We have no idea who will win the World Series. Both the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians have suffered historic championship droughts — the Indians last won in 1948, while the Cubs’ postseason futility extends all the way back to 1908, and the last time they even made the World Series was 1945. We could contrive a prediction based on advanced stats (though we’re better versed in the Tomatometer than we are in wins above replacement), or we could delve into the superstitions (the Curse of the Billy Goat, the Curse of Rocky Colavito) to determine which franchise is more jinxed. Instead, we’re going to look at the movies that prominently feature both teams in order to forecast the ultimate victor.
At first glance, the Cubs would seem to have the more impressive cinematic legacy. Even non-baseball fans who came of age in the 1980s are likely to remember Ferris catching a foul ball at Wrigley Field in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or Marty’s astonished reaction to news of a Cubs’ world championship in Back the Future Part II. But let’s delve a little deeper into those scenes, shall we? After years of speculation, Baseball Prospectus writer Larry Granillo concluded that the game that Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane attended was an 11-inning loss to the Braves. And the joke in Back to the Future Part II is that the Cubs are so inept they’d never win the World Series (unless, of course, they were opposed by a nameless American League team with a Miami area code and a jovial alligator mascot).
Other examples of the Cubs’ celluloid legacy are similarly discouraging. The team’s earliest appearance on film was the creatively titled World Series Baseball Game, a 1906 documentary about their loss to crosstown rivals the White Sox. The tale of a 12-year-old who joins the Cubs after an arm injury gives him a magical fastball, Rookie of the Year (1993), was pleasant, but it didn’t exactly set the box office or critical community on fire. And in The Break-Up, Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston meet at a Cubs game; as you may have guessed from the title, though, they don’t live happily ever after.
Here’s the reason the Indians are winning the World Series: Major League. This classic tale of a ragtag team of misfits and oddballs remains one of the most beloved of all sports movies. During the dark days of the late 1980s, the Indians were one of the worst teams in all of baseball, and not even stars like Joe Carter, Cory Snider, or Albert Belle could lift them above a .500 winning percentage. Sure, Major League had to create the likes of Pedro Cerrano, Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Willie Mays Hayes, but those fictional players were easy to root for, and most importantly, they gave Ohioans a glimmer of hope. The Tribe’s silver screen legacy is slim, but if you ask any random bro in his 30s or 40s to name his favorite sports movies, chances are Major League is near the top of the list.
(And let’s just pretend Major League II never happened.)
Sorry, Cubs fans, but based upon our incredibly scientific formula — one that pits the number of cinematic high schoolers playing hooky at the Friendly Confines against the speed of a Ricky Vaughn fastball — it appears you’re gonna have to wait a little longer for that World Series trophy. Let’s just hope it’s not another century.