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Penkava: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Cubs

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I’ve carefully followed the off-season moves of management. I’ve loyally listened to spring training games on the radio. I’ve even got out my vintage Ernie Banks Wilson Ball Hawk Model A2127 baseball mitt and thumped it a few times.

But, for the first time in forever, with Opening Day just around the corner, I’m not feeling it.

Usually I start the new Cubs baseball season with a sense of expectation and hope. Even beyond the past and above the futility, there always has been a twinge of “Maybe this is the year” and a chill of “We can do it!” But now all I feel is a shudder and a spasm coming from my figurative heart that’s telling me: “Please. No more. I can’t take it.”

For some reason, my thoughts keep traveling back to 1908, the year when the Cubs last won the World Series.

Sure, it would have been nice to have lived back then and experienced a Cubs championship. But if we take a look at the world of 1908, we Cubs fans can get a perspective of just how long we have been waiting.

Did you know that in 1908, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid still were robbing banks in Bolivia? Harriet Tubman, the Moses of the Underground Railroad, and Geronimo, the Apache Indian chief, still were alive. Jimmy Stewart was born that year and Grover Cleveland died (as we all know, he was the president in between Chester A. Arthur and Benjamin Harrison).

Also in 1908, Henry Ford produced the first Model T automobile, the Grand Canyon was established as a national monument and Robert Peary set sail for the North Pole. Not to mention that Claude Monet still was painting and Mark Twain still was writing.

When you plug in the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series with all those other people and events, 1908 seems like a world away from us. And what if the people who actually experienced the Cubs championship back then looked 100 years into their past, like we’re doing? Why, they’d be reminiscing about the voyage of Lewis and Clark and the latest symphony from Beethoven. Geesh.

I really don’t know where I’m going with this, but looking for some kind of perspective while waiting for the Cubs to finally win is like trying to find a free parking space in downtown Chicago … you can circle around all you want, but there comes a time when you have to admit in your heart of hearts that you ain’t gonna find it.

One statistical guy studied the chances of the fans of baseball teams actually living to see their favorite team win the World Series. He found that 1 in every 1.42 adult fans of Major League Baseball have actually seen their guys win the championship in their lifetime.

The odds of a New York Yankees fan seeing their team win is 1 to 1. That’s why we hate Yankee fans so much.

The team with the second worst chance of winning in all of baseball is the Cleveland Indians, whose odds are 1 in 4.3. The worst odds in baseball? Yep, the Chicago Cubs. But check out how pathetic we are.

The odds that a fan of the Chicago Cubs will live to see them win a World Series is … are you ready for this … one chance in 3,108.6! If you don’t think that’s bad, here are the stats in another format:

• Team Fan’s Odds of Seeing a World Series Win

• Yankees (Best odds) 1 chance in 1

• Indians (Second worst odds) 1 chance in 4.3

• Cubs (Worst odds) 1 chance in 3,108.6

Yikes. It’s not like I’m giving up, but when you have ancient history beckoning you and mathematical statistics walloping you, it’s awfully hard to keep the faith. Maybe Butch and Sundance were right … I wonder if Bolivia has a baseball team.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. Despite all of his misgivings, he is currently dusting off his Ron Santo bobblehead doll and has his pencil and scorecard ready for today’s lineup. He can be reached at mikepenkava@comcast.net.

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