The Chicago Cubs won the National League pennant on Saturday night, ending generations of waiting ’til “next year” on the north side of Chicago.
With the Cubs advancing to their first World Series since 1945, here are the franchises that now own the longest finals droughts in North American sports.
Sacramento Kings (1951)
Technically speaking, the dysfunctional Kings franchise owns the longest finals drought in North America, having not played for the NBA championship since defeating the New York Knicks in the 1951 NBA finals.
The catch, however, is that the Kings only moved to Sacramento in 1985 – they were the Rochester Royals when they last played for a title – so while Sacramento basketball fans may have already endured a lifetime’s worth of misery, they aren’t quite familiar with the true pain of a drought.
Defining drought moment: Entering Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals with a 3-2 lead over the back-to-back defending champion Lakers, the Kings were done in – at least in part – by some questionable officiating that led to a 40-25 free-throw advantage for L.A. and a 106-102 Lakers win.
Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers completed the comeback in Sacramento a couple nights later, winning Game 7 in overtime en route to their third consecutive title.
For what it’s worth, the city of Atlanta actually owns the NBA’s longest Finals drought, having never made the NBA finals since the Hawks moved to Georgia in 1968.
Detroit Lions (1957)
Few franchises are as synonymous with losing as the Lions, who have never made a Super Bowl appearance, last played for a title when they won the 1957 NFL championship, and posted the only 0-16 season in NFL history in 2008.
Even more depressing, the Lions have only won a single playoff game since their last title, going 1-11 in postseason contests over the last 58 years.
Defining drought moment: Eddie Murray misses the potential game-winning field goal with five seconds remaining in a 24-23 NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the defending champion San Francisco 49ers in 1983. The Lions haven’t enjoyed a playoff run as deep since.
Toronto Maple Leafs (1967)
The Leafs are celebrating their centennial season right now, but the latter half of that century of hockey has been played without a single Stanley Cup Finals appearance to show for it.
In fact, the self-proclaimed center of the hockey universe hasn’t witnessed a Cup Final game since the NHL expanded beyond six teams only months after the Leafs’ 1967 triumph.
Defining drought moment: Wayne Gretzky’s obvious high stick to the face of Doug Gilmour – which drew blood – goes uncalled in overtime of Game 6 during the 1993 Campbell Conference final.
Instead of a power play that could have sent the Leafs to the Cup Final and an Original 6 matchup with the arch-rival Canadiens, they watched Gretzky score the OT winner moments later to force a Game 7. The Great One scored a hat trick two nights later in Toronto to send the Kings to Montreal.
Washington Nationals (N/A, 1969)
Speaking of Montreal, the Expos played 36 pennant-less seasons before their 2005 move to D.C., where the Nationals have continued the trend by losing in the NLDS in each of their three postseason trips. In 48 seasons spanning two cities, the franchise has made the playoffs only four times, the NLCS only once, and has never played a single World Series game.
Washington’s baseball heartbreak goes back even farther. From 1901-1960, the team that would eventually become the Minnesota Twins failed to advance to the World Series over its final 27 seasons in D.C. after winning it all in 1933. From 1961-71, Washington was home to the franchise that would eventually become the Texas Rangers, and didn’t have a single postseason trip to show for it.
Defining drought moment (Montreal): A strike cancels the remainder of the 1994 season, with the Expos boasting an MLB-best 74-40 record and a six-game lead in the NL East.
Defining drought moment (D.C.): The Nationals take a 6-0 lead into the fourth inning and a 7-5 lead into the ninth inning against the Cardinals in Game 5 of their 2012 Division Series, but fall 9-7 to St. Louis in both games. Of note, 23-year-old All-Star Stephen Strasburg is shut down in early September in accordance with a team-imposed innings limit.