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Sports Then and Now



World Series Game 7 is Special Baseball Treat 1

Posted on November 02, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Corey Kluber is trying to become the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to start and win three World Series games.

Corey Kluber is trying to become the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to start and win three World Series games.

It is certainly fitting that a “World Series for the Ages” between two teams trying to break generational streaks of disappointments would culminate in a winner-take-all seventh game. Regardless of whether the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians come out victorious, the 2016 World Series will go down in baseball annals as one of the most memorable World Series of all-time.

This marks the 37th time that a World Series champion will be crowned in a seventh game. Of the previous 36, 14 have been one-run games and four were decided in extra innings.

The last time a game seven went to extra innings was in 1997 when the Cleveland Indians could not close the game despite a one-run lead in the ninth inning and ultimately lost in the eleventh inning on a game-winning hit by Edgar Renteria.

While the closer for the Indians in 1997 was the shaky Jose Mesa, if Cleveland enters the final innings of this seventh game with a lead they have the strength of a bullpen that has been lights out during the 2016 postseason.

The only game seven appearance for the Chicago Cubs was during the 1945 World Series. The game seven starter for the Cubs that year was Hank Bowry, who had lost game five and then pitched four innings of relief to win game six 8-7 in 12 innings. He didn’t make it out of the first inning of game seven as the Detroit Tigers scored five runs on their way to a 9-3 victory.

This time the Cubs have the luxury of pitching a likely Cy Young Award winner who is working on regular rest after starting game three.

Though Kyle Hendricks did not allow a run before being lifted in the fifth inning of game three, the Cubs ultimately lost that game 1-0. Hendricks will certainly be trying to duplicate his performance in game six of the National League Championship Series when he allowed only two hits in 7.1 innings.

His adversary for this game seven is looking to become the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to win three games in a World Series and first since Bob Gibson in 1967 to win games 1, 4 and 7 in the same series. Just for the record, Lolich recorded complete game victories in games two, five and seven in 1968. Read the rest of this entry →

Cubs vs. Indians: Baseball Gods Send America a Much Needed Distraction 1

Posted on October 23, 2016 by Dean Hybl
The Chicago Cubs got to celebrate their first National League pennant in 71 years. Will they have another celebration following the World Series?

The Chicago Cubs got to celebrate their first National League pennant in 71 years. Will they have another celebration following the World Series?

With just two weeks remaining in one of the bitterest presidential elections of all time, the Baseball Gods have provided a much needed national distraction that has been a combined 176 years in the making.

While many Americans likely cannot name the last five World Series Champions, even casual sports fans are already aware that the Cubs and Indians will be playing in a World Series for all ages.

After all, these are not just any two Major League teams, these are two teams with epic histories of finding new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. There have been movies, songs, poems and books chronicling the failures and collapses of these two storied franchises.

What we do know, is that within the next 10 days either the 68 year streak of futility for the Indians or the 108 year streak for the Cubs will be over.

How we get from here to that moment is a compelling story that seems likely to shift at least some of the Facebook and Twitter focus from the Trump-Clinton election to America’s pastime.

The Cubs are not only making their first World Series appearance since 1945, but they finished the regular season with the best record in baseball for the first time since they lost that dramatic seven game series to the Detroit Tigers 71 years ago. Their 103 victories is the most in a season for the Cubs since winning 100 games in 1935 (they lost that series in six games to the Tigers).

Though the Indians have made three World Series appearances since last winning a championship in 1948, until the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship earlier this year to end the 52-year championship drought for the city of Cleveland, their burden seemed just as daunting as that of the Cubs.

However, now that the pressure of a city has been lifted from their shoulders, it almost seems like the Indians are playing with house money. While their 68 year World Series drought is certainly significant, it pales in comparison to that of the Cubs and the national fan base that watched much of their misery over the last several decades thanks to the WGN super-cable network. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks 1

Posted on January 24, 2015 by Dean Hybl
"Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks has passed away at the age of 83.

“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks has passed away at the age of 83.

The baseball world lost a legend with the passing Friday of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks at the age of 83.

Though “Mr. Cub” was most associated with the team for which he played his entire 19 year career, for fans outside of Chicago he is likely best remembered for his famous line “Let’s play two”, which epitomized his love for the game and acceptance as one of the superstars of the first full decade in which African-Americans played in the major leagues.

Since it has been 44 years since his retirement and 56 years since he was the dominant player, and back-to-back MVP winner, in baseball, it is easy to forget just how great a player Banks was.

