With interleague play back on the radar, for the final time this season, there are a couple of interesting matchups for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The first team to come in, the Detroit Tigers, holds the distinction of being the only team that has lost to the Cubs in the World Series. The Cubs beat the Tigers in 1907 and in 1908, and became the first team to win two World Series. And then, well, if you’re reading this you know how it went after that.
The Tigers had their revenge, but they had to wait a generation to get it. They beat the Cubs in 1935, and again in 1945. Nobody alive at that time could have imagined that six decades would pass, at least, before the Cubs made it to the World Series again.
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So four of the World Series played to date have involved the Cubs and the Tigers. A fifth one could have been played in 1984, but the Cubs couldn’t close the deal with Rick Sutcliffe on the mound on a Sunday afternoon in San Diego.
The Tigers’ regular season MVP that season, closer Willie Hernandez, had toiled in obscurity for many years in a Cubs uniform. He made his way to Detroit, though, where a Cy Young Award, an MVP and a World Series ring awaited him. Most Cubs fans seem to be oblivious to this, though.
Another of the Cubs’ World Series opponents during their current eight-series slump is coming in after the Tigers. The Boston Red Sox beat the Cubs in the 1918 World Series, which is significant for two reasons: It is the only Series to have been played entirely in September, and it was the first time that the Star-Spangled Banner was sung before a sporting event. Baseball led the way on this, as it has with so many other things.
Baseball shut down its season in 1918 with preparations for the war in Europe going on. The Cubs played their home games in Comiskey Park on the South side, in order to maximize their potential gate receipts. Such a thing would never happen today, and it shows how far things have traveled in the years since then. But a September World Series on the South Side would seem like heaven on earth to me, just so long as the Cubs were actually playing in it.