Despite World Series droughts, these franchises boast proud histories
By David Adler and Matt Kelly
No one knows who will win this year's World Series between the Cubs and Indians, which begins with Game 1 on Tuesday night in Cleveland. But one thing is for sure: One long-suffering franchise will finally get to celebrate when the dust finally clears.
The teams in this year's Fall Classic features the longest winless streaks in each league; the Indians have not won a World Series since 1948, while the Cubs have famously not won it all since 1908. Despite the lack of championship pennants, both teams boast long and storied histories that involve some of the greatest players to ever step onto the baseball diamond.
Before Chicago and Cleveland get underway in the 112th World Series, here are 20 amazing facts you should know about the history and iconic players for these franchises:
• The Cubs were one of the original teams to make up the National League when it was founded in 1876, and they have played in Chicago for all 141 years since then. They are the only franchise to play continuously in the same city since the Senior Circuit's inception.
• The 1906 Cubs had the winningest season in MLB history. That year, Chicago went 116-36 in the regular season, a remarkable .763 winning percentage. Their 116-win mark has been equaled only by the 2001 Mariners, who lost 10 more games than the Cubs did.
• The last Cubs team to win the World Series, the 1908 club, was anchored by four Hall of Famers. On the mound, they had Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, who went 29-9 with a 1.47 ERA and nine shutouts. Behind him, they had Joe Tinker at shortstop, Johnny Evers at second base and player-manager Frank Chance at first base -- the famous "Tinker to Evers to Chance" double play combination memorialized in the poem "Baseball's Sad Lexicon."
• This is the Cubs' 101st season at the iconic Wrigley Field. They moved into the Friendly Confines in 1916, and they've played 7,959 regular-season games there. Ernie Banks alone played in 1,285 of those games.
• Banks, Mr. Cub himself, holds the Major League record for most games played without a postseason appearance: 2,528, and every single one was with the Cubs. Banks played 19 seasons in Chicago from 1953 to 1971, was an 11-time All-Star, won back-to-back NL MVP awards -- and never reached the playoffs.
• In 1930, Hack Wilson, one of the 14 Hall of Famers to play more games for the Cubs than any other team, set the all-time single-season RBI record, driving in an incredible 191 runs for Chicago in 155 games. It's a record that might never be broken.
• Sammy Sosa, the Cubs' all-time franchise leader in home runs with 545, hit 60 or more home runs in a single season three times during his time with Chicago. He hit 66 in the famous 1998 home run race with Mark McGwire (when Sosa finished second in homers but won the NL MVP), as well as 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001. Sosa is the only player in Major League history with three 60-homer seasons.
• Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is one of only four Major League second basemen to ever hit 40 home runs in a season. Sandberg hit 40 homers in 1990, one of his 10 consecutive All-Star seasons and nine consecutive Gold Glove seasons with the Cubs.
• The Cubs have one of the three pitchers in Major League history to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game. Kerry Wood joined the 20-strikeout club on May 6, 1998, with a one-hitter against the Astros, the fewest hits allowed in any of the 20-strikeout games.
• Cubs third baseman Ron Santo and outfielder Billy Williams, also both Hall of Famers, co-led the Major Leagues in games played in 1965, with 164. They became two of just six players in MLB history ever credited with 164 or more games played in a single season. It was only possible because the Cubs played two tie games that year.
• The Indians' history actually begins in Grand Rapids, Mich., where they were known as the Grand Rapids Rustlers of the Western League from 1894-99. The franchise then moved to Cleveland and became known as the Lake Shores before joining the brand-new American League as the Bluebirds in 1901.
• The team's first home in Cleveland, League Park, was among the first baseball stadiums to be built using concrete and steel after renovations in 1910. Ten years later, another set of improvements added a 40-foot wall in right field -- three feet taller than the famous Green Monster at Boston's Fenway Park.
• Lou Boudreau seemingly did it all in 1948. The shortstop batted .355, drove in 106 runs, clubbed a career-high 18 home runs and struck out only nine times in 560 at-bats. Boudreau did all of this while also managing the Indians to 97 wins, and their most recent World Series title.
• Stan Coveleski went 3-0 in the 1920 World Series to lead the Indians to their first championship. Coveleski is still one of only nine pitchers to post three complete-game victories in the same Fall Classic, and his 0.67 ERA in 1920 is tied with Lew Burdette for the second-lowest among that exclusive group (leader Christy Mathewson famously tossed three shutouts in five days in the 1905 World Series).
• In that 1948 World Series, Larry Doby -- who one year earlier had made history by becoming the AL's first African-American player -- became the first black player to hit a home run in the Fall Classic. Doby's .318 average and .875 OPS in Cleveland's six-game triumph was tops among full-time Indians players in the series.
• On Aug. 23, 1936, a 17-year-old rookie named Bob Feller set a record by striking out 15 St. Louis Browns batters in his first Major League start. Three weeks later, Feller set a then-AL record with 17 strikeouts against the Philadelphia Athletics. After his rookie season was over, "Rapid Robert" went back to Van Meter, Iowa, to finish his senior year of high school.
• Nap Lajoie became so iconic in Cleveland that the franchise changed its name from the "Bluebirds" to the "Naps" in 1903 after Lajoie's first season with the team. During his tenure in Northeast Ohio from 1902-14, Lajoie ranked in the top five among AL players in average (second), hits (second), runs (third), doubles (first) and runs batted in (second).
• Bob Lemon was the Indians' center fielder for Opening Day in 1946, but switched to become a full-time pitcher by the beginning of 1948. Lemon threw a no-hitter that year, and went on to win at least 20 games in seven of the next nine seasons.
• Joe Sewell possessed one of the sharpest plate disciplines the game has ever seen. In 7,132 career at-bats, Sewell struck out only 114 times -- or once every 17 games. In fact, Sewell recorded more hit by pitches than strikeouts in five different seasons between 1924 and 1933.
• Tris Speaker posted his career-best batting average (.389) and on-base percentage (an AL-best .479) with the Indians in 1925 at the age of 37. That .389 average is still the highest single-season mark for any player 37-or-older in baseball history.