Their last National League pennant flew in the year FDR died (1945).
Today, as we approach the mid-point of the 2016 season, there is reason to believe those long baseball droughts may be over. Thank Heaven for Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein, the reasons for the ‘Windy City Renaissance.’
Even with a return to normalcy, 25-20 after a Seabiscuit-like 28-6 start to the season, the Cubbies seem poised to breeze through the second half, taking the Central Division of the National League as they now hold a ten-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs are, by percentage points, the best team in baseball, and they will play half of their remaining games within their own division, arguably the weakest in all of MLB.
When, in the name of Ernie Banks, did that last happen?
The Cards are an interesting study. They are 25-15 on the road but only 15-21 at home, suggesting they should stay at a hotel when playing at home. Home cooking must not agree with them. Side stat: When the legendary Stan Musial played for the Cards, he accumulated 3,630 hits, 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road. Stan “The Man” probably could have slept each season in the overhead cab of an Interstate eighteen-wheeler and still gotten off at Cooperstown.
Joe Maddon may be the best manager in baseball. He took the lowest payroll team, the Tampa Bay Rays, to the World Series in 2008, losing to the Phillies. He consistently had them in contention until he opted out of his contract after the 2014 season to manage the Cubs. In 2015, he won 97 games, an improvement of 24 games over the previous year, securing a playoff spot for the Cubs after a 12-year absence.
He was always a friendly figure around Tampa, chatting amiably over coffee at Starbucks with fans or breezing around town in his ’72 Chevelle convertible, grey hair and big sunglasses clearly visible.
He visits his roots in Pennsylvania every year, helping to raise money for worthy causes. His father died a few years ago and Joe’s mother, Binney, is still a waitress at “The Third Base Luncheonette” in their home town of Hazelton, Pennsylvania.
Joe is old school and his players believe in him. Having never gotten above the low minors as a player, he toiled 31 years with the Angels.
Theo Epstein, now the General Manager of the Cubs, was a boy baseball genius who, at the age of 28, became GM of the Red Sox, directing them to their first World Series victory in 86 years, ending forever the “Curse of The Bambino.”
His grandfather and great-uncle both received Oscars for co-writing the screenplay for “Casablanca.”
Given all that, upon bringing Maddon to Chicago, he might well have paraphrased, “Joe, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!”