It’s been a long time since the Chicago Cubs won the pennant. A very, very long time.
On Sept. 29, 1945 at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, Hank Borowy threw 8 1/3 innings in the first game of a doubleheader and Andy Pafko hit a ninth-inning sacrifice fly to lift the Cubs to a 4-3 win over the Pirates and give them their 16th National League pennant. They would lose the World Series in seven games to the Tigers; nobody at the time could have known it would take another 71 years and three weeks for the Cubs to win pennant No. 17.
Here’s the front page of the Chicago Tribune celebrating the Cubs’ 1945 pennant:
Let’s take a look back at what the world looked like when the Cubs last played in a World Series.
- The World Series was played in a unique 3-4 format, with the first three games held at Tiger Stadium and the final four at Wrigley Field due to war time travel restrictions.
- Baseball was not yet integrated the last time the Cubs won the pennant. Game 7 of the 1945 World Series was played on Oct. 10; thirteen days later, Jackie Robinson was signed to a contract by the Brooklyn Dodgers.
- Tigers players received a winners’ share of $6,443, while the losing Cubs squad took home $3,930.
- All the games took place in the day and were broadcast on radio only – the World Series was first televised in 1947. Bill Slater and Al Helfer called the games on Mutual Radio.
- A box seat ticket to the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field cost $7.20.
- Cubs first baseman Phil Cavarretta was named the 1945 NL MVP, while Tigers pitcher and future Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser won the pitching Triple Crown and AL MVP. Many top players, including Ted Williams and Stan Musial, missed 1945 due to World War II, while Hank Greenberg returned to the Tigers late in the season after completing his service.
- Legendary broadcaster Harry Caray, who’d later become synonymous with Cubs baseball, made his debut as the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns.
- In other sports, the Cleveland Rams won the 1945 NFL Championship – they would move to Los Angeles shortly afterwards – while the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. The NBA was still two years away from existence.
- Billboard’s No. 1 hit on Oct. 10, 1945 – the day of the Cubs’ last World Series game – was “Till The End of Time” by Perry Como.
- At the box office, RKO’s “The Bells of St. Mary’s” – starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman – was the top grossing film, earning $8.5 million. “The Lost Weekend” won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), and Best Actor (Ray Milland).
- Actor and comedian Brian Doyle-Murray – the older brother of actor/comedian and famed Cubs fan Bill Murray – was born three weeks after Game 7, on Oct. 31.
- George Orwell’s acclaimed novel “Animal Farm” was published in August 1945.
Around the world
- Gas cost 15 cents for one gallon. If you wanted to buy a car, the average new vehicle would run you $1,020.
- The average cost of a new house was $4,600, while the average salary was $2,400.
- World War II officially ended in August 1945. The Nuremberg trials, which prosecuted Nazis caught at war’s end, began 10 days after the World Series on Oct. 20.
- The United Nations was 10 days from being chartered when the Cubs last played in the World Series.
- Harry Truman was the President of the United States; he took office in April 1945 after Franklin Roosevelt’s death. Mackenzie King was Canada’s Prime Minister, while King George VI still ruled England; his daughter Elizabeth wouldn’t take the throne for another seven years.
- Percy Spencer discovered the microwave oven in 1945. On Oct. 8 – the date of Game 6 – a patent is filed for the device.
- One month after the World Series, Richard T. James first demonstrates his new toy, called the slinky. It’s sold for $1 and becomes an instant hit.
- Among the famous (and infamous) Chicago people still alive at the time was notorious gangster Al Capone, who happened to be a Cubs fan and died two years after their most recent trip to the World Series in 1947.