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108: The Chicago Cubs' magic number

108: The Chicago Cubs' magic number
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com / Nagel Photography

First of all: The Cubs are headed to the World Series. Like, what? The last time Chicago's beloved team competed in the Series was in 1945, and the last time the team won was 1908.

If you do the arithmetic, you'll find that 1908 was 108 years ago. This wouldn't mean anything, except that "108" carries a special significance for the Chicago Cubs. This isn't some sentimental figure, like 1066 or 90210. For the Cubs, the number 108 pops up over and over again, and in the most surreal places.

The trend was first noted by Grand DePorter, CEO of Harry Carey's restaurant. DePorter is a diehard baseball fan, having founded the Chicago Sports Museum and co-authored the book "Hoodoo: Unraveling the 100-Year Mystery of the Chicago Cubs".

Here are some spine-tingling samples:

  • Spalding baseballs were originally manufactured in Chicago and had 108 stitches. The company's original address was 108 W. Madison. Meanwhile, the Ricketts family owns the Cubs, and their home address is 108th Avenue.
  • Suppose you visit Wrigley Field and measure the distance between the foul poles in the left and right fields. Actually, don't bother – it's 108 meters.
  • Speaking of which: When Wrigley field was first proposed to the city of Chicago, it was labeled "Planned Development #108". Chicago has lots of planned developments – 1,336, in fact.
  • The Cubs' losing streak is legendary, so they tend to cameo in various Hollywood movies, like 1993's "Rookie of the Year". You may recall the Cubs winning the World Series in the 1990 comedy "Taking Care of Business," or their unlikely victory in "Back to the Future Part II". Both flicks are exactly 108 minutes long.
  • Even the Wrigley Field games are broadcast from the Willis Tower, which stands 108 stories high.
  • One of the most landmark lawsuits in sports history was Shlensky vs. Wrigley, when an influential shareholder demanded that Chicago's stadium have lights installed so the Cubs could play night games. Among its many idiosyncrasies, the case was recorded in Volume 108 of the Illinois Supreme Court Reports.
  • Some of the occurrences are a little more obscure but no less spine-tingling: The atomic weight of silver is 108, and the coveted World Series trophy is sculpted from this precious metal. Meanwhile, it takes at least 108 outs to win the World Series.
  • The winner for "biggest stretch" goes to Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, born in Tacoma, Wash., the 108th largest city in the U.S.
  • Curiously, 108 is considered sacred in Hinduism. The number doesn't come up much in the Western world, except among yoga practitioners, who tend to regard 108 as numerical perfection. As DePorter notes, Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta practices yoga six times a week.

Maybe it's just good karma.

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