Cubs Mark 100 Years Since Last World Series Title
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
For die-hard baseball fans, this is the time of year to say, NCAA tournament? What NCAA tournament? It's opening day for many teams, baseball teams. And for Chicago Cubs fans, that means the start of the 100th season since the Cubs' last World Series title in 1908.
Over the years, Cubs fans have tried seances and ceremonies to try to reverse curses thought to be responsible for a century of losing, and now some are reviving a fan club that was disbanded 100 years ago. From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.
DAVID SCHAPER: For Cubs fans, this opening day comes with anticipation that, hey, this finally might be our year. But it also comes with apprehension, trepidation and even anxiety that this is got to, finally, please let it be our year.
Mr. JOEL FOLKENBURG(ph): Obviously, 100 years is a long time.
SCHAPER: Cub fan Joel Folkenburg of Chicago.
Mr. FOLKENBURG: I've only had to wait for about 35 of those, but I'm looking forward to this season, obviously, and I expect big things.
SCHAPER: Folkenburg is at Harry Caray's Tavern, across the street from Wrigley Field, with his friend, Jason Monina(ph). They share season tickets, and Monina says they've also shared a lot of disappointment over the years.
Mr. JASON MONINA: Every year there's hope. And it's just, it's a new season. We don't have to worry about anything that happened in the past, and we're really looking forward to positive things. That's how the beginning of every season usually is.
SCHAPER: Folkenburg and Monina don't buy into talk about jinxes and curses. They say the Cubs have mostly just had bad teams, with a few good teams that just couldn't get it done.
Some fans, though, do blame curses for the Cubs' century of losing: the curse of the billy goat from 1945, the black cat that ran onto the field in 1969, even the fan who interfered with a Cub player trying to catch a foul ball in the 2003 playoffs. But fans of the team have taken steps in recent years to try to dispel or reverse every one of them, to no avail.
Mr. GRANT DEPORTER: I think I've figured out something that really explains it all.
SCHAPER: Grant Deporter is a lifelong Cub fan and unofficial Cub historian who also happens to be managing partner of Harry Caray's restaurants. He has access to more Cubs memorabilia than anyone outside of Wrigley Field. In researching a collection of newspapers from 1908, he found that the Cubs, who then played on Chicago's West Side, had a large and growing fan club called the West Side Rooters Association.
Mr. DEPORTER: And these guys were just into it. They were cheering. They came up with their own Cubs war cry. It was called oofwa(ph), and they would have meetings just to practice the timing, where they would scream it at exactly the right moment and all together.
SCHAPER: Deporter says Cub players were part of the West Side Rooters and socialized with fans regularly, and that the fan group grew enormously in 1908, as the Cubs were then defending World Series champs.
Mr. DEPORTER: They would have tally-ho parties, where everyone in downtown Chicago would get in horse-drawn carriages and with tubas and noisemakers and celebrate going to the game.
SCHAPER: That kind of rowdiness irritated then-Cubs owner Charles Murphy.
Mr. DEPORTER: Murphy just didn't like any of it. He said this has all got to go, and he banished the Rooters after the 1908 season. He said, you guys cannot come back. They haven't won since, and we think if we bring it back this year, it will finally put the Cubs over the top.
SCHAPER: Deporter is re-organizing the Rooters and serving as the fan club's president. He's recruited Cub legend Ernie Banks to serve as chairman. The club will gather today at Harry Caray's Tavern across from Wrigley Field before marching, en masse, to the ballpark, where at some point they may even cheer oofwa. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
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