It’s been a long time since the Chicago Cubs played in the World Series. How long? It was two years before Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues.
Cubs center fielder and leadoff man Dexter Fowler was apparently unaware of his role in baseball history before sports writer Rany Jazayerli pointed it out.
In his debut season of 1947, Robinson and his teammate Dan Bankhead became the first black players in the World Series. Ernie Banks, the first black man to suit up for the Cubs, made his inaugural appearance with the team in 1953. Banks holds the all-time record for the most games played in the majors without ever seeing the field in the postseason. “Sometimes I’m at a Hall of Fame reunion and I’ll look around and see I’m the only one in the room who never played in a World Series,” Banks once told writer Ron Rapoport. “I’ve had nightmares about it. Once I even talked to a psychiatrist. There wasn’t much he could say, just that I’d done the best I could and it wasn’t meant to be.”
Fowler, who hit .276 with 13 home runs as the Cubs’ primary center fielder this season, nearly left the team as a free agent before signing a one-year deal to stay in Chicago. “This is where my heart is,” he explained back in February. In an interview after the Cubs’ Game 6 win against the Dodgers, he told Fox’s Ken Rosenthal he believes he came back for a reason.
The first pitch of Game 1 of the World Series is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. Eastern in Cleveland on Tuesday. Fowler should be standing at the plate, the first Chicago Cub to bat in baseball’s showcase event in 71 years.