The Cleveland Indians haven’t been to the World Series in nearly two decades, and haven’t won since 1948. But the Tribe isn’t the only team trying to end a championship drought this October.
The Cleveland Indians have company this postseason. When the 101 mile per hour fastball from Aroldis Chapman sizzled past Brandon Belt for the final out of NLDS between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night, Major League Baseball was assured that the 2016 World Series champion would be a team that hasn’t seen the promised land in a long time.
San Francisco and its even-year magic was the last obstacle standing in the way of baseball seeing a long-starving franchise in the spotlight.
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Cleveland fans know the litany of disappointments well. Since winning the World Series in 1948, the Indians were upset in the 1954 Fall Classic by Willie Mays and the New York Giants and then endured more than 40 years of mediocrity before contending again. Losses in the World Series in 1995 and 1997 only cemented the long nightmare for Tribe fans.
Toronto, who Cleveland will face in the American League Championship Series beginning on Friday, hasn’t had to wait 68 years for a title like the Indians, having won in 1992 and 1993. But the Jays hadn’t even sniffed the playoffs in the more than two decades since until last year’s run to the ALCS, and are now carrying the entire country of Canada on their backs with the disappearance of the Expos after the 2004 season.
The Giants bowing out in the National League means the senior circuit will also be represented in the World Series by a team a quarter century or more removed from its last championship. Every baseball fan knows the tale of woe that is the Cubs, fraught with Billy Goat curses, who haven’t won since 1908 and haven’t been in the World Series since 1945.
But in the last remaining division series, both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals have droughts of their own to contend with. The Dodgers, one of the oldest franchises in professional baseball and once a dominant force in the NL, have not made it to the World Series since their last title in 1988 despite 10 playoff appearances.
Washington is on a par with the Cubs and Indians when it comes to postseason futility. The current franchise, which began in Montreal in 1969, made the playoffs only once before moving to the nation’s capital, and since then has been in the hunt three times, but never advanced.
Baseball futility in D.C. stretches back much further, though, as the last championship was won by Walter Johnson and the 1924 Senators. Since that day in October some 92 years ago, Washington has never seen one of its teams win a postseason series.
The greater baseball world seems to have settled on pulling for a Chicago vs. Cleveland series this year, and that would indeed be one heck of a showdown. But regardless of who this year’s participants in the Fall Classic are, one fanbase that has known the agony of defeat for far too long will finally be rewarded with a championship.