To any non-Chicago Cubs fan, the city and team’s complete elation after Tuesday’s 6-4 victory to clinch the National League Division Series over the hated rival St. Louis Cardinals might seem premature. However, those questioning the celebrations all over Wrigley Field either didn’t know the Cubs had never clinched a postseason series at home or aren’t fully aware of just how deep the franchise’s history of disappointment runs.
Only the Atlanta Braves, who started in Boston in 1871, have a longer history than the Cubs. Taking on three previous nicknames before finally settling on the Cubs, this is a franchise that extends back 139 years, well before the World Series existed. The organization was first known as the White Stockings when they joined the National League in 1876, then the Colts (1890-1897), and then the Orphans (1898-1902) before settling on the Cubs in 1903.
And starting from that point, the Cubs and their fans have accrued two World Series titles and 16 NL pennants in only 17 postseason appearances. The "Lovable Losers" have watched as the Boston Red Sox (1901) have won three titles in the past 11 years after a cold spell that began in 1918 behind the "Curse of the Bambino," and when the Philadelphia Phillies finally won their first World Series in 1980 and then followed that with another title in 2008.
This season Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo helped Chicago snap a seven-year playoff drought, but that isn’t the Cubs longest stretch away from the postseason.
After making their last appearance in the World Series in 1945, Chicago failed to make the postseason for the next 38 years. Led by Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, the Cubs would eventually reach the 1984 NL Championship Series but fall to the San Diego Padres.
Since then, and with the postseason expanding to four teams per league and then to five teams in 2012, the Cubs have made the postseason only six more times and haven’t moved past the NLCS’s final game. Back in 2003, Chicago came ever so close to snapping a 95-year absence in the World Series when it held a 3-2 series lead over the Florida Marlins. But the infamous Steve Bartman foul ball controversy in Game 6 helped Florida erase a 3-0 Cubs lead in the sixth inning. Chicago eventually lost in seven games to continue the tortuous wait.
Four years later the Cubs would begin consecutive runs to the postseason, the first such winning stretch in the team’s history since they last won the World Series in 1908. However, the Cubs would be swept in the NLDS by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and then the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008.
And while many Cubs fans believe this will be their year, either because of the immense young talent on the squad or because the blockbuster film “Back to the Future II” predicted a title in 2015, Chicago’s experienced even more heartbreak when actually reaching the World Series.
The Cubs have made the World Series 10 times (1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, 1945), but only proved victorious in 1907 and 1908. In the losses, Chicago didn’t muster more than two victories in any series and they were swept twice.
But this year could be different. The stars may be aligned just right with Arrieta as one of the most dominant pitchers left in the postseason, and the lineup unleashing 12 home runs and scoring 24 runs against a Cardinals pitching staff that led the majors in ERA.
Now Cubs fans will wait to see who they will face in the NLCS that begins on Saturday. Their opponent will either be the New York Mets or the Dodgers, who meet on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
When the Cubs advanced past the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild-card playoff, there was hysteria in Wrigleyville. The jubilation would spill over when Chicago defeated St. Louis. More boisterous celebration awaits if first-year manager Joe Maddon can lead Chicago to two more series wins.
It's been a long time coming.