CHICAGO -- A large fraternity of managers has unsuccessfully tried to end the longest World Series championship drought in Major League history -- 99 years and counting for the Cubs.The list includes Mariners manager Jim Riggleman, who spent five years (1995-99) with the Cubs and directed them into the playoffs as the National League Wild Card team in 1998, ending a nine-year playoff famine. Now, 10 years later, the Cubs still are searching for their first Fall Classic title since 1908. The Mariners are playing the White Sox in a three-game series, and it's the first time Riggleman has been back to Chicago as a big league manager since 1999. It's not quite like coming home, because he spent so few of his 55 years here, but the memories are forever imbedded into his head and his heart. "I enjoyed every year I was here, but '98 was special," Riggleman said. "We had a lot of players that had big years." Already one of the most feared hitters in the NL, Sammy Sosa slugged a career-high 66 home runs that season and drove in 158 runs to power a productive offense, beating out Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire for the league's MVP Award, although it was McGwire who broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record. "We had a lot of great contributions," Riggleman added. "Kerry Wood broke out that year, Kevin Tapani won 19 games, Rod Beck saved 51 games, Mark Grace hit his usual .310 with 40 doubles and Jose Hernandez came out of nowhere to hit 25 home runs for us." Asked how that team did not win the World Series, Riggleman smiled and jokingly said, "The manager." "It was a great year, but we ran into the Braves in the playoffs and got swept [in three games]," he added. "We felt good going in because we had beaten the Braves six out of nine that year and matched up well against them. But [John] Smoltz shut us down the first day, and it was downhill from there." The Cubs went from 90-73 in '98 to 67-95 in '99, and Riggleman became a member of another fraternity -- dismissed Cubs managers. But he still loves Chicago. "It is a great place for every reason," Riggleman said. "It's a great sports city, great city for restaurants, and when the weather breaks, everyone comes out. It's everyone's favorite city. Ask people what their favorite city to visit, and they'll say 'Chicago.'" Ask people in Chicago who their favorite Major League team is, and you likely will hear "Cubs." But Riggleman senses that the city is becoming a little more divided on that issue. "I think it's becoming both," he said. "Fans have really warmed up to the [White Sox]. You have two really dynamic guys here now in Ozzie [Guillen] and Lou [Piniella], and it's starting to even out a little bit. The White Sox are catching up." Whoever is managing the Cubs when they win a World Series would receive red carpet treatment for the rest of his life. "I think the manager would get tremendous credit and would be remembered forever," Riggleman said. "But the whole team would be remembered. It has been so long, and it's going to take a special group to do that. They would have reunions every 10 years forever. Meanwhile, baseball fans here are dreaming of a Loop World Series in the 21st century version of '08. Both Windy City teams went into Tuesday night's games as division leaders. The Cubs ranked seventh in home attendance with slightly more than 2.52 million watching games at historic Wrigley Field, and the Sox were 15th with 1.91 million at U.S. Cellular Field -- the only baseball stadium in the world where the press box is located closer to the right fielder than the catcher! Of the two-city markets, Chicago ranks behind New York (6.381 million) and Los Angeles (5.46 million). But when it comes to wins, Chicago is No. 1 with 147, and it promises to be a September to remember in America's Second City.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.