I met Drew Carey one morning at a West Hollywood eatery, Barney’s Beanery, where our conversation ultimately drifted to a place far east of Hollywood — his favorite place, Cleveland, Ohio. I remember this very funny guy saying in all seriousness how once, just once, he would love to see the baseball team he loves most, the Cleveland Indians, win the World Series.
(The “——” World Series, is what he said, expletive deleted.)
“So, where YOU from?” Carey asked.
“Chicago,” I replied.
“Oh, man,” he said. “Even worse.”
That was 1998. Neither of us had yet seen a Cleveland or Chicago team win a World Series in our lifetimes. I eventually would witness a Chicago White Sox championship seven years later, but a Chicago Cubs one? Nope, not yet. Still waiting. And likewise for loyal Cleveland fans like Carey, still out there waiting, waiting, waiting…
Until right now.
Because something’s gonna give. Because guess what — the 2016 World Series is going to be won by either the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians, who will begin a best-of-seven series on Tuesday night at Progressive Field in beautiful downtown Cleveland, OH 44115.
Cubbies, Tribe … come on down!
Whatever a ticket costs, I bet Drew Carey would assure you that the price is right. Gaudy five-figure $$ numbers are already being bandied about in Chicago for the Wrigley Field games, which won’t be played until this coming weekend. What scalpers of Cleveland tickets are asking, I have no idea.
Trust me, this is big. HUGE, as a presidential candidate nominated in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention would put it.
No World Series has been won by the Indians since 1948. No World Series has been won by the Cubs since 1908. Never mind, millennials … this is something a lot of us Baby Boomers won’t believe until we see it with our own eyes. You know, kind of like that Ohio native Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon.
These are a couple of big-league organizations that throughout the years have taken a terrible drubbing as well as a terrible ribbing.
“Hello, Tribe fans, welcome to Major League Baseball, sort of,” said sportscaster Harry Doyle (portrayed by real-life MLB broadcaster Bob Uecker) in “Major League,” a 1989 comedy that inspired an entire Cleveland-spoofing franchise of Hollywood films.
As for the Cubs, well, let’s just say the joke’s long been on them. I have been known to make a few myself:
“The last time the Cubs won a World Series, the team picture was done by Leonardo da Vinci.” “The last time the Cubs won a World Series, the vendors sold mead and grog.” “The last time the Cubs won a World Series, they parked at a hitching post.”
It gets old. Cleveland’s got a good sense of humor. It laughed along with “Major League” audiences, and this is a city that Drew Carey and quite a few other funny individuals have called home — Bob Hope, Tim Conway, Arsenio Hall, Fred Willard, Patricia Heaton, Molly Shannon — but sometimes the gag just goes too damn far.
TBS earlier this month ran a promotional spot for its playoff broadcasters with a “Welcome to Cleveland” scene that depicted a river on fire. It mocked a 1969 occurrence when the Cuyahoga River had a blaze. Hahaha. “Cleveland is a great city and we regret the use of the image,” the network’s subsequent apology read. One of those broadcasters was Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez, who mimicked a Native American war-whoop. He, too, had to apologize.
Who’s laughing now?
Cleveland and Chicago are. The clowns are no longer funny; they are scary. The Indians looked very intimidating in quickly getting the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays out of their way to take the American League’s pennant. The Cubs took on the West Coast’s best in the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers and were deadly serious about claiming the National League’s flag, no jokes, no chokes.
Cub fans can kid about themselves with the best of them — Bob Newhart, Bill Murray, Vince Vaughn, the Belushi brothers and many more have belonged to the baby-bear brotherhood — but they also know a good team when they have one, and they finally have one.
Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, this team’s got hitters galore. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, this team has pitching and more.
Las Vegas has made the Cubs the favorites to win this World Series, something that hasn’t happened for a ludicrously long 108 years.
I can’t explain the excitement Chicago is experiencing right now. I can only tell you that just about every statue or skyscraper in town has a gigantic Cub cap, jersey or “W” (for win) banner hanging from it. The entire town looks like a Foot Locker.
Cleveland? Well, what a year that city is having. Is it possible that the Cavaliers could win the basketball championship and the Indians the baseball championship in the same year? Yes, very. I once would have made the odds on that about a trillion-to-one, but LeBron James’s sport is definitely not the only game in town.
Mike Napoli, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and the man whose name sounds like a cereal, Coco Crisp, this team, too, can hit. Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, this team, too, can pitch.
A good six months or so before I met Drew Carey, I was at a baseball game where I expected to see the Cleveland Indians win a World Series at long last. It was the night of Oct. 26, 1997, and, much to my surprise and to Ohio’s horror, before a Miami crowd of a whopping 67,204, the championship went to the Florida Marlins instead in a Game 7 that lasted 11 innings.
“That really sucked,” Drew Carey said.
It took a long, long time, but the Indians are back. And so are the Cubs, who took a long, long, LONG time. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but one of these teams is actually going to win the — — World Series! Don’t laugh.