The World Series

Tuesday, October 25 2016 @ 04:22 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

One team last won a championship 68 years ago. That's right - even longer than the Leafs.

But that's nothing. The other team last won it all 108 years ago. In the same year that Henry Ford unleashed the Model T on the world.

I actually wrote something about those great Cubs teams of the early 20th century. It was one of the most dominant teams in the history of the game. They're most remembered for their defense - Tinker-to Evers-to-Chance - and all that. It's extremely hard to see what made their defense so special at this vast historical remove. One can take it on faith that they were really good: everyone who actually saw them play says so, they certainly didn't give up many runs, and I think it's extremely likely that there was a much larger gap between a good defensive team and an ordinary defensive team than you would find today (or even thirty years ago, never mind a hundred.)

The 1908 Cubs survived one of the most famous pennant races of all time, immortalized in The Glory of Their Times. This was the year of Merkle's Boner. Though they're remembered (well, there's no on alive today who actually remembers) for their defense and their pitching (Mordecai Brown went 29-9, 1.47 and Big Ed Reulbach was 24-7, 2.03) they were also the highest scoring team in the National League, averaging a lusty 3.9 runs per game. As a team, they hit .249/.311/.321 - not quite what Ezequiel Carrera managed this past season. Johnny Evers, the great second baseman, led the way. He hit  300/.402/.375 - he hit no HRs.

Yeah, game done changed.

The 1948 Clevelands also won a memorable pennant race. The season ended with Cleveland and Boston tied at 96-58, two games ahead of the third place Yankees. The Clevelands won a single game playoff when Joe McCarthy surprised the world by starting veteran Denny Galehouse instead of his rookie LH star, Mel Parnell. Cleveland's Lou Boudreau went with his rookie LH, Gene Bearden, and in the fifth inning Ken Keltner broke up a 1-1 with a 3 run HR off Galehouse. Parnell spent the rest of his life complaining about being passed over in the big game.

Cleveland was managed by their star shortsop, Lou Boudreau, and without checking I believe that's the last time a player-manager led his team to the post-season. The smartest thing Boudreau did was write his own name into the lineup. He was the AL MVP that year, hitting .355/.453/.534 with 18 HRs and 106 RBIs. The other big bats in the lineup stood beside him in the infield - second baseman Joe Gordon and third baseman Ken Keltner. In centre field, playing his first full season in the majors was Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the AL - he'd never played the outfield before, but the Clevelands had old Tris Speaker around to teach him the finer points. Which is kind of like being taught calculus by Isaac Newton.

They had essentially a three man rotation - Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Gene Bearden. Feller, the long-time ace, was beginning to show signs of wear - two years after fanning 348 batters (in 371 IP - yes, three hundred seventy-one), his Ks were down to 164  in 280.1 IP. It was still enough to lead the league - batters did not strike out nearly as often even in 1948 (never mind 1908). Feller managed to go 19-15, 3.56. Lemon, who many older folk may remember for his long managerial career, was the Dave Stieb of his time - a converted position player who relied on his slider. Lemon was a far, far better hitter than Stieb - he actually got into 155 major league games as a pinch-hitter or outfielder. He won 20 games for the 1948 Clevelands. Bearden, a rookie LH was actually the best of the three that year, going 20-7 and leading the league with a 2.43 ERA.

So... someone's got to win, right?