Major League Baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Roosevelt’s letter was in response to a note he had received the previous day from Landis, who had asked Roosevelt if he might want to cancel the upcoming baseball season in light of the country’s needs for fighting in the war—World War II. In what baseball historians recognize as the “Green Light Letter”, Roosevelt pointed out that baseball was such a benefit to people and their morale, especially in hard times, and should continue on. Sportswriters applauded this decision, with one common sentiment held that baseball was an example of what the soldiers were fighting for, part of the lifeblood of so many Americans.

Visiting Chapman’s grave reminds me of the community importance of something as basic as a baseball contest. Fans of both the Indians and Cubs want their teams to win for so many different reasons, but most of them revolve in some way around this community pride and a sort of catharsis that, after long years of suffering, the struggles will have all been worth enduring if the local team—and by extension the entire home community—stands above all others, if even for just this brief moment in time.

Dispatch #7

From the freezer that is the auxiliary press area in the upper deck of Wrigley Field

Oct. 30, 2016

The Indians and Cubs are half an hour away from the start of Game 5 of the World Series, and as I shiver with tens of thousands of other baseball-minded people inside the confines of Wrigley Field, and hordes of others outside, a few things come to mind.

First, I’m thinking back to 1997, when the Indians last played in the World Series. They were leading by a run going into the bottom of the 9th inning and broadcaster Bob Costas was beginning to wax nostalgic about how the Indians were about to overcome years of ineptitude, harness the spirits of past Indians great such as Bob Feller and Lou Boudreau, and finally win a World Series. The Florida Marlins then proceeded to score a run in the bottom of the 9th and go on to win the game—and the Series—in extra innings. This always reminds me of one of my grandma’s many grandma sayings about not counting chickens until the eggs are hatched (she grew up on a farm and so I always figured she knew what she was talking about it; the Bob Costas statements, like the classic 1948 Chicago Daily Tribune headline proclaiming, “Dewey Defeats Truman, confirmed this).

The second thing that comes to mind is something that happened well before I was born, but of which I am very familiar as a pretty dedicated Cleveland Indians fan. The Indians played in their first World Series in 1920, a year that saw teams play the best of nine, rather than the current model of best of seven, series. The Indians had suffered tragedy earlier that year when popular shortstop Ray Chapman became the first, and thankfully only, player to die as a result from an injury suffered in a Major League game. This heartbreaking disaster galvanized the Indians and helped inspire them to the best record in the American League. On the way to a Series victory against the Brooklyn Dodgers/Robins, the Indians enjoyed one of the most noteworthy games in World Series history in Game 5. The Indians’ Jim Bagby hit the first homerun by a pitcher in World Series history, his teammate Elmer Smith hit the first ever grand slam in a World Series, and the Indians second baseman Bill Wambsganss, known to teammates and fans simply as Wamby, performed the second unassisted triple play in Major League history—and only one ever in a World Series. This makes me wonder if tonight’s Game 5 will see any sort of magical moments (a win by the Indians would certainly be magical to the Cleveland fans).

The last thing on my mind as Game 5 is about to start is that tomorrow, I don’t know where I’ll be. If the Indians win, I celebrate as an Indians fan their first world championship since 1948 and then head back to Arizona tomorrow. If the Cubs win, I’ll celebrate as a baseball fan as the Cubs win their first World Series game at Wrigley Field since 1945. In that case, I’ll find a shuttle, bus, or some other form of transportation to get over to Cleveland to watch the end of the Series. I’ll know in just a few hours…

A fourth thing just came to mind, as I stopped typing when Chicago icon Wayne Messmer sang God Bless America and then the National Anthem. As Messmer’s baritone notes rang throughout Wrigley and the American flag atop the scoreboard masthead rippled in the wind, I really enjoyed this grand American spectacle—the Red White and Blue not only of Old Glory, but of the two teams (the team colors of both the Indians and Cubs are red, white, and blue) playing in this quintessential American pastime. I know it is more than the cold wind giving me chills right now. On with the game…

Dispatch #6

Press working area at Wrigley Field

Oct. 30, 2016

Tonight is Game 5 of the 2016 World Series, and something historic for baseball fans will happen. As I sit in the windy, cold media area of Wrigley Field watching the Cubs take batting practice, I’m thinking about what tonight’s game means. If the Cubs win, it will mark their first victory in a World Series game since 1945 and Chicago will go over the top celebrating. A win by the Indians and they are World Champions for the first time since 1948, and their fans will be the ones to go over the top celebrating, marking the city’s second major sports championship of the year after a 50-year drought of any championship. Chicago fans being who they are, they will still go over the top reveling and begin looking forward to next year.

