Friday, October 07, 2016

The Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox

Rick Pildes

As the Chicago Cubs begin their quest to return to the World Series for the first time since 1945, and to win it for the first time since 1908, I can't help recalling the most unique experience I've had in my "legal career" (in quotes, for reasons you will see).

Back in 2004, ESPN decided to hold a formal trial and produce a program called:  The Red Sox or Cubs:  Whose Curse is Worse?  At the time, the Red Sox had not won the Series since 1918.  Harvard's rabid Boston sports fan, Alan Dershowitz, represented the Red Sox; as a native Chicagoan and long-suffering Cubs fan, I was asked to represent the Cubs.  EPSN put together a panel of jurors, and we tried the case in a baroque, beautiful old New York courthouse in front of a former judge. The trial was complete, with opening and closing statements, and direct testimony and cross-examination of eight witnesses.

As a consultant, I "hired" the Pulitzer Prize winning historian Jack Rakove, a devoted Cubs fan.  We devoured books on the Cubs' history and laid out our trial strategy.  Jack actually published a piece on the trial, here.  One great line from Jack's reporting of the trial:  "[Red Sox' fans relationship to their team] seemed to me to be more like love-hate, with a strong dose of Irish Catholic pessimism, so much a part of Boston culture, thrown in for seasoning. There is a dark underside to Red Sox frustration that Cubs fans cannot and would not want to match."

Of the four witnesses assigned to each side, two were former players; one was a sports journalist who covered the team; and one was a representative "every fan" for each team (for the Cubs, it was George Wendt, aka Norm of "Cheers").  One of my best witnesses was Cy Young award winner Rick Sutcliffe, who is now one of the ESPN's top baseball analysts (and quite a character in person); I got to cross-examine figures like the great Luis Tiant and Bill "Spaceman" Lee.

"Winning" meant proving your team's curse was worse.  Dershowitz won, no doubt because New York jurors knew far more about the Red Sox than the Cubs.  But history vindicated me.  The Red Sox soon went on to win two Series' titles, while here we still are, 12 years later, waiting for our first appearance in the Series.

But of course, this is the year.  The ending of the truly worse curse in baseball begins tonight...



I'm from New York, but feel the Cubs' pain ... but then I'm a Mets fan.

Since the alternatives are the Giants (who should be disqualified for having a non-human on their pitching staff), Nats (just the Generals by another name, so clearly devil worshipers ... plus they will find a way to mess up) and the Dodgers (who helped the Giants get in by slumming it in the last series & have Utley, boo), I'm rooting for the Cubs in the NL myself.

The fitting match-up would be vs the Red Sox though I favor the Indians or Blue Jays. Two countries would make a better "World" Series.

As a Giants fan, I'm of course rooting for them to avenge the injustice of 1908. However, they've now won 11 straight post-season series and the odds are stacked pretty heavily against them. Pragmatically, I'm in the ABD (Anyone But the Dodgers) camp.

Check out this link:

for Roaoul Lowery' Contreres' "Ted Williams, Mexican American Baseball Superstar, War Hero."

Growing up in Boston's Roxbury section in the '30s, '40s and beyond, I was a Boston Braves fan as a member of its Knothole Gang for a couple of years, which was more affordable than Red Sox games. But I was a Yankee fan most of all. We knew Williams was a superstar and a war hero, but few thought of him as a Mexican-American. Ted loved his mother very much but he recognized the times were not such that he he could emphasize his Mexican-American heritage in his baseball career. His father had abandoned the family fairly early on. While I had many an argument with my friends on comparisons of Ted and Joe DiMaggio, there was no hatred. Red Sox fans loved Ted despite the vileness of Dave Egan, a Boston sportswriter. I bring this up because of the current political climate, wondering how Ted might have been perceived by Boston fans had he stressed his Mexican-American heritage. The game of baseball featured many immigrant groups over its history and we know how long it took for a Jackie Robinson to make his way in. Ted may not have been the first Latino in baseball, but his heritage was not well known during his career. As a superstar, his record speaks for itself.

Where I reside in Brookline is within walking distance of Fenway Park. Family and friends often park in my driveway to attend Red Sox games. The Red Sox curse disappeared. I'm even closer to the old Braves Field now part of BU's campus. I have lots of baseball memories, including my taunts of many years of Red Sox fans (including my children). I'm still a Yankee fan, a team that has been cursed of late. But my loyalty remains.

