Cubs, Indians and Florida

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Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven (Polk County)

The World Series starts this week and in case you haven’t heard, it will feature two teams with combined 176 years without a championship.  The Cleveland Indians last won the World Series in 1948; the Chicago Cubs, 1908.  As baseball has been a part of the fabric of America for a century and a half, the state of Florida has played a major role in the games history.

Spring Training has been host to most MLB franchises throughout the years, but the Cubs have spent little time here.  From 1913-1916, the Cubs held their Spring Training in Tampa.  However, their Advanced A minor league franchise the Daytona Cubs, played in Daytona from 1993-2014.  The Indians spent time in Lakeland (1923-27), Fort Myers (1940-41), Clearwater (1946) and most recently Winter Haven (1993-2008).

And who can forget the heartbreak brought upon both franchises by the Florida (Miami) Marlins?  The 1997 Cleveland Indians looking to end their 49 year drought, lost to the Marlins in the bottom of the 11th in Game 7 of the World Series.  Or the 2003 Cubs, who were just 5 outs away from clinching the National League Pennant, before the famous Steve Bartman Incident.

Similarly, the home state’s of the Cubs (Illinois) and the Indians (Ohio) have contributed to the makeup of Florida’s diverse population.  A study done in 2014 reveals that 3% of Florida residents are Illinois natives and 3% of Florida residents are Ohio natives.  Only New York (8%) and Pennsylvania (4%) have higher numbers.  Throughout the state, you’ll find some famous sports icons of Chicago like Mike Ditka in Naples or Jack Nicholas (Columbus) in West Palm Beach.

You don’t have to go far to find a bumper sticker, flag or cap touting support for a Cleveland sports team (or Ohio State) or for a Chicago team, most notably the Bears or Cubs.  I bet you’ll find plenty of Cubs fans to watch the World Series with at the Orlando area’s chain of bars, the Friendly Confines.

As both teams set out to end their respective curses this week, you can bet plenty of Floridians will be tuned in to witness the history unfold.  After that, the older residents will escape the frosty cold of the Midwest and enjoy their winter homes in the Sunshine State.

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