Cleveland fans know that being one victory from winning a championship is exciting but somewhat treacherous territory. Cleveland fans realize—from decades of practice—that nothing is guaranteed, nothing should be taken for granted, and nothing feels worse in sports than coming oh so close to victory, only to see the gods snatch it away.

So, being up 3-1 with the last two potential games at home is a lot better than being down by that count and heading on the road, but doesn’t really mean much yet in the grand scheme of things. We only have to look back to this past June, when the Indians next-door neighbors, the Cleveland Cavaliers, were down in the NBA finals, 3-1, to the favored Golden State Warriors. The Cavaliers likewise faced two of the last three possible games on the road, yet managed to sweep them all to win the championship.

In baseball, five teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit in the championship series to win. These include the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Washington Senators in 1925, New York Yankees over the Milwaukee Braves in 1958, the Detroit Tigers over the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968, the Pirates over the Baltimore Orioles in 1979, and the Kansas City Royals over the Cardinals in 1985.

So while, it’s not common, it does happen. And Cleveland fans have developed a mindset over the years of, “oh oh, here we go again” and “typical Cleveland”. But perhaps LeBron James and company’s victory in the NBA finals will help change this collective pathos and instead instill Cleveland fans with not only hope, but the expectation of victory. Plus, Cubs fans have famously suffered their own disappointments and dashed visions of victory.

For one of these teams, this World Series will mark the end of generations of suffering and you can bet we’ll hear, over and over, the refrain, “We are the Champions”. For the other, “Wait ‘til next year” will weakly emerge, once again, on the lips of fans who will have to wait at least until 2017 to see their heroes finally emerge victorious.

Dispatch #5

Auxiliary Press Box

Wrigley Field

October 29, 2016

Sitting in the auxiliary media section in the left field stands at Wrigley Field, I just watched the Cubs Anthony Rizzo smash a ball into the ivy of the left field wall for a double, bringing a collective roar from the Cubs faithful. Seeing the ball rip up several leaves of the brown, drying ivy, I got to thinking about how unique Wrigley Field is.

Built in 1914, Wrigley is the oldest park in the National League and the second oldest in all of Major League Baseball, behind only Boston’s Fenway Park (built in 1912). Wrigley was originally named Weeghman Park for Chicago’s team in the short-lived Federal League, which folded in 1915. The Cubs began playing at the park the following year and by 1920 it was called Cubs Parks. Chewing gum baron William Wrigley, Jr. bought a controlling interest in the team in 1921 and by 1927 the park had picked up the name that would stick for 90 years and counting, Wrigley Field.

Fans familiar with the Cubs also know it by another nickname, The Friendly Confines, popularized by the iconic Cubs player of the 1950s-60s, Ernie Banks, whose unbridled enthusiasm for the game inspired him to proclaim, “Let’s play two,” now a classic phrase in baseball circles.

Wrigley is famously surrounded by Sheffield Avenue to the east, Waveland Avenue to the north, Clark Street to the west, and Addison Street to the south. I am particularly fond of the last one, because it is the namesake of my daughter Addison (her mom lived for years in Wrigleyville and remains a huge Cubs fan).

Wrigley has never seen its Cubs win a World Series there (the Cubs haven’t won it all since 1908), but its character outshines any single-season success of the hometown heroes. Take, for instance, the iconic ivy, planted on the outfield wall in 1937 by general manager Bill Veeck. Veeck was a colorful character and promoter who later owned, among other teams, the Cleveland Indians. It was under his leadership that the Indians last won the World Series, in 1948. He also brought his Indians to Arizona in 1947 for spring training, and, joining the New York Giants, helped establish what would grow into the Cactus League. Today, half of the 30 major league teams train in Arizona, the other half in Florida as part of the Grapefruit League.

