There's nothing like baseball to remind you that spring is here: that slightly warmer air, that mildewy odor covering the outdoors, the sight of hundreds of millionaires hitting and throwing a ball back and forth for 162 days (not including playoffs).
This spring, however, may be a special one to baseball fans in Chicago. This season, the two Chicago major league teams - The White Sox and the Cubs - may be so terrible, they could lose 200 games between them.
Mind you, these two teams are less known for their great victories than their struggles. Yet during the long history of these two teams, they have never lost 200 games between them in any given season. It's a difficult feat to pull off: for example, both the Cubs and White Sox finished below .500 last season, but the teams between them lost 91 and 83 games respectively, giving us a total of 174 losses.
Sure, they've won 200 games between them, back in 1906, when the 116-win Chicago Cubs faced the 93-win White Sox in the World Series. (The Sox won.) But as mediocre as the two teams are overall, they're rarely out-and-out horrible at the same time. For example, the White Sox endured a 106-loss season (and three managers) in 1970, but that year the Cubs had finished a respectable 84-78, good for 2nd place in the division. Total losses: 184. Similarly, when the Cubs schlubbed their way to a 103-loss season in 1962 (incredibly, one of only two years they reached three digits in the loss column), the White Sox tallied up a 85-77 record, good enough for fifth place in a hotly-contested division.
So how close have Chicago's American and National League representatives come to a combined 200 losses? The year was 1948. Harry S Truman was battling his way to reelection. Dinah Shore had the most popular song in "Buttons & Bows," and Chicago baseball was awful. The White Sox finished dead last in the American League with a 51-101 record, and the Cubs were similarly pathetic, finishing at the back of the National League with a 64-90 record. (Keep in mind, they played fewer games back then, so losing ninety games was even more of a suckitude performance than now.) Total number of losses? 191. Not too shabby.
I'm sure some of you baseball buffs are saying, c'mon, quit dumping on Chicago. How hard is it for a two-baseball team city to lose 200 games? New York did it many times (to be fair, they also had three major league baseball teams until 1957), but in 1965 they came fairly close, with the Yankees losing 85 games and the Mets 112 (Total losses: 197). Boston baseball pulled off the 200-loss mark a few times, most pathetically in 1906 (207 losses between the Boston Americans [now Red Sox] and the Boston Beaneaters [???] [now Atlanta Braves]). Philadelphia pulled it off, as has St. Louis. (Explains why they're all one-team cities now.) Los Angeles hasn't come very close (189 losses in 1992 between the Dodgers and the California Angels), but they've had two franchises less than half as long as Chicago and thus haven't had the opportunity to truly stink as a city.
But this could be the year for Chicago baseball. Sports Illustrated predicts both Chicago teams to lose a total of 191 (95 for the White Sox, 96 for the Cubs) games this season, and prognosticators always play conservative with the truly special teams. NBC Sports predicts a kinder 181 losses for Chicago. Baseball America and betfirms.com predict a similarly sad time for the Second City. A mathematics professor, who has been (fairly accurately) predicting baseball finishes for over a decade now, bestows on the Chicago teams only 172 losses, but he has to have a bad year sometime.
As the White Sox and Cubs splutter to the plate next week, I will start my chant: 200, 200, 200. Perhaps, even in Chicago, a little baseball miracle could happen to an eager young man such as myself.