Cubs' return to Fenway for first time in 93 years marked by history
Surely, you've heard. The end of the world is coming Saturday. A Christian-based Internet ministry tells us that doomsday unfolds this weekend. It has something to do with Noah and floods and the 17th day of the second month of the biblical calendar.
Or maybe it's just the simple fact that the Cubs are playing in Fenway Park again.
Cubs-Red Sox. At Fenway. For the first time in 93 years. You've got to admit it beats Houston at Toronto when it comes to interleague play.
I've been loading up on lobster and Haagan-Dazs chocolate chip ice cream because it's the end of the world. And I don't need any fringe religious sect to tell me it's over. Stephen King told me 20 years ago. He said a Cubs-Red Sox World Series would be a sure sign of the apocalypse.
The Series gets to 3-3 and nuclear war is declared.
The Cubs are the Red Sox and the Red Sox are the Cubs. Both have great fans, quaint old ballparks, no parking around the ballpark and a history of taunting loyalists with crushing disappointments.
The Red Sox stopped being the Cubs in 2004, when they broke their Curse and won the World Series. It was Boston's first World Series title since 1918, when Babe Ruth hit a triple and beat the Cubs twice in a Fall Classic that ended in six games at Fenway on Sept. 11 (the Series was played early that year because of World War I).
The Cubs have maintained their losing ways, keeping their fans waiting. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. That's 103 years.
Seeing the Cubs at Fenway this weekend takes me back to 2003, when we almost got the coveted 1918 rematch. It would have been the greatest setup of any World Series because the Red Sox, at that time, were still working on the Curse of the Bambino while the Cubs were mired in the still-standing Billy Goat Curse.
Baseball America in autumn of 2003 was geeked-up for Cubs-Sox. It looked like a sure thing. The Cubs were playing the Florida Marlins in the NLCS while the Sox were doing battle with the Yankees in the ALCS. All they had to do was win their respective series and we'd have had the ultimate World Series.
But we know what happened. The dream matchup was stopped by the larger forces. The Cubs became the Cubs and the Red Sox became the Red Sox and we were denied.
As always, weird stuff happened. The Cubs were five outs away from getting to the World Series. But on the 95th anniversary of their last Series victory, leading the Marlins, 3-0, with one out in the eighth, the immortal Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball, prevented Cub left fielder Moises Alou from making a catch for the second out, and triggered an eight-run rally by the Marlins. The Cubs were denied. It was at once ghoulish and hideous.
Two days later, the Red Sox were poised to make it to the World Series for the first time since 1986 (when ex-Cub Bill Buckner missed the grounder) when the roof collapsed at Yankee Stadium. Leading 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth of Game 7, Sox manager Grady Little left Pedro Martinez on the mound while the Yankees rallied for three runs. In the bottom of the 11th, Aaron Boone launched a Tim Wakefield knuckler into the left-field stands, sending the Yankees to the World Series. Grady Little was immediately fired as Red Sox manager, then hired as a scout by ... the Cubs.
In the spring of 2004,
Naturally, the Cubs had a hand in Boston's turnaround. On the last day of July that year, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein held his breath and traded Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. Nomar was one of the most popular players in Sox history, but he was disgruntled in 2004 and his skills were deteriorating. The deal shocked Red Sox Nation, but propelled the Sox to victory. Including postseason play, the Red Sox went 53-22 after trading Nomar.
Thank you, Cubs.
And welcome back to Boston. Through the decades the Cubs and Sox have shared Nomar, Don Zimmer, Ferguson Jenkins, Bill Buckner, Dennis Eckersley, Andre Dawson, Lee Smith, Calvin Schiraldi, Al Nipper, Matt Clement, Terry Francona, Rich Hill and Grady Little, among others. For 86 mutual years the Cubs and Sox shared the frustration of never winning a World Series. The wait is over for Boston and it feels pretty good, thank you.
Your turn, Cubbies. Try it. You'll like it.