Wrigley Field is also known for the “rooftop seats” that offer people sitting atop nearby buildings a view of games; a hand-operated scoreboard; and red marquee at the main entrance proclaiming “Wrigley Field Home of the Chicago Cubs”. It was the last stadium in the major leagues to add lights in order to play night games, in 1988. After each game, a large flag with either a “W” (if they won) or an “L” (if they lost) is flown from a masthead atop the scoreboard.

It was here at Wrigley that Babe Ruth purportedly pointed to the outfield stands while batting in the 1932 Worlds Series for the New York Yankees. He then proceeded to hit a homerun, thus “calling his shot.”

Whether Ruth really called his homerun or not continues to be debated by historians. In any event, the story is part of the Wrigley mystique that is on center stage now as the Cubs host the Indians. As for the game itself, the Indians just finished off a 7-2 win, putting them within one win of the championship and another year of waiting for the Friendly Confines.

Dispatch #4

Aboard a plane from Columbus to Phoenix

Oct. 27, 2016

Today is an off day for the World Series as the action switches from Progressive Field in Cleveland to Chicago's Wrigley Field. For my part, I'm headed back to Flagstaff in time to present a program Friday night at Lowell Observatory. I was hoping to do some work on my computer but with seemingly less space than Alan Shepard enjoyed when he was form-fitted into his Mercury capsule, I realized this would not be possible since I couldn't even open my computer lid far enough. So I decided to look through some pictures on my phone and came across a few I had captured at Progressive Field of Major League Baseball commissioner Bob Manfred.

Manfred gave a press conference yesterday and one of the questions to him from a reporter was about the Indians logo- a caricature of a smiling Indian and named Chief Wahoo- and if Major League Baseball was going to take a stance on doing away with it. Seeing these pictures of Manfred reminded me of the presser and got me thinking about the names of teams and how they used to frequently change, before the modern era of commercialized trade names. So I got out my phone and started writing a few thoughts in the notes app…

Cleveland was a charter member of the American League, which formed in 1901, along with:

• Chicago White Stockings (renamed the White Sox in 1904),

• Boston Americans or Pilgrims (who became the Red Sox around 1908),

• Baltimore Orioles (who in 1903 moved to New York and were renamed the Highlanders; in 1913 they became known as the Yankees),

• Milwaukee Brewers (in 1902 they moved to St. Louis and were renamed the Browns; in 1954 they moved to Baltimore and became the modern-day Orioles),

• Washington Senators or Nationals (who in 1961 moved to Minnesota and became the Twins),

• Philadelphia Athletics (who moved to Kansas City in 1955 and then Oakland in 1968),

• Detroit Tigers.

A slight diversion here—I started writing this passage after the end of game 2, while flying back to Arizona. In the next 20 hours, I caught some sleep, furiously finished some projects at work, watched part of game 3 of the Series with my family, gave a program on Friday night at 7 pm at Lowell, then drove down to Phoenix to catch a 12:45am flight to Chicago. I arrived at 6:11 am then took a shuttle to my hotel, where I took a four-hour nap and now am finishing this up before heading to Wrigley Field.

For the Indians part, they were known as the Blues or Bluebirds for that first year of play but became the Broncos in 1902. A year later, they took on the name Naps in honor of their popular second baseman and, for a time, manager, Napolean Lajoie. When he left the team after the 1914 season, team owners asked the local newspapers to solicit suggestions for a new name from the fans. Indians was chosen partly, by many accounts, to honor a Penobscott Indian who had briefly played for Cleveland’s National League team in the late 1890s, and partly to recognize the remarkable season just completed by the national League’s Boston Braves, who became the first team in major league history to finish in first place after being in last place on July 4th.

The National League was founded in 1876 with eight charter members. One of these was the Chicago White Stockings. By the 1890s, they went by the name Colts, and later were also referred to as the Remnants and Orphans. The name Cubs first appeared in 1902 and by 1906 the name stuck for good.