As to the Cubs, it may be time for the curse to end. Keep in mind that Brookline's own Theo Epstein, grandson of one of the Casablanca movie writers, brought fame to the Red Sox a few years back and now as the GM of the Cubs has put them in a position to end their curse. As a Yankee fan my instincts are to root against the Red Sox and for home-boy Theo. So I'd like to see the curse of the Cubs buried, especially if they beat the Red Sox or whoever else wins the AL pennant. While I don't have second thoughts about this, I am aware that pundit George Will is a longtime Cubs fan and I would have to ignore his anticipated gloating if the Cubs beat the curse. But that's my curse. I'm prepared to take it for Theo.

By the Bybee [expletives deleted], how long will it take for this thread to go off topic? That's a different curse.

Thanks for the history.

The new show "Frequency" started with a flash back to the past -- 1996 -- which was basically the start of a resurgence of the Yankee fan expecting to win each year.

The Red Sox's curse ended with some help from those Yankees eight years later, after the Yanks burned them one more time in '03. It was their first WS win in 86 years.

Let's go Nats!

I will say this, while not primarily a Cubs fan, and to paraphrase a GOP figure I don't care much for, if you don't pull for the Cubs at least a little, then I don't think you have a heart..,

I didn't state it speanother Brookline cifically but Theo Epstein was the Red Sox GM when that curse ended. Now Theo has a crack at another curse. It's too bad homeboy Mike Dukakis didn't make it in 1988.

It was tough being a Yankee fan when Steinbrenner owned the team. But Seinfeld's George Costanza helped ease some of the Tricky Dick associated pain. Some considered Steinbrenner a genius, like you know whom.

"I didn't state it specifically but ..." was how the first line of my preceding comment was supposed to begin. Sorry.

The Red Sox are now two down to Cleveland.

It's common for me to learn things from Shag and that's true here: I had no idea about William's Hispanic heritage. I looked up the background, very interesting!

I had a classmate at Boston English High School (Class of '47) who worked the scoreboard at Fenway Park in left field parttime. That was Williams' field position. (Ted had played Fenway's cavernous right field as a rookie and perhaps a year or so longer.) After high school, TV came along presenting the Red Sox games. TV shots would frequently show Ted in left field leaning against the scoreboard chatting with someone behind it. There came along a sports article in a Boston newspaper reporting on such conversations, including an interview with my former classmate. I had lost touch with my former classmate after high school. I lived in the Roxbury section of Boston and he lived in the adjacent South End section where Boston English was then located. He had a local reputation as a smooth basketball player, with the nickname Shuggie based upon his sweetness as sugar on the court. I don't recall seeing my former classmate at some of the reunions I attended. But I wish I had had the opportunity to talk with him about his chats with Ted. Playing the outfield can be boring often. Watching the game through a small wall opening is not the greatest view. Those chit-chats may have reduced the boredom for both Ted and my former classmate.

Further on the Cubs' curse, they are one up on the Giants (formerly known as the "Joints" in NY parlance back when), thanks to Jon Lester, formerly of the Red Sox (having been drafted by Theo). It has been reported that when Lester was in free agency, the Giants made him the best financial offer but he chose the Cubs based on his loyalty for Theo.

By the Bybee [expletives deleted], I have read that following the first presidential debate, some Trump supporters confused Jon Lester for debate moderator Lester Holt, deriding Jon for his debate treatment of The Donald. Is it time for some Tic Tacs?

Now, Shag, this is a baseball thread. Be nice.

Yes, Shag has enough material for memoirs to be sure.

Of his Mexican ancestry he said that "If I had my mother's name, there is no doubt I would have run into problems in those days, [considering] the prejudices people had in Southern California." [quoted/sourced on his Wikipedia page]

I have watched a few episodes of "Pitch" btw, the new show about the first woman pitcher in MLB (MLB is involved as is FOX Sports, actual sports personnel like former Mets guy Kevin Burkhardt having cameos). It's pretty good.

Joe, thanks for the reminder to toe the mark.

Meantime, Cubs are up 2 over the Giants.

I caught a repeat of the New Yorker Radio Hour on local NPR this morning which featured an extensive interview with Chicago's David Axelrod that began with a short discourse on the Cubs and his interview of Theo Epstein before switching to an off topic discussion (I don't wish to stub my toe again).

With the anticipated "moderation" soon to set in, I trust Rick will provide updated posts on the Cubs' quest to throw off their curse. Let's address this curse before the next potential curse. Now, back to Tic TacToe solitaire.

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