Cubs haven’t cornered the market on misery
Sorry, Chicago Cubs, you’re not the only team in this year’s baseball playoffs that gets to play the misery card.
The Curse of the Billy Goat is a good one.
Extra credit, for sure, for going more than a century without winning the World Series.
But the Cleveland Indians know a thing or two about postseason disappointment. So do the Texas Rangers. And don’t even get us started on Washington and its longsuffering fans.
First in war, first in peace, last World Series title?
That would be 1924, when the winning hit ricocheted off a pebble in what remains the first and only postseason break to go their way in the nation’s capital.
So, if the Cubbies want to sulk over their two Series titles — the last of which came in 1908, shortly before William Taft was elected to the White House — they won’t get a lot of sympathy from the city that endured two different versions of the Washington Senators (both of them terrible, for the most part) before landing the Nationals.
In Cleveland, they once had a team known as the Spiders that went 20-134. The Indians’ last World Series championship came in 1948, with World War II still fresh in everyone’s minds. They’ve been back to big dance only three times since then, losing every one of ‘em. The last of those was especially galling. In 1997, Cleveland was three outs from the title in Game 7 but lost to the Florida Marlins in extra innings.
Texas certainly deserves a mention, even though it’s only been a part of the big leagues since 1972. In an interesting twist, the second version of the Senators moved to the Lone Star State, but only after forfeiting its final game in Washington when outraged fans stormed the field in the ninth inning.
They shouldn’t have gone to all that trouble.
The Rangers lost 100 games in their inaugural season, 105 in Year 2. When they finally made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1996, they squandered a 4-0 lead at home in the deciding game, losing 6-4 to the New York Yankees.
But that little exercise in heartache was merely a warmup for 2011, when the Rangers made it to their second straight World Series (having lost, of course, in their first). With a three games to two lead on the St. Louis Cardinals and up 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6, Texas was one strike from its first title when David Freese — ugh, the mere mention of that name still turns the stomach of Rangers fans — tripled in the tying runs.
On to the 10th, where the Rangers restored their two-run cushion on Josh Hamilton’s homer. The Cardinals were once again down to their final strike before Lance Berkman drove in the tying run, again denying a Texassized celebration that, alas, would never come.
At that point, the outcome was a merely formality. The baseball gods have given the Rangers their chance — two of them, actually — and they had blown it both times. The Cardinals scored the winning run in the bottom of the 11th, and then won Game 7.
That had to sting, but Indians fans will counter with what they’ve endured over the last 68 years. After setting a then-American League record with 111 victories in 1954, Cleveland was swept by the New York Giants in a World Series best known for Willie Mays’ amazing over-the-shoulder catch in the deepest part of the Polo Grounds, a highlight that still taunts the Indians to this day.
It would be 41 years before Cleveland made another postseason appearance, which culminated with another World Series loss, this one to Atlanta, which failed to win the Series any other season in their unprecedented run of 14 straight division titles. Thankfully for the Braves, they got one shot against the Indians.
Three years later, Cleveland took a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth against the Marlins, but closer Jose Mesa surrendered Craig Counsell’s tying sacrifice fly. In the 11th, second baseman Tony Fernandez let an easy grounder slip under his glove for an error, and Florida scored the seasonending run with two outs on Edgar Renteria’s soft little liner up the middle, the ball skimming off the tip of pitcher Charles Nagy’s glove and landing just out of the reach of Fernandez.
Washington hasn’t even been to the World Series since 1933 — a longer drought than any other big league city, Chicago included. The Senators’ lone title came in the midst of the Roaring Twenties against the New York Giants, the winning run scoring in the bottom of the 12th of Game 7 on a routine grounder that took a bad hop.
That would be the extent of Washington’s good fortune.
The following year, the Senators were up three games to one in the World Series but couldn’t close the deal against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Washington hasn’t been that close to a title since, though their latest team added a worthy chapter to the city’s hall of postseason shame in 2012. In the decisive Game 5 of the NL Division Series, at home no less, the Nationals built a 6-0 lead through three innings and were up 7-5 on St. Louis heading to the ninth.
With the Cardinals down to their final out, closer Drew Storen walked back-to-back hitters and then surrendered a pair of two-run singles to send St. Louis on to the next round. For Washington, it was a familiar ending.
One they know well in Cleveland and Texas, too.
Take that, Curse of the Billy Goat.