The Chicago Cubs And 'The Last Pennant Before Armageddon'

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In the short story "The Last Pennant Before Armageddon," Canadian author W.P. Kinsella writes about the Chicago Cubs -- and the fate of the world. (Rusty Kennedy/AP)
In the short story "The Last Pennant Before Armageddon," Canadian author W.P. Kinsella writes about the Chicago Cubs -- and the fate of the world. (Rusty Kennedy/AP)

7.4 billion people inhabit the planet. Most of the ones in Mogadishu, Edinburgh and Asunción probably don’t care how the Chicago Cubs fare, and the ones who do are only paying attention to the World Series because they have money riding on it.

But maybe all 7.4 billion should care. Certainly they should if W.P. Kinsella’s glimpse into the future was prophetic. Back in 1985, Kinsella, who died last month, published a book of short stories titled "The Thrill of the Grass." One of those stories, “The Last Pennant Before Armageddon,” has the fate of humanity hinging on whether the Cubs win the pennant.

In Kinsella’s tale, the Cubs are managed by baseball lifer Al Tiller. As Kinsella puts it, Tiller’s only desire is to “manage his baseball team in an honorable manner.”

But he’s not destined to be left alone to do that. Al Tiller begins having dreams. And he doesn’t know what to do about them. As Kinsella writes:

“He could picture himself at a news conference, pausing right in the middle of fielding questions about his pitching rotation, and his left fielder’s Achilles tendon, to say 'Gentlemen, for the past several weeks I have been having prophetic dreams. It is my considered opinion that if the Chicago Cubs win the National League pennant, the world is going to end.'"

Al Tiller wakes up, “sweat-soaked,” “heart thrumming.” The closing weeks of the pennant race coincide with rising tensions between the U.S. and the Russians, each nation having decided it has significant interests to protect in Sri Lanka. Naval vessels from each prominent power are on route to a potential confrontation. We’re talking Sri Lanka here, not Syria, but, uh, “sweat-soaked” and “heart thrumming” yet?

I’ll not be revealing who comes out on top in what Al Tiller fears may be the last pennant race. That wouldn’t be fair to W.P. Kinsella, even if I shouted “Spoiler Alert!” before doing it. Read the story.

And regarding Armageddon, hey, the Cubs won the 2016 National League pennant, and Armageddon didn’t happen … yet … though that business just this week about the warmer water swirling around under the polar ice is disturbing, and the computer hacking may lead who knows where as far as the grid is concerned, and those wars, relatively small ones for now, rumble on.


To hear our radio retelling of W.P. Kinsella's tale, click the play button next to the headline at the top of the page.

We’re grateful to W.P. Kinsella’s literary agent, Carolyn Swayze, for permission to use portions of “The Last Pennant Before Armageddon” from the collection titled "The Thrill of the Grass." We’ll miss W.P. Kinsella, best known for writing "Shoeless Joe," which begat the film, "Field of Dreams."

This segment aired on October 29, 2016.


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Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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