The other founding members of the National League were:

• Philadelphia Athletics (kicked out of the league after the first year)

• Boston Red Stockings (later renamed the Braves; in 1953 they moved to Milwaukee, and then to Atlanta in 1966)

• Hartford Dark Blues (folded in 1877)

• New York Mutuals (kicked out of the league after the first year)

• St. Louis Brown Stockings (folded in 1877)

• Cincinnati Red Stockings (kicked out of the league in in 1870)

• Louisville Grays (folded in 1877)

Only two of the teams, the Cubs and Braves, remain from that first year; the Cubs are the only team to continuously play in the same city since the formation of the league. This compares to four teams in the American League to still play in the same city since that league’s inception. The 2016 World Series thus marks the first time that founding cities of both leagues have met in the Fall Classic since the Braves and the team whose name they partly inspired, the Indians, met in 1995.

Dispatch #3

Wednesday, Oct. 26

From outside the auxiliary press box at chilly Progressive Field in Cleveland

This morning I visited by dad’s grave in Valley City, Ohio, leaving a baseball that I picked up yesterday during batting practice at the World Series. While sweeping away a few old grass blades that had collected around the stone marker, I reflected on how baseball transcends sports into the realms of family connections, community pride, and ties to the past. And this World Series brings that out.

For American League teams, the Indians have endured the longest drought since a championship, counting 68 years since they beat the Boston (now Atlanta) Braves in 1948. My parents—well before they met each other--were both teenagers at the time. Throughout my years of growing up, they both used to fondly recall those glory days of Indians baseball and could recite the players and their positions.

In sharing those memories, they helped galvanize my interest in baseball and especially the Indians. My favorite player was their favorite player from the old days, Bob Feller. My favorite book was one my mother did a report on in high school, a history of the team by Franklin Lewis. I was thrilled when I joined Little League baseball and was assigned to play for the Indians.

Once a year, my parents would pack the family up and we would head to Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium, my mom packing a supply of hot dogs wrapped in aluminum foil.

One of the prominent memories of my dad is him working two jobs, trying to bring in enough money, along with that earned by my mom working full time, to raise a family of four. He would arrive home well after everyone else had finished dinner and usually fix a pizza and listen to the ballgame, his way of winding down until it all started over a few hours later.

Three of the four kids (maybe all four—I don’t remember) collected baseball cards starting in around 1974. That’s the year I really became hooked on baseball. I remember standing in the garage with my dad and second oldest brother, listening to the final innings of a game in which the Indians’ Dick Boswell no-hit the defending World Champion Oakland A’s. The next year I was fully in, listening to Joe Tait and Herb Score on the radio and even turning them up and lowering the volume of the TV when the game was broadcast on the tube. Frank Robinson became the first black manager and Gaylord Perry was flummoxing hitters and umpires with his spitball. Since those days, I’ve had the good fortune to meet several former and current players, but those two stand out (along with, unexpectedly, Bob Feller) because they had been baseball heroes for most of my life.

In all of baseball, the Indians are only outdone for futility by the Cubs, who haven’t won a World Series since Theodore Roosevelt was president, back in 1908. The team was headlined by shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance. The three were forever immortalized in the poem, “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” which includes the famous refrain, “These are the saddest of possible words: Tinkers to Evers to Chance”. Back then, the Cubs were one of baseball’s best teams, winning the World Series in 1907 and 1908.

To the chagrin of Cubs fans everywhere, they haven’t won since. But the fans remain steadfast in their support for the North Siders and each year hold out hope that this might be the year that they finally win it all. But the support goes well beyond sports, as the aura of the Cubs is imbued in everyday life. My granddaughter, for instance, is named Addison, after one of the streets in Chicago where Wrigley Field—home of the Cubs since 1914—sits.

This year, one of these two teams will finally end their championship drought. The other, with its fans, will have to wait for another year. In both cases, the fans will remain loyal to their teams and pass on their traditions to the next generations, keeping the eternal passion and pride going.

