Cubs haven’t cornered the mar­ket on mis­ery

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Paul New­berry AP Sports Colum­nist

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.

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