Despite the Cleveland Indians’ 6-0 win over the Cubs last night, we should all be looking to the World Series and a potential Chicago rally with a concern for the future of humanity. The Chicago Cubs haven’t made it to the World Series since 1945, and haven’t won the pennant for about a century. In 1984, W. P. Kinsella wrote a short story that prophesied the Cubs’ long-awaited bid for the World Series—and portrayed their win as the catalyst for the apocalypse.
The story “The Last Pennant Before Armageddon” follows Al Tiller, the grizzled, beleaguered, middling manager of the Chicago Cubs. While his team is inexplicably winning games, Tiller is having eerie prophetic dreams and hearing an archangel call in to an AM sports radio show in St. Louis. He feels alone and confused, like “everyone wanted to talk baseball, no one gave a damn about his dreams.” In one particular dream after many earlier ones, he actually hears from God.
“I appreciate your interest,” God said. “I want to assure you that I hold the Chicago Cubs in highest esteem. I have listened to your entreaties and considered the matter carefully from all angles. I am aware of how long it has been since the Cubs have won a pennant. I think you should know that when the Cubs next win the National League Championship, it will be the last pennant before Armageddon….”
In the story, the World Series between the Cubs and the Dodgers is scheduled to occur during turbulent times around the globe, including a Cold War proxy battle between the United States and the U.S.S.R.:
“Al Tiller read the newspaper and magazine accounts with a deepening interest. He had scant knowledge of the international situation; all he knew was that Sri Lanka, a small island in the Indian Ocean, had suddenly become a trouble-spot, the spot where World War Three appeared ready to start. The Russians had troops in Sri Lanka, the Americans said they shouldn’t be there. The Americans threatened to remove the Russian troops by force. Both sides were making war-like sounds.
It would certainly be fitting, thought Al Tiller, that if there were supernatural powers they would be capricious enough to stake the end of the world on the outcome of a best-of-five baseball series.”
One of my favorite details is the Antichrist-esque owner of the Cubs, Chester A. Rowdy. According to hearsay, he bought the team with cash. “He was said to have wheeled the money up to the Cub corporate offices in a Safeway basket, flanked by a Panamanian midget brandishing a machine gun.” The two remind me of Professor Woland his familiar, Behemoth, in the Russian apocalyptic novel The Master and Margarita.
Kinsella, the late author whose novel Shoeless Joe was adapted into “Field of Dreams,” is known for his groany dad-humor and sweet stories about baseball. He seems the perfect writer to transform the grand spectacle of a baseball tournament into “the last struggle of the forces of good and evil against each other.” I’m sure plenty of Cubs fans agree.