Apocalypse Now–Welcome Back to Fenway, Cubs

Wasn’t it once considered a sign of the Apocalypse if the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs were to ever meet in a decisive series again, given that, at least between 1918 and 2004, neither team had won the World Series?  Perhaps it is only fitting then that the two teams will finally face off against each other at Fenway Park for the first time since September 11, 1918 for a 3-game series beginning on Friday May 20, 2011, exactly one day before Judgment Day.  Is this a mere coincidence or did the scheduling mavens of this year’s MLB season have Doomsday in mind all along?  Hmmm…

Okay, so perhaps characterizing this particular Interleague series as “decisive” is, shall we say, dramatizing it a bit.  The baseball Doomsdayers most likely had a World Series re-match of the 1918 Fall Classic in mind.  Moreover, most modern-day Nostradamuses were probably thinking of a re-match of the two teams back when both were still seeking that elusive World Championship.  For although Cubbie fans still pine for that evasive World Series trophy, Sox fans have enjoyed two World Series Championships in the last eight years.  Furthermore, this series is anything but dramatic with the Cubs currently sitting 6 games back in the NL Central and 6 games back in the NL Wild Card race, although it is only May.  The Sox, meanwhile, are currently riding a 5-game winning streak that has re-positioned them right back into the thick of the AL East and Wild Card races.  And, while a Cubs-Red Sox match-up is anything but common, these teams did face off against each other in Interleague play back in June of 2005 at Wrigley Field.  More importantly, contrary to any Doomsday prognostications back then, the world did not come to end on that particular weekend.

This coming weekend series is notable, however, in that it will be the Cubs’ first visit to Fenway Park since Games 4, 5 and 6 of the 1918 World Series between these two ancient clubs.  Sticking with the R.E.M. theme, one might say that the 1918 Fall Classic was played under rather inauspicious times.  The world was engulfed in the First World War and Russia was still reeling from a Revolution.  Given the state of world affairs at that time, it is remarkable that the 1918 World Series was even played.  As it turns out, the Cubs and Sox were the first and only teams to play the entire Fall Classic in the summer (that is, in September) as the U.S. Government, in collaboration with MLB, had ordered the early conclusion of the 1918 regular season on Labor Day with the World Series beginning on September 5, 1918, as a deference to the ongoing War.  The Series was also nearly derailed by a players’ strike before Game 5 concerning the amount of the players’ prize money.  And to this day, some believe the 1918 World Series to be tainted by the claim that the Cubs had possibly fixed the World Series, a mere one year before the infamous Black Sox Scandal occurred.  Following the 1918 World Series, the Red Sox would go 86 years before winning another title.  Meanwhile, the Cubs have not won the Fall Classic since 1908.  Talk about ominous!

All ominous signs aside, the 1918 Fall Classic proved to be an impressive battle of the pitching staffs.  The Red Sox featured righty Carl Mays and a pretty good lefty named Babe Ruth, each who would win two games for the Local Nine on the way to the World Title.  The Cubs’ staff, meanwhile, was anchored by James Leslie “Hippo” Vaughn, winner of the 1918 NL Triple Crown for pitchers, leading the League in wins (22), ERA (1.74) and strike outs (148)*.  The Cubs, however, were without recently acquired ace and future Hall of Famer, Grover Cleveland Alexander, who had joined the Army earlier that season, and would later serve as a sergeant in France on the Western Front.  The Sox would win the 1918 World Series in 6 games, including winning two of three at Fenway.  Neither team would score more than 3 runs in a single game, while all four of Boston’s wins were won by the difference of a single run.  One day after the Red Sox, baseball’s first dynasty, won their fifth World Series title in fourteen seasons, American Doughboys were launching the Battle of Saint-Mihiel on the Western Front, a key battle that helped lead to the eventual conclusion of the Great War.

This weekend, the Cubs and Cubbie  fans will find a much different Fenway Park than the one that hosted the 1918  Classic.  For starters, Fenway’s famous Green Monster did not exist in 1918.  Sure, there was a wall in left field, but it wasn’t 36’ high, it wasn’t green, and it certainly did not have Monster Seats atop it.  Rather, in 1918, and until 1934, the left field wall was covered with advertisements and fronted by a 10’ high mound known as ‘Duffy’s Cliff’ that stretched from the left field foul pole to the center field flag pole.  Duffy’s Cliff was aptly named after former Boston left fielder Duffy Lewis, who was able to master the incline while playing in Fenway’s left field from 1910 to 1917.  After a fire in 1934, then Red Sox owner John Yawkey leveled off most of Duffy’s Cliff, rebuilt the left field wall, and added the manual scoreboard, which is still used today, along the bottom of the wall.  It was not until 1947 that the left field wall was painted green, eventually leading to the beloved moniker, the Green Monster.   Today, the Cubs and Cubbie fans will find an expanded park with Monster Seats, concession stands with an expansive (and still more expensive) menu, a fuzzy, green mascot called Wally, and HD video boards, just to name a few of the changes.  It is only fitting that the Cubs, who play in the second oldest active ballpark will finally make their way back to Fenway.

A lot has happened in the nearly 93 years since these two teams last faced off in Fenway.  Since the 1918 World Series, Americans have experienced the Great Depression, women’s suffrage, a Second World War, Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball, the Civil Rights Movement, 9-11, the election of America’s first President of African-American descent, and most recently, the death of Osama bin Laden.  And what about those Doomsdayers who once predicted that when the Sox and Cubs clash again it will be the sign of the Apocalypse?  Well, if the Cubs can turn their season around, and the Sox can continue their current surge into the postseason, Game 1 of the 2011 World Series is scheduled on October 19th, a mere two days before the End of the World.  So the real question is: are the Doomsdayers calling for a Sox-Cubs World Series this year?


*Source: Baseball-Reference.com, Triple Crown Winners.



The Official Site of the Boston Red Sox




2 Responses to “Apocalypse Now–Welcome Back to Fenway, Cubs”

  1. 1 Carlos Garcia May 19, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Yo! I’m the first to leave a comment. You rock.

  2. 2 dailyirabu May 20, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    adrian gonzalez has been a monster! looking for many more wins over Yanks

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