Now that we’ve had a while to digest the Cubs’ World Series triumph, we’ll consider what the team should do next season. I suggest they change uniforms. To understand why, let’s take a look at some baseball history.
We sometimes hear talk that sports has become too ego-driven and rude—sort of like the general culture. Back in the good old days, winners were polite. They did not do victory dances or fist pumps, or otherwise rub their superiority in the face of the losers. If you happened to come out on top, you acknowledged it with quiet grace.
Well, not always.
The first World Series was played in 1903. The next year, the New York Giants won the National League pennant, then refused to play the American League champions—Giants’ manager John McGraw was feuding with the A.L. president. There was no formal agreement mandating a World Series, so that was that.
Then baseball’s club owners belatedly realized that an annual championship playoff would be a great source of revenue. Beginning in 1905, the World Series became part of the game’s law.
As luck would have it, the New York Giants again won the N.L. pennant in 1905. Now they were required to face the A.L. champs. The Giants made quick work of the Philadelphia A’s, winning the best-of-seven series, 4 games to 1.
The victory over the A.L. didn’t mellow Giants manager McGraw. He couldn’t resist the opportunity to gloat. So for the 1906 season, the Giants wore uniforms with the words “WORLD’S CHAMPIONS” emblazoned across the chest.
The Giants tumbled to second place in the N.L. in 1906, so for the next several seasons, the World Series winners settled for rings and gold watches, and didn’t use their uniforms to boast of their achievement. Then, in 1920, the Cleveland Indians beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Series.
Baseball was in the middle of scandal. The news had just come out that a group of Chicago White Sox players had been paid off by gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series. The public was questioning the integrity of its national pastime.
In any event, the newly-crowned Cleveland Indians opted to follow the Giant’s dormant example. For 1921 the Indians wore uniforms proclaiming “WORLDS CHAMPIONS.” Perhaps they thought leaving out the apostrophe would guarantee they’d repeat. But like the 1906 Giants, the 1921 Indians came in second.
Now we move forward to 1926. The St. Louis Cardinals had been the N.L.’s lovable losers, never winning a pennant. This year they did it, and capped it off by knocking out the Yankees in a thrilling seven-game series.
Over the winter, Cardinals manager Rogers Hornsby got into a contract dispute with the front office. Hornsby was also their star player, and wanted more money. The upshot was that the Hero of ’26 was traded to the Giants.
“The team is bigger than one man!” argued management. So to underscore the point that they didn’t need Hornsby—and to underline the fact that St. Louis finally had a winner—they outfitted the 1927 Cardinals with “WORLD CHAMPION” uniforms. Perhaps learning a lesson in discretion, the words were relegated to smaller print on the left breast, encircling a Cardinal logo.
It didn’t matter. In 1927, the Cardinals finished second.
After the fall of the Cardinals, World Series winners were reluctant to boast about it on their uniforms. However, in 1980 the Philadelphia Phillies went all the way. They were the last of the original 16 franchises to win the grand championship.
Phillies fans had endured 77 years of frustration (which may seem like a short time to Cubs fans, but never mind). Now team management wanted to do something special to commemorate the occasion, but they didn’t want to go overboard. So for 1981, the Phillies wore the same style uniforms as they had worn in 1980. However, the team’s warm-up jackets now sported the words “WORLD CHAMPIONS.”
The 1981 baseball seasons was thrown into disarray by a players’ strike. Suffice to say that the Phillies didn’t make it back to the World Series.
Now for the big question—what do the 2017 Cubs do? I say that they show their pride in their accomplishment. The team should be outfitted in new uniforms with the words “WORLD CHAMPION CHICAGO CUBS” across the front. So what if it didn’t work for other teams in the past!
After all, do we really believe in jinxes?