We have heard a lot lately about what disasters our cities are, particularly the old industrial centers that were once the backbone of American manufacturing. Often the stories are told by people who don’t go near the places they describe, as if our inner cities were foreign and far away and easily forgotten. This discomfort with urban America isn’t new. “They use everything about the hog except the squeal,” wrote Upton Sinclair in The Jungle, his 1906 exposé of Chicago’s meatpacking industry and its impoverished immigrant work force. And Time magazine once wrote of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, so overloaded with industrial waste it used to regularly catch fire, that it “oozes rather than flows.”
The two cities are back in the news. At 8:08 this evening, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians will open the 2016 World Series in Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland. As you undoubtedly know by now, this is an historic series. The Indians were last world champions in 1948, when Larry Doby and Satchel Paige became the first African American players to win series rings. The Cubs haven’t won in 108 years.
They are two of the original major league teams. Cleveland began in 1900, the Cubs two years later. They play in inner-city parks within walking distance of the neighborhoods, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field was built over a century ago.
I’m rooting for the Cubs because they have been cursed for so long, but in truth I’m more excited by the resurgence of two old teams and their two gritty cities, bright rays of hope in an often-gloomy fall.