After a stint in the U.S. Army and time with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, his contract was sold to the Chicago Cubs in 1953 and he made his major league debut late that season. The lanky 6-foot-1, 180 pound shortstop moved into Wrigley Field for good in 1954. He finished second to Wally Moon (Hank Aaron was fourth) in the Rookie of the Year voting as he hit .275 with 19 home runs and 79 RBI.

Many like to point to Cal Ripken Jr. as the pioneer of the power hitting shortstops, but Banks was blasting long balls while anchoring the Chicago infield three decades before Ripken entered the league. He blasted 44 home runs in 1955 to set a new record for shortstops in a season, but eclipsed that mark in 1958 when he led the league with 47 home runs and 129 RBI to win his first MVP award.

He followed that up with another monster year in 1959 (45 HR, 143 RBI) to win his second straight MVP award. In 1960 he claimed his second home run title as he hit 41 home runs with 117 RBI. He also won the Gold Glove award for his fielding prowess at shortstop.

Though Banks was just 29 and would play for another decade, he would never again reach such illustrious power numbers. Read the rest of this entry →

Frank Chance, the Pearless Leader 0

Posted on May 26, 2013 by Dean Hybl

 

Frank Chance

Frank Chance

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former Chicago Cubs player and manager who is best remembered as part of a sports trio forever immortalized in verse.

Known as “The Peerless Leader”, Frank Chance was not only the starting first baseman for the Chicago Cubs, but as their manager he led the team to four World Series appearances between 1906 and 1910. Read the rest of this entry →

Friday The 13th: 13 Unlucky Professional Sports Franchises 8

Posted on May 13, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The Steve Bartman foul ball is just one of many unlucky moments for the Chicago Cubs and their fans.

Today is Friday, the 13th, a date that superstitious people believe is unlucky.

With that in mind, here is a list of the 13 most unlucky teams in professional sports.

These are teams that have not won championships in the past few decades, have suffered numerous devastating losses, and fan bases that believe that their team is cursed.

13. Phoenix Suns (NBA)
The Suns have more regular season wins than any other NBA franchise without an NBA championship, as there have 19 seasons where the team won at least 50 games, three of those of at least 60 wins, and been to the NBA Finals twice, only to lose both times.

Suns fans believe the reason for their bad luck stems for the 1969 NBA Draft where the Suns and Milwaukee Bucks were up for the number one pick, which would be decided by a coin flip.

The winner of the coin toss would get the #1 pick and would select Lew Alcindor, now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Suns executive Jerry Colangelo called “heads”, but the coin landed “tails” and the Bucks won the rights for the #1 pick and of course picked Alcindor, who led Milwaukee to a NBA title just two years later.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (NFL)

The Eagles have gone over a half a century without a NFL title, their last championship coming in 1960.

Most of the Eagles’ heartbreak has come in the 21st century as the team has made five appearances in the NFC Championship Game, only winning once in 2004, where they advance to Super Bowl XXXIX and lost to the New England Patriots 24-21.

Philadelphia also appeared in Super Bowl XV but lost to the Oakland Raiders and lost the famous “Fog Bowl” to the Chicago Bears in a loss that many Eagle fans feel cost them another appearance in the Super Bowl. Read the rest of this entry →

By Any Measure Ron Santo Was a Hall of Famer 1

Posted on December 03, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Ron Santo averaged 23 home runs and 89 RBI in 15 Major League seasons.

Sad news being reported this morning that former Chicago Cubs great Ron Santo has passed away at the age of 70. Though remembered by many for his great play as the third baseman for the Chicago Cubs from 1960 through 1973, in recent years he has been best known for his courageous battle with diabetes and his inexplicable omission from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

His combination of power and excellent defense made him the best third baseman in the National League throughout the 1960s. Santo was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove selection.

From 1963 through 1970 he was consistently one of the best players in the league. He topped 30 home runs and 100 RBI four times during that stretch and had at least 26 home runs and 94 RBI in each of those eight seasons.

He finished in the top eight in the MVP voting four times, including fourth in 1967 when he hit .300 with 31 home runs, 107 runs scored and 98 RBI.

In 1969 he was fifth in MVP voting while finishing with 29 home runs and a career-best 123 RBI. However, that season is best remembered by Cubs fans for the collapse that saw the Cubs lose the NL East Division to the New York Mets by eight games after having led by nine games on August 16th.

It is that lack of having played on a winning team that many attribute as a major reason that Santo has never been able to take his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The statistics for his 15 year career, which ended with a single season with the Chicago White Sox in 1974, are comparable or better than a number of third basemen who have received the call from Cooperstown.

He blasted 342 career home runs and drove in 1,331 runs with a .277 batting average. Those numbers work out to 23 home runs and 89 RBI per season for 15 years, which is better than many players who have a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry →

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