Ryan Theriot of the St. Louis Cardinals flips his bat after striking out in the second inning of Game Two of the National League Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
30 years ago this month, Chicago writer Ron Berler wrote about the Ex-Cub Factor for teams in the World Series. He had noticed that since the Cubs' last World Series appearance in 1945, almost every World Series team with three or more former Cubs had lost. The only team that managed to overcome this between 1946 and the time Berler wrote about it was the 1960 Pirates, who had to come back in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 to win. Berler got a possible explanation for this from Jim Brosnan, a former major league pitcher and author of several books who was a victim of this factor himself as a member of the 1961 Reds:
"Don Hoak played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, a very good team, before he was traded to the Cubs, a very bad one," remembers Brosnan from his home in suburban Chicago. "It was hard for Hoak to relate. As far as he was concerned, he went right from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh without ever stopping in Chicago.
"He refused to accept that he was a Cub. He had nothing but obscene words for the Cubs and their organization; he even hated (former club owner) P.K. Wrigley.
"Hoak," he concludes, "is quite possibly the only man who ever conquered his Cubness."
The Ex-Cub Factor continued to bedevil teams until 2001, when the Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees despite having four former Cubs (Mark Grace, Luis Gonzalez, Mike Morgan and Miguel Batista) on the roster. As in 1960, the Yankees lost in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7.
So, you're thinking, maybe it's just the Yankees who fall victim to this. It's possible that the final nail in the Ex-Cub Factor might have been driven in by the 2008 Phillies, who won the World Series with three former Cubs on their postseason roster: Matt Stairs, Jamie Moyer and Scott Eyre, to the Rays' one (Cliff Floyd). Even that might have an explanation: Cubs manager Lou Piniella didn't like Eyre and used to call him "Stevie Ire". Perhaps Eyre had his "Cubness" driven out of him by Sweet Lou.
Since 2008, the Factor has been quiescent. Stairs and Eyre played for the Phillies again in the 2009 World Series, when they lost to the Yankees, who had just one former Cub: Jerry Hairston Jr. There was just one ex-Cub in the 2010 World Series, on the roster of the eventual champion Giants: Mike Fontenot. And he didn't actually get to play; he appears in the Game 2 boxscore, but he never got into the game. He was announced as a pinch-hitter and was replaced when the Rangers brought a lefthander in to face him.
Which brings us to 2011 and, oddly, the only former Cub in this year's World Series is Fontenot's former Cubs and LSU teammate Ryan Theriot. Theriot went 6-for-10 in the NLDS against the Phillies, but barely played, and badly (1-for-10 in four games) in the NLCS.
Is this an omen for the Cardinals? Has the Ex-Cub Factor finally been consigned to the dustbin of history? Is playing for LSU what did it? (Giants closer Brian Wilson also played for LSU, but Theriot is the only LSU player in this year's World Series.) Or will Theriot's presence as the only former Cub doom St. Louis to defeat? He certainly didn't make any friends with Cubs fans with the "right side of the rivalry" remark he made last December after he was traded to St. Louis by the Dodgers. Perhaps that will trump what Cubs fans used to call the "Cajun Connection".
Beginning tonight in St. Louis, we'll find out.