Buried By the 4th of July
Summer vacation when I was a kid meant playing baseball every day…literally every day. I am sure you younglings (…you know, in your thirties) have heard this before…from grumpy old curmudgeons like myself. Atari didn’t arrive until the late 70’s, and even when it did…the sports games (how can I say this?…sucked!), so we still preferred going outside and playing the real thing. We played 1 on 1, 2 on 2, and 3 on 3…whatever we had. We creatively game up with ways to adapt; the prototypical one field out (not really the best for developing hitters), estimation ball (this was for one on one match-ups, pitcher and hitter would estimate what the ball in play would be…a hit or an out…yes, it did cause a few arguments), and my favorite option of limited numbers baseball…a Series.
We needed at least two on two for a “Series”, but the general parameters were this; we would play a best of 7 World Series of 3 inning games…with one team picking an American League team and the other selecting a team from the Senior Circuit. Playing these “series” may be one of my fondest childhood memories; there was no finer way to spend a summer afternoon. Play a series, go for a swim and then hopefully repeat the process the next day.
There was one slight problem with this…my brothers and my neighborhood buddies were all serious baseball fans…and we were sticklers for realism. Therefore when we would select a team to pretend to be in these little pseudo-series…it had to be a team that was currently a contender.
Guess which team this usually eliminated, and was not considered a realistic choice?
When doing the research for this piece, it really took me back to the process I went through while writing my book. (Details on a July “special” at the end of this column!) While coming up with 105(logical and rational) reasons why the Cubs have not won a World Series in 105 years, I would come up with a theory…do the research on the awesome baseballreference.com, and then get a huge sense of reward at how well the research backed up my theory. I felt the same satisfaction while completing this piece.
That pounding of the Red Sox was enjoying…and the young guys are knocking at the door…and things may be trending up for the Cubs. Yet, as far as the 2014 season…the fact is here on July 4th, at best the Cubs will be 8 games under .500 and 11.5 games out of 1st place. If my buddies and I went out and had a Series today…we wouldn’t be able to choose the Cubs.
These thoughts lead me to examine the Cubs historical positioning on the 4th of July. I decided to use 1969 as year 1 of my study for a couple reasons; the first, while not the Cubs’ entire history, it provides 45 seasons of evidence. The second; Cubs’ history prior to that are pretty easy to sum up…the Cubs were competitive in the 20’s, really, really good in the 30’s, and just dreadfully rotten from 1945-1967. Consequently, I began with 1969 and researched where the Cubs stood every year up until 2014 on the 4th of July. Caution…an alcoholic beverage or an anti-depressant may be required after reading this.
1. How many times since 1969, have the Cubs been in 1st place on July 4th?
The answer to question 1 is…6 times. Wow, that’s 13 percent! A .130 average…only a little worse than Mike Olt! The years:
1969 53-28 7.5 game lead 1984 45-35 1 game lead
1973 49-34 6 game lead 2001 48-34 4 game lead
1977 48-28 4 game lead 2008 52-35 2.5 game lead
So the first year of our study…46 years ago…is the best.
That’s not a good start.
2. Okay, so we now know they are rarely in 1st place on July 4th…how about contending? How about seasons where they were within 5 games of 1st place on July 4th?
Including the 6 seasons in which they were actually in 1st place, there have been 16 seasons of the 46 where the Cubs are within 5 games of 1st. (debatably contending) That’s almost 35 percent…an average of .347! Of course that puts the average of not-contending at .652.
3. Forget standings…how many times have the Cubs been at, our above .500 on July 4th?
As expected, there is a direct correlation here with the last question, but the answer is 17. Captain Obvious here…but a winning record helps a team contend. Unfortunately, the Cubs have only had a winning record on July 4th in 37 percent of the seasons since 1969.
4. Okay…now for some ugliness. How many times have the Cubs been at least 10 games below .500 on July 4th?
17 times of the last 46 seasons the Cubs have been 10 games under the .500 mark on July 4th. So if we combine that with the 17 seasons where the Cubs were over .500, it displays to us that in 34 of the 46 seasons the Cubs were either in it…or pretty bad.
5. In how many of those seasons were the Cubs already at least 10 games out of 1st place by July 4th?
Another direct correlation, as the number is 17…but how about this ugliness?
1976 31-46 22.5 games out, 1981(strike year) 15-37 17.5 games out, 1986 31-46 24 games out, 2000 33-49 16 games out…ugh!
One more way to look at this atrociousness:
Years in which the Cubs were in 1st place on July 4th: 6
Years in which the Cubs were at least 15 games out of 1st place on July 4th: 8
So what does all of this “Cubs on July 4th research” tell us? They are rarely in first, they infrequently contend, and more often they are completely out of it.
Yes, it’s a bit depressing….but now for the proverbial silver linings which we Cubs’ fans always have to search for; I think the current front office is well aware of this history…and are attempting to build an organization that is not as feast or famine(mostly famine) as the Cubs have been. I am a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, and of course I was upset when they lost the heart-breaking series to the L.A. Kings. Nonetheless, it did not devastate me as Cubs’ losses have historically done. I know with the current state of the Hawks’ organization they will be Cup contenders for years to come. The Cubs’ failures have a different feel…Cubs’ fans sense that a blown play-off opportunity means the next chance will most likely be years away…and historically they have been correct.
I do believe the team is on the path to consistent contending, but I doubt any kids will be choosing the team when playing a “series” with their neighborhood buddies.
But!…the team will be much better to play with on PlayStation 5, 6 and 7 and all future inclinations of X-Box….that’s progress.
If you would like to join the hundreds (okay…it’s probably thousands now) of Cubs fans who have enjoyed my book I will be selling them directly from home during the month of July. You see, we starving artist types make very little from Amazon, and selling directly is more profitable. I have two different promos I am running.
1. A copy of the updated 105 version for $15.99…$16.00 with personalized inscription! (shipping included!)
2. Buy a copy of 105 and get the 104 version for a total of 18.99…$19.00 with 2 inscriptions! (shipping included!)…keep the 105, and gift the first addition to an in-law that’s a Cubs’ fan
My web-site should be up and running (finally) in a couple of weeks; but if interested the easiest way is to email me at BBCG105Reasons@yahoo.com, or if you follow me on twitter @BBCG105Reasons…contact me directl
Finally, here is a link to the book on Amazon