We usually apply the term “biblical proportions” to droughts as a means of hyperbole, but for the Cubs and the Indians, clubs that have not won titles in 108 and 68 years respectively, this phrase actually lowballs the number—40 years (in the desert)— significantly. Both teams, it’s safe to say, would gladly have traded in their championship droughts for the luck of the Jews.
Title droughts, across a number of sports, are in many ways like biblical events, where disproportionate amounts of suffering follow spiritual transgressions (think billy goats and golden calves). And after a while, the desert—not the promised land—comes to be thought of as home. But tonight, either Cleveland or Chicago will find salvation.
In Major League history, Jews—executives, at least, if not players—seem to have a pretty good track record of delivering their teams out of bondage. In 2005, owner Jerry Reinsdorf led the Chicago White Sox to their first championship since the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. The year before that, a shrewd 30-year-old Theo Epstein was the general manager of the Series-winning Boston Red Sox, who had themselves not won the fall classic in 86 seasons. Epstein is on the verge of pulling off another miracle, this time as President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, a team whose allegorical Jewishness has been well-documented.
Tonight, Epstein represents one of two wunderkind Jewish administrators looking to achieve prophet status for his long-denied ballclub. Perhaps Indians GM Mike Chernoff, by all accounts the more observant Jew, may be a better fit for the role of Moses. As opposed to the charismatic Epstein, who earned his stripes transforming two of baseball’s oldest organizations (and their stadiums), Chernoff, 34, is largely unknown, with a fairly reserved manner—and he brought his organization a pennant despite having the 4th-lowest payroll in the majors. He arrived at his seat in Cleveland’s front office the humble way, starting as an intern fresh out of Princeton.
I don’t mean to stretch the Exodus metaphor too far—after all, Theo Epstein never killed an Egyptian (though he did accidentally wound a Red Sox VP of player personnel with a golf club after a frustrating playoff loss); and Mike Chernoff did not float down the river Nile in a woven basket. In fact, if this story involved any plagues, there would only be one: losing.
But this we know: While one team will leave tonight’s decisive Game 7 singing “Mi Chamocha,” the other will have to draw on thousands of years of wisdom from history’s most lovable losers, choke down the bitter pill of second place, and just say, “dayeinu.”
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Noah Levinson is an audio producer and editor. He co-created the award-winning Chemo Files podcast, and helps produce Tablet’s Unorthodox show.