CHICAGO — In “Back to the Future 2”, released in 1989, Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled in time to October 21, 2015. Marty is slack-jawed in disbelief as he tries to process what has become of his hometown of Hill Valley in the distant future.
Flying cars whiz by, as Marty notices his old Town Square hangout is now the retro “Café 80’s”. He looks up to see breaking news flashing on a 3-D virtual display above him: “Cubs Win World Series” by defeating Miami. This was supposed to be a joke. The Cubs hadn’t won the World Series in 81 years, and Miami didn’t even have a baseball team.
Back to the Future got a bunch of things right about 2015: video-conferencing, virtual reality, even hoverboards. But the Cubs? They DO have a chance of going to the World Series, but they are down 3-games-to-none to New York in the National League Championship Series.
The Cubs would need to stage a miraculous comeback, starting tonight, in Game 4, to make the “BTTF” prediction a reality, but there is a chance. And considering the strange history of the Cubs in the playoffs, nothing would surprise me.
Come with me, through the looking glass, and we’ll explore this a bit.
The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908 (1+9+0+8=18). In that season, the Cubs advanced to the World Series by defeating the New York Giants to win the National League Pennant, in what has been called the most controversial game in baseball history because of “Merkle’s Boner”.
With two outs in the 9th inning of a 1-1 game, Fred Merkle singled for New York, putting runners on first and third. Al Bridwell then drove a base hit into centerfield, driving home what appeared to be the winning run. The Giants’ players and fans stormed the field in celebration, and in the confusion, Merkle failed to touch second base, which the Cubs noticed, and threw the ball to second for a force out, negating the run.
As you can imagine, the New York fans went berserk, especially after it was revealed that the game ball was actually thrown into the stands after the apparent game-winning hit, then retrieved to record the final out of the inning. In the chaos that ensued, the game was called on account of darkness, and a makeup game was played, which the Cubs won to advance to the World Series.
The Cubs have come close to a World Series title a few times in the 107 years since. They last won the pennant 70 years ago, in 1945.
In 1969, the Cubs held a commanding lead in the standings, until they faced the Mets in New York. A black cat ran onto the field at Shea Stadium, and stalked the Cubs’ on-deck circle. The Cubs collapsed, and the “Miracle Mets” overtook them, ran away with the pennant and went on to win the World Series. The Cubs finished that season 92-70. (9+2+7+0=18)
The Cubs last advanced to the National League Championship Series in 2003, against the Florida Marlins (who play their games in Miami, just as the movie predicted). Leading 3-0 in Game 6 of the series, with the Cubs up 3 games to 2, the Cubs were 4 outs away from advancing to the World Series. The Marlins’ Luis Castillo hit a foul ball down the left field line.
As it neared the stands, several fans reached for it, but a Cubs fan named Steve Bartman actually deflected it, preventing outfielder Moises Alou (who wore #18) from making the catch. Florida scored 8 unanswered runs, and won game 6 by a score of 8-3. The Marlins went on to win Game 7, and advance to the World Series. Much like 1908, a fan was a key factor in the outcome of a Cubs’ playoff game.
The “Bartman Game” happened 12 years ago. The date on Marty and Doc’s time machine was 10/21/15. (1+0+2+1+2+0+1+5= 12).
Chicago needs to win 4 straight games to advance to the World Series. It’s a pretty dire situation.
But, hey. It’s Back to the Future Day. Weirder things have happened.