Indians Vs. Cubs: Each Aims To End Decades-Long Championship Drought

Oct 25, 2016
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The World Series that begins tonight in Cleveland is going to change the course of history for one Midwestern city. Maybe that's an exaggeration. I don't know. But the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series in 108 years. The Cleveland Indians, though, it's been a mere 68 years. NPR's Tom Goldman is in Cleveland, ready for Game 1. And he did what other baseball fans in Cleveland did last night. He went to the movies. Tom, tell me about that.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I did. I went to one of three theaters in Cleveland, David, showing "Major League," the classic sports movie about the woeful Cleveland Indians.

GREENE: An awesome movie.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. They become winners, of course. Tickets were only a buck, and at the Capitol Theatre, the one I went to, it was shades of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" where, you, know the crowd interacts with the movie. Here's an example, David, of the scene where the Cleveland manager explains the plan of the new owner. The owner wants the team to do so badly that attendance bottoms out and the team can move to sunny Miami. Now, actor Tom Berenger, who plays veteran catcher Jake Taylor in the movie, he hears the manager say that, and he stands up and he delivers this classic line that got a really huge reaction in the theater.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MAJOR LEAGUE")

TOM BERENGER: (As Jake Taylor) Well, then I guess there's only one thing left to do.

CORBIN BERNSEN: (As Roger Dorn) What's that?

BERENGER: (As Jake Taylor) Win the whole [expletive] thing.

(CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: Now, of course, the line, David, win the whole bleeping thing is like catnip in Cleveland right now, as you can hear.

GREENE: I'm sure.

GOLDMAN: Although, you know, it's a little less desperation in the city since the Cavs won the NBA title in June - first pro sports title in Cleveland in 52 years. But after watching the movie, Clevelander Don Howard said the Cavs winning was great, but there's still something that makes the Indians' quest significant.

DON HOWARD: There's a little bit of a difference. The Cavs have the best basketball player in the entire world. His name is LeBron James. The Indians right now are made up of a team that are a whole bunch of people that are just like Clevelanders. They're a whole bunch of people that go out and they grind every day.

GOLDMAN: And, David, that's the appeal to Clevelanders. Their baseball team is a bunch of grinders. You know, they've overcome injuries to key players. They've won 7 of their 8 games in the postseason by an average margin of just two runs. So they're not blowing people out. They're winning with pitching, timely hitting, defense, base-stealing. They're grinding.

GREENE: All right, so the grinders in Cleveland, the people who live there, really feel a connection to this team. But, I mean, their team has a lot of work to do to beat the Chicago Cubs.

GOLDMAN: Well, they do, and the Cubs are the favorites. Las Vegas oddsmakers say that, and I think a lot of baseball fans say that. The Cubs won 103 games during the regular season. That was a major league best. They have a star-studded lineup. Five of their players were elected as starters in this season's All-Star Game. The Indians had zero. So, you know, it seems to be weighted in the Cubs' favor but never can count out a bunch of grinders, David.

GREENE: And if the Cubs win, Tom, does that end this old billy goat curse in Chicago? What exactly is that curse? I mean, everyone talks about it.

GOLDMAN: Oh, man. Well, you know, that's open to interpretation. The man who cursed the team because he was prevented from bringing his pet billy goat to a World Series game in 1945 at Wrigley Field...

GREENE: That's great.

GOLDMAN: ...Last time Cubs were there, he reportedly said something like, you know, Cubs ain't going to win no more. Now, he wasn't specific in saying the Cubs aren't going to win the World Series no more or the Cubs aren't going to get in the World Series no more. So just to be safe, let's say the Cubs have to win the thing to finally do away with the curse.

GREENE: I will go with that definition. I appreciate that, Tom. Let me play you some music from "Major League" to go out on here. Enjoy the World Series.

GOLDMAN: Thanks, David.

GREENE: That's NPR's Tom Goldman.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BURN ON")

RANDY NEWMAN: (Singing) Cleveland, city of light, city of magic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.