The Chicago Cubs first trip to the World Series since 1945 is, for many fans of the franchise, tinged with the melancholy remembrance of friends and family. Many lives were lived in the interim between World Series appearances, much less World Series victories. But such rare events can also have a telescoping effect, temporarily making the seemingly distant past seem oddly approachable and familiar.
The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Samuel Clemens was 72. He was living at Stormfield, in Redding, Connecticut. The day before the Series began he welcomed his oldest living daughter, Clara, and spent the weekend reveling with her friends, taking especial liking to Commodore Daniel Dow, who had captained the ship which brought Clara back from Europe. For some reason, the weekend’s festivities inspired Twain to write, “We ought never to do wrong when people are looking.”
He spent much of Monday, October 12th in bed, reading newspapers and writing letters. He likely read several accounts of the Cubs Game 2 win over the Tigers, including that by the syndicated Chicago Tribune sportswriter, Charley Dryden, who the Saturday Evening Post would later dub “the Mark Twain of baseball.” He also read about the contentious presidential election between Secretary William Howard Taft and an eccentric populist, William Jennings Bryan. Clemens told his youngest daughter, Jean, “Don’t you be fooled by the immense noise & racket the Presidential election is making – there is no substance to it & no great interest in it – it is just make-believe…deep down under the noise & the storm the national ocean is quiet, apathetic, & indifferent.”
He proceeded to spill an equal amount of ink describing his cat, Tammany.
And he sent a copy of a recently published novel to his 17-year-old pen pal, Frances Nunnally. Anne of Green Gables, he said, “is a very pleasant child to know” and “the literary quality of the book is fine.”
On Monday afternoon, Clemens welcomed his sister-in-law, Susan Crane, visiting from Elmira. The following day the family was joined by his childhood sweetheart, Laura Hawkins Frazer, supposedly the model for Becky Thatcher, as well as the namesake of the heroine of The Gilded Age. All were on hand for the dedication of the Redding Library on October 14th, 1908, the day the Cubs won their last World Series. The library, initially located in the Umpawaug Chapel was made possible by Clemens’s donation of over a thousand books from his personal collection. He told the audience at the ceremony, “I am glad to help with this library. We get our morals from books. I didn’t get mine from books, but I know that morals do come from books – theoretically at least.”