TORONTO (Oct. 16) — I’m sure the Blue Jays aren’t fussing over the opposition as they head into the American League Championship Series giddily among the last four teams standing in 2015. Neither is the club likely obsessing about which foe it might encounter in the World Series. Such careless mind–wandering would all but doom the Blue Jays in their up–coming clash with the Kansas City Royals: a best–of–seven affair that begins tonight (8:07 EDT) at Ewing Kauffman Stadium.
So, I figured, why not fantasize on behalf of Canada’s team?
Sporting zealots here in Toronto can identify with their brethren on the north side of Chicago as intimately as any fan–base in the world. And, not so much because of the Blue Jays, who just ended the longest playoff famine (22 years) in North American professional sport (soccer excluded). It is followers of the Maple Leafs that form a kindred spirit with those of the Chicago Cubs in the cross–realm of heartache, ceaseless ineptitude and unconditional support. By Cubs’ standards, the Maple Leafs are the defending Stanley Cup champion. Even Toronto’s unmatched hockey drought of 48 years (and counting) pales in comparison to the Cubbies not having won the World Series since 1908. That’s right: nineteen-oh-eight.
Think of how long ago that was. I have an uncle on my mom’s side of the family that turned 104 at the end of July and even he’s never seen the Cubs win a championship. Wrigley Field opened on Apr. 23, 1914 and just this week did the Cubs clinch a playoff round in the historic ballpark for the first time. The United States has been commanded by Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama since the Cubs last won the World Series.
A man named Orval Overall (seriously) was Chicago’s Opening Day pitcher in 1908. Babe Ruth was 13. The Montreal Wanderers won the Stanley Cup, nine seasons before the National Hockey League came into existence. The Ford Model T — among the first cars available to the American public — debuted that year. World War I broke out just less than six years later. Television sets wouldn’t become commonplace in North American homes for another four decades. Man would land on the moon 61 years afterward.
FORMER BLUE JAY ANTHONY GOSE FLIES TOWARD HOME PLATE AND CATCHER WELINGTON CASTILLO DURING A GAME BETWEEN THE JAYS AND CHICAGO CUBS AT ROGERS CENTRE — SEP. 9, 2014. TORONTO SWEPT A MUCH–INFERIOR CHICAGO TEAM IN A THREE–GAME SERIES. GOSE WAS LATER DEALT TO DETROIT; CASTILLO TO ARIZONA. TORONTO STAR PHOTO
So, a Blue Jays–Cubs World Series would feature a team trying to win for the first time in a generation against one that hasn’t prevailed in five generations. While rooting madly for the Jays, Toronto hockey fans would at least be able to empathize with their Chicago baseball counterparts whose great–great grandparents last witnessed a championship on the north side of town. It would also likely be a whistler of a series — a clash of power–laden line–ups in a pair of hitter–friendly ballparks.
If you remember watching the last inter–league series between the Blue Jays and Cubs — at Rogers Centre, Sep. 8–10, 2014 — you would have bet your first–born child against either team making it to the playoffs this year. The Jays folded after the first week of June and the Cubs finished 23rd among 30 teams in Major League Baseball with a record of 73–89. Though swept rather easily by the Blue Jays in that series, you could tell the Cubs had some promising young players. Add Joe Maddon to the mix as manager (from Tampa Bay) and the one–season turnaround was in motion — a reversal Toronto could not execute until the trade–deadline acquisitions this year of Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and Ben Revere.
The Cubs will have to get past the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series after the Mets went to Los Angeles Thursday night and defeated the Dodgers, 3–2, in Game 5 — becoming the lone road team to win a Division Series this autumn. The NLCS begins Saturday at Citi Field.
THE NEW YORK METS CELEBRATE AFTER WINNING NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES AT DODGER STADIUM. TBS IMAGES
BAT–FLIP MANIA IN TORONTO NEWSPAPERS
From the ALDS–clinching victory over Texas: