Last night was, of course, the first game of the World Series, the first such game to feature an appearance by the Chicago Cubs in 71 years. As a lifelong Cubs fan with countless memories of watching them on WGN-TV, listening to them on the radio and going to Wrigley Field myself to see them play, this is of course an emotional time for me, one that my 42 years on this planet have done nothing to prepare me for. Like the rest of Cubs fandom, I’m somewhere between being shocked and amazed, confounded, confused while I vacillate between preternatural optimism over the talent and momentum of this year’s team and skepticism because that’s literally my default mode. I don’t go in for “Lovable Loser” storylines or talk of curses and such, but if Big Data has taught us anything it’s that you can’t ignore 71 years of statistics.
So I’m dealing with it today the best way I can, by looking at the trailers for the surprisingly few times the Cubs have made their way to the big screen.
And it is very few. In fact I found just three movies about the Cubs. That’s a bit shocking considering the Cubs are America’s team in many ways, particularly in the last 40 years thanks to WGN being a super-station that was available across the country. That along with the narrative that’s always followed the team and you would think there would be fertile ground for story writers to pull from. There are only a handful, though, so let’s take a look.
Rookie of the Year (1993)
There’s actually fairly little focus on the Cubs in the trailer for Daniel Stern’s directorial effort about a 12 year old who, as the result of an accident, develops an incredibly strong pitching arm and gets signed by the team. Instead it’s more about the hijinks of Daniel Rowengartner as he goes from an untalented little league bench warmer to big league phenom almost overnight. What there is about the team is more about presenting them as a goofy collection of misfits that act as the kid’s backup.
Elmer, The Great (1933)
One of two movies where legendary comic actor Joe E. Brown played a member of the Cubs (though the two characters and movies, this and 1935’s Alibi Ike are unrelated and unconnected), it’s important to remember this came out just 25 years after the team last won the World Series and featured a plot involving them going to the Series. The plot involves Elmer being kind of a naive and gullible hick and getting mixed up with mobsters who want him to fix the final game of the Series (sorry screenwriters, that was the *other* big league team in Chicago) but none of that is in the trailer. Instead it’s focused squarely on Brown’s lovable ballplayer, who just wants to play. The only complication shown here is a misunderstanding with an actress that causes problems with Elmer’s best girl from his hometown.
That’s about it. Two movies in the space of 60 years is about all the Chicago Cubs have managed. By way of comparison, that’s the same amount about the Cleveland Indians, though all of those were from the Major League franchise, which treated the team even worse than the Cubs have come off on the big screen.