If the Chicago Cubs end their 107-year championship drought this season, they might owe some of the credit to a fan of their biggest rival.
That's because the 1989 movie "Back to the Future Part II" predicted the Cubs would win the 2015 World Series, and the man who wrote the screenplay and imagined this unlikely scenario is Bob Gale, a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan. In a sport where players and fans believe in curses, jinxes and superstitions, maybe it's not so crazy to think a movie has somehow spurred the Cubs to the brink of history.
Gale said the prediction grew out of the plotline in which primary character Marty McFly, famously played by Michael J. Fox, gets the idea from another character of going back in time to make money on sports betting.
"What better way to give him the idea than with a really outrageous scenario, which is the Cubs win the World Series?" Gale said by telephone Friday. "It's a double joke because they win the World Series against Miami -- which [didn't have] major league baseball in 1989. ... The second prediction, people don't automatically realize when they watch the movie today, but we were predicting there would be a major league team in Miami."
It all adds up to sweet marketing serendipity for Universal Pictures, which just happens to be releasing the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday. "Back to the Future Part II" also returns to theaters Wednesday for one day to mark the 1989 movie's flash forward to Oct. 21, 2015. Meantime, while the Cubs play host to the Mets in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series that night, Gale will attend a cast reunion at a screening in New York alongside actors Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson and soundtrack musician Huey Lewis.
The Cubs presented Gale with a bit of a conundrum on their way to the NLCS. Should he root for his beloved Cardinals in the NL Division Series? Or should he cheer for the opposing Cubs to uphold his amazing prediction?
"Somebody once defined mixed emotions as watching your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your brand-new Mercedes," Gale joked. "Was I rooting for the Cardinals? Yes. Was I also rooting for the Cubs? Yeah, maybe a little bit. This is one of those things where whatever happens, I'm a winner. If the Cardinals win, I'm happy about that. ... But if the Cubs win, then I look really smart."
In case you're wondering, seven players on the Cubs' 25-man NLDS roster hadn't yet been born when "Back to the Future Part II" was released on Nov. 22, 1989.
The baseball world and the movie trilogy have become intertwined in recent years, with a number of minor league teams putting on "Back to the Future Night" promotions. Gale and actress Claudia Wells, who plays McFly's girlfriend in the trilogy, threw out the first pitch when the Miami Marlins held "Back to the Future Night" on Sept. 25.
Before this season, a couple of Cubs players commented when asked for their thoughts about the movie's prediction.
"They're smart," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said of the film's writers and producers. "'Back to the Future' said we're going to win in 2015. We're going to be a fun team."
Said pitcher Jake Arrieta, "I know in 'Back to the Future' we win it in 2015, which is kind of crazy, to say the least. We'll do our best to make sure that happens."
In "Back to the Future Part II," the character Terry, played by Charles Fleischer, tells McFly that he wishes he could go back in time and bet on the Cubs to win the World Series at 100-to-1 odds. In reality, Gale said the movie's associate producer, Steve Starkey, inquired before this season in Las Vegas about making a future bet on the Cubs to win it all -- only to find out the odds were a mere 8-1. Indeed, the Cubs had opened at 30-1 odds to win the World Series at MGM Resorts. By March 31, the Cubs' large, loyal fan base had driven the price down to 6-1.
Gale, however, was not tempted at all to profit from his prediction by wagering on the Cubbies.
"No, I'm not a gambler," Gale said. "My life in the movie business is a gamble. So gambling on the movies that I make is what I do for a living. I don't find it a relaxing pastime to bet money on anything."