A collective sigh of relief exploded from long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans after the first pitch was thrown in last night’s Game 1 Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians World Series match.
The pitch marked the first World Series appearance by the Cubs in 71 years, and a win over Cleveland in the best-of-seven series would give the Cubs its first world championship since 1908.
But Greater Trail native John D’Arcangelo has no need to jump on the bandwagon, he’s been driving it for over six decades. The retired school teacher began rooting for the Cubs back in the 1950s when Chicago shortstop and perennial all-star Ernie Banks was ripping up the base paths, and he has lived through the too-few highs and considerable lows ever since.
“It was the year before I was born that they were last in the World Series,” said D’Arcangelo. “So I’ve never experienced this before, and I’m glad because I’m not getting any younger, and hopefully we can beat Cleveland.”
D’Arcangelo recalls the fall of 1969 when the Cubs led the National League East in August by 9 1/2 games over the New York Mets only to falter down the stretch, while the “Amazing Mets” went on to win the pennant and the World Series.
Similar stories emerged from the 70s with promising teams crashing mid-season, and carried through the 80s and 90s and into the new millennium. No matter the scenario, the Cubs found a way to falter, whether by poor play, managerial incompetence, PEDs, or fan interference, the curse continued.
“In the 80s we had a series with San Diego we jumped out 2-0 but then lost to San Diego three in a row, and in 2003 we had a chance then, but things went wrong,” recalls D’Arcangelo.
Upon retirement in 2008, D’Arcangelo made a trip to Chicago as part of his bucket list and took in a few games at the iconic Wrigley Field. Coincidentally, it also marked the 100-year anniversary since the Cubs’ last World Series win.
“I remember they had a saying in ‘08: ‘Five score and no more.’ But it’s a lot longer than that now.”
Since the Cubs clinched the National League title over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday, articles have been popping up, well, like pop-flies, chronicling the 108 years since the Cubs last won a World championship. The claims range from the historic – the October 1908 win predated women’s right to vote, the Model T, and sliced bread – to the cosmic – that there are 108 stitches in a Spalding baseball and A. G. Spalding was the Cubs first manager, or that on Oct. 7 Cubs infielder Javier Baez hit San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto’s 108th pitch out of the park for the Cubs 1-0 victory in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Numerologists are having a hayday with the number, which adds up to a very positively portended number-9, much like 2016, or the number of men on the diamond, or 27 outs in a game. It all presages good news for the Cubs and their faithful fans, who have had little to cheer about over the past century.
“I’ve never wavered, perseverance is one of my strong suits I guess. I’ve hung in there and hoped the day would come.”
The Cubs have a very good team this season, but so does Cleveland, says D’Arcangelo. And whether the Cubs are a team of destiny or will reclaim the mantle of futility will be determined in the upcoming weeks.
“We haven’t won yet, and as a Cubs fan you don’t count your chickens,” he added. “You’re use to letdowns.”
D’Arcangelo will watch the games from the comfort of his living room, while tickets to games at Wrigley Field are projected to sell for as much as $6,000 per seat.
A friend recently asked if he was in Chicago for the Series, his reply: “No, but my heart is.”
Ever the optimist, D’Arcangelo predicts Chicago will win in six games.