This time of year brings many attempts to frighten the innocents. And no, I’m not talking about the election. I’m not even talking about creepy clowns (to the degree there is a difference).
No, it’s Halloween — All Hallow’s Eve, a holiday dedicated to the ghoulish exorcism of October, the month mystics have long tied to the dead.
But if you want a real Halloween scare, consider the ghosts of the baseball diamond. Very soon, either the Chicago Cubs or the Cleveland Indians will be the World Series champions of 2016.
That’s right, the cursed Cubs, without a championship since 1908. Many have foretold that a Cubs title would usher in the end times. More on that in a moment.
As for the Indians — originally known as the Spiders (spooky!) — they have not tasted earned champagne since 1948. A favorite movie of my childhood, “Major League,” will forever define Cleveland’s latter 20th Century. Randy Newman wrote the film’s opening song about the Cuyahoga River catching fire. It was based on a true story.
The Cleveland Indians were bad, but not cursed. If anything, the town suffers the same Rust Belt malaise that afflicts us here on the Mesabi Iron Range. Perhaps Cleveland is just biding its time the way Iron Range schools remain confident in one day winning another state hockey championship. Never mind the decades in between; we are merely royals living in exile.
A Cleveland championship would be stunning, to be sure, but the real danger is a Cubs victory.
One of my favorite authors, W.P. Kinsella, wrote beautiful fiction about baseball. You might recall he wrote “Shoeless Joe,” the novel that served as the basis of “Field of Dreams.” Kinsella was the one who visited Veda Ponikvar at the Chisholm Tribune Press, weaving her story into the pages of his book.
Kinsella also wrote a book called “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy,” a story about a small town club team that holds the Chicago Cubs to an endless draw. But the Kinsella story that weighs heaviest on my soul this week is “The Last Pennant Before Armageddon,” found in his collection “The Thrill of the Grass.”
In “Last Pennant,” Kinsella introduces us to Al Tiller, the manager of the Chicago Cubs, as his team of hired-gun superstars edges ever closer to the elusive championship. During the game, he receives visions from God showing that if his team wins, the world will end.
He spends much of the game trying to decide if that’s true, if what he saw was real. He’s a baseball man, after all. You have to win the game if you can. No matter what.
Or do you?
In Kinsella’s story, we don’t see the outcome of the game. But we do see Tiller leave a gassed pitcher on the mound, knowing that he should take him out. Sometimes the mystical overpowers logic. This seems to happen more in baseball than any other sport.
Kinsella died just this year at his home in Canada. He won’t get to see if the Cubs win for himself, though I like to think that he’s somewhere where they already know — the way authors do.
Will we avoid Armageddon this year? That’s up to the Cleveland squad and the Chicago nine. It’s been a fateful World Series so far, one worth watching to its conclusion.
Even if we manage to avoid a baseball-related apocalypse, we must still survive next week’s hot ’n’ sweaty U.S. election. If we survive both? In that case we must simply conclude that we are a charmed people, capable of so much more than it seems.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.