Dispatch 2 – Arizona Connections

Press Room at Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio

Oct. 25, 2016

This morning I squeezed in a little time to visit the site of the Indians original ballpark, League Park, several miles east of current-day Progressive Field. After that, I visited the house where the classic Christmas movie, The Christmas Story, was filmed. In talking with my two guides, I found out each of them had lived in Arizona in the past. This got me to thinking about Arizona ties to the World Series, and found several. The majority, if not all, of the participants have trained here, while others went to college in Arizona, and some live here year-round

2016 marks the 6th time Arizona can boast an all-Cactus League World Series, meaning both teams carry out spring training in Arizona. The Indians joined the Giants as founding members of the Cactus League back in 1947, setting up camp in Tucson. In 1993 they left to join the Grapefruit League in Florida but returned in 2009, now sharing training facilities in Goodyear with the cross-state Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs began training in Arizona in 1952, first in Mesa, then Scottsdale, and back to Mesa again, They regularly draw the largest crowds of the 15 teams now training here and in 2014 opened a spectacular new facility, Sloane Park, in Mesa, with all sorts of reminders of Wrigley Field and other elements of the North Side.

Besides training in the spring here with their parent clubs, 20 of the players-before making their names in the major leagues—participated in the Arizona Fall League. This is a six-week long, post-season series of practices and games for top minor league players.

Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw of the Indians and former Diamondback Miguel Montero enjoy Arizona enough to reside here during the winter. Meanwhile, Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis was an All-American at Arizona State University, earning the Pacific-10 Player of the Year honors in 2009. Cleveland manager Terry Francona played his college ball for the University of Arizona, leading them to victory in the 1980 College World Series.

Had the Dodgers made the World Series, we could also talk about Clayton Kershaw, whose uncle was a man whose name is quite familiar in northern Arizona—Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.

This all adds up to a strong link between the Fall Classic and Grand Canyon State. Whoever wins, Arizona residents can go see the world champions during next year’s spring training season.

Dispatch 1: O'Hare International Airport.

Monday, Oct. 24, 3:47 a.m.

Anyone from northern Ohio knows that getting to the World Series is no easy task. The Cleveland Indians overcame the loss of their best overall player, starting catcher, and two of their top three pitchers (and later a third pitcher due to an unlikely accident while fixing his drone) to reach what every team dreams of—a place in the World Series with the chance of being crowned champions.

Like other Cleveland fans, I lived vicariously through these struggles and was inspired by the team’s practice of enthusiastically focusing on the positive, rather than the negative. They didn’t let the challenges thwart their quest to make the Series, and in fact used them to instead further fuel their drive and galvanize the team and its home city.

And it is this difficult path to get to the promised land that is going through my mind right now, as I sit in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport at 3:47 am (or 1:47 from where I was yesterday in Arizona, or 4:47 in Ohio, where I’d like to think I’ll finally get to today). After a frenetic week sandwiched between two weekend events at work, I left Flagstaff late Sunday morning, ready for my direct flight from Arizona to the World Series, which kicks off Tuesday in Cleveland.

I rode in a shuttle van from Flagstaff to Phoenix, wedged in with other Valley-bound passengers. Halfway down, our driver got word of an accident near New River that resulted in the temporary closure of the southbound lane. Then we got word that another accident happened north of us, and finally we heard that 8 different accidents had occurred on I17. After sitting for more than an hour in a 15-mile-long parking lot that I17 had turned into, we started moving but then had to make a potty stop after that long sit. I had the earliest flight and the driver did all he could to get me to the gate on time. He dropped me off, and I was thrilled to speed through the TSA line, with an unlikely three minute wait giving me hope that I’d make the flight.

Then I hustled to the through the terminal, noticing my plane through a window as I approached the gate. Alas, the door had already been closed and after a failed attempt to land a seat on another flight, I made it onto a flight to Chicago, the 3rd of 4 hopeful standbys to be awarded a seat. The plane arrived in Chicago on time, but I would have to wait until 6:30 in the morning to then catch a flight to Ohio.

Two hours of trying to sleep on the floor were unsuccessful, so I am now up and making the most of the time, thinking about the upcoming World Series and what a difficult proposition it has been for the Cleveland baseball team—and its fans—to get to the Series.


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