It’s that time of year, late October, and World Series talk is in the air.
There’s one theme in this Cubs-Indians matchup that I’m familiar with: the significance of well-known jinxes.
In 1980 with the Phillies, we were constantly reading about how we’d never won it all. Then we busted the longest skid in baseball.
Cleveland is battling history as well. Its last win, the 1948 Series over the Boston Braves.
Now the kings of jinx, those beloved Cubbies. They appeared in 1945, but last won in 1908.
That’s a long time, boys. What’s the story?
A lot of people will have fun with this — Cubs and Indians, and whose curse is the strongest. Fans will pull out every anti-jinx weapon they can find.
Chicago is well known for its efforts. They’ve tried a goat on the field, holy water sprinkled around the dugout, electrocuting the Bartman ball and three guys dragging a goat across country.
Cleveland vs. Chicago at every level from politics to sports, and the hottest topic will be the Cubbies fighting their past.
So how do the players themselves handle trying to win these games with history against them?
You’d think with all the social media exposure the jinxes will be getting, the players would be consumed with the fear of losing.
Not even close.
The players won’t give it a second thought. To them, it’s a waste of time, it’s only something that is attached to a negative outcome by fans and media.
In Philly in 1980, the media recalled our team’s long drought, the Whiz Kids missing out in 1950 and the “Phold” of ‘64.
But inside the clubhouse, there was never a mention of these jinxes.
Can you imagine Pete Rose saying to Steve Carlton, “Lefty, what do you want to do about our jinx?”
I bet if you ask the Indians players, they’d have no idea when the Indians were last in the Series.
Cubs may be a different story because they still play in the stadium where their jinxes were born. You’d have to live under a rock not to at least be aware of them. But a factor in their play? Not a chance.
One of the things that makes baseball so beloved is that it’s there every day from April to October. You can become so consumed by it that you believe outside forces are at work affecting the outcomes.
You’ve heard of “golf gods,” the higher powers of the game that you never want to cross in fear of being punished.
Baseball has them, too. Here’s how they work: The “baseball gods,” those spirits of the game that every player believes in, love teams that play fundamentally sound, don’t strike out in key situations, move runners, play good defense and run the bases.
They frown on teams that swing for the fences, don’t hustle, and give the opponent extra outs.
Teams that win in the postseason do little things that matter, and wait for the big things to come. Teams that lose in the postseason try to force the action, play tight and don’t let the game come to them.
I know because I’ve been on both sides.
So the challenge for both the Indians and Cubs will be to play the game, under the pressure of the World Series, with patience, relaxation and confidence.
The fans and media can have fun with the jinxes, and one of these teams will continue their futility in the Series. But make no mistake, after the umpire says “play ball”, history will not affect the outcome.
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt was MVP of the 1980 World Series when the Philadelphia Phillies won their first World Series championship. He hit 548 career home runs, including four in a game at Wrigley Field.