Page last updated at 18:52 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2003 19:52 UK

Baseball fan dares to hope

By Richard Allen Greene
BBC News Online

Cubs celebrate beating the Atlanta Braves
Chicago Cubs fans are hoping to see a repeat of 1908

My wife no longer recognises the man she has lived with for the past six years.

Last night I suggested cancelling our long-planned autumn holiday in Spain so that I could go home to Chicago to watch a baseball game - on television.

I would have to watch it on TV, because there is no way I could afford a ticket to a National League Championship Series game.

The cheapest ones I could find online for the best-of-seven Chicago Cubs v Florida Marlins series cost $595 - each.

I seriously considered buying them.

Why? Because if the Cubs beat the Marlins, they end a dry spell that began the year my father the Cubs fan was a babe in the arms of his father the Cubs fan.

There's a reason the Cubs are called the Lovable Losers.

The Cubs last played in the World Series in 1945 - and they last won it in 1908.

Different world

Think about that for a minute.

The last time my baseball team won a World Series - baseball's top prize - a Russian tsar was on the throne in Moscow and a sultan ruled the Ottoman Empire.

Fred Perry plays at Wimbledon in 1935
England cricketers last won Ashes in 1987
British man last won Wimbledon in 1936
Cubs last won World Series in 1908
Einstein's theory of relativity was three years old and the Queen Mum was eight.

Henry Ford sold his first Model T automobile in 1908. Petroleum production in the Middle East began in 1908.

England cricket fans suffer because their team has not won the Ashes since 1987 - 16 years ago.

Tennis fans gnash their teeth because a British man has not won Wimbledon since 1936 - 67 years ago.

My heart goes out to those sports fans - but their misery pales in comparison to our 95 years of waiting.

September was agonising, as the baseball season ground to a close and the Cubs struggled to win their division, the first step towards qualifying for the World Series.

Knowing the Cubs as we do, we were convinced they would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Last-minute loss

The year I was born, they were overtaken by the New York Mets in the very last month of the season, and Cubs fans still seethe at the memory.

We were ready for history to repeat itself, sure that 2003 would go down in Chicago history as another year of coming so close, yet remaining so far away.

But after midnight London time on Saturday 27 September, the Cubs defeated Pittsburgh to clinch a place in the first round of the playoffs.

Cubs fans celebrate at Wrigley Field after the Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves
I had never felt so far from home as when Chicago celebrated
Chicago went wild - and I felt the 4,000 miles (6,300 kilometres) between my childhood home and my current one as I never had before.

I sensed it all the more keenly five days later when the Chicago newspaper announcing the Cubs's victory reached me in London.

I read it on the Tube, struggling to make out words blurred by my tears.

The Cubs put us through the wringer again in the first round of the playoffs, when they faced the Atlanta Braves - a team that has made the playoffs each of the last 12 years.

But against all hope, they beat the Braves in a best-of-five series that went to five games.

Final four

Only four teams now remain - the Cubs and Marlins in the National League, and the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the American League.

The winners of the best-of-seven series in each league go on to the World Series.

Like many Cubs fans, I would like to see a Chicago v Boston World Series.

Obsessed with baseball history, Chicagoans know well that the last time the Red Sox won a World Series was 1918.

Boston fans understand what we have been through.

But our sympathy for them will only go so far if, by some miracle, we face them in the World Series.

After all, 1918 was only 85 years ago.

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