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Cleveland goes from Loserville to City of Champions

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Cleveland has undergone an extraordinary urban renewal-like transformation from Loserville to the City of Champions this year, shedding a down-and-out image for a winning one.

Even among historic losers, Cleveland over the decades has comes up second best.

Compared to the Chicago Cubs, the so-called Loveable Losers they will meet in the best-of-seven Fall Classic beginning on Tuesday, the Indians are clear runners-up.

SEE MORE: These Cinderellas deserve to be in the Fall Classic

It has been 68 years since the Indians last won a World Series but that seems almost like yesterday compared to the 108-year title drought endured by the Cubbies and their supporters.

When the Cubs last won World Series in 1908 man had just discovered flight, the Wright brothers taking off from Kitty Hawk in North Carolina in 1903.

"I can't wait to see what it's like in Cleveland, honestly," said Indians ace reliever Andrew Miller. "The crowds for the playoff games at home have been special, as you would expect them to be.

"It's going to be a lot of fun."

Fun and sports are two words that have rarely appeared in the same sentence in Cleveland.

While the Cubs have been embraced for their futility, there has been nothing poetic or romantic about Cleveland's loser image.

Across the American sporting spectrum no city could match Cleveland's malaise which ended last June when LeBron James, after returning home from Miami, led the Cavaliers to an NBA championship.

The Cavs became the first Cleveland team to win a championship in 52 years, ending what had been the longest drought between titles in North American professional sports.

For decades, Cleveland, situated hard on the shores of Lake Erie, was mocked as the "Mistake by the Lake", a decaying Rust Belt relic that attracted the global spotlight in 1969 when the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River, which runs through the city, famously caught fire.

When Hollywood made a movie about a hapless Major League team it was a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians.

When players got good they fled.

Unable to bring Cleveland a title, James in 2010 famously took his "talents to South Beach" turning his back on a city battered by unemployment, high taxes and lousy weather.

A local high school student who became a once-in-a-generation player, James was a rare beacon of hope to a city dubbed America's Most Miserable.

31 PHOTOS
Ranking all 30 MLB teams' hats
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Ranking all 30 MLB teams' hats

30. Miami Marlins

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29. Washington Nationals

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28. Cincinnati Reds

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27. Colorado Rockies

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26. Texas Rangers

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25. Chicago White Sox

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24. Arizona Diamondbacks

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23. Milwaukee Brewers

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22. Minnesota Twins

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21. Tampa Bay Rays

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20. Cleveland Indians

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19. Pittsburgh Pirates

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18. Seattle Mariners

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17. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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16. Detroit Tigers

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15. Houston Astros

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14. San Diego Padres

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13. Philadelphia Phillies

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12. Kansas City Royals

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11. Oakland Athletics

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10. Baltimore Orioles

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9. Atlanta Braves

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8. Boston Red Sox

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7. New York Mets

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6. St. Louis Cardinals

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5. San Francisco Giants

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4. Chicago Cubs

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3. Toronto Blue Jays

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2. Los Angeles Dodgers

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1. New York Yankees

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Before James became public enemy number one, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell held the distinction for moving his team to Baltimore in 1996, leaving the city without a National Football League franchise until a new team was created in 1999.

The National Hockey League's Cleveland Barons left town in 1978 after just two seasons and have never returned while the Cleveland Grand Prix Indy Car race, a summer fixture for 26-years on the city's lake front, disappeared in 2006.

Even with an NBA title and a return to the World Series, Cleveland has not entirely shed its loser image.

The Browns are winless this season and unlikely to win a Super Bowl anytime soon.

21 PHOTOS
Top 25 MLB playoff heroes of the last 25 years
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Top 25 MLB playoff heroes of the last 25 years

25. Jack Morris, Minnesota Twins (1991)

(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

24. Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins (1991)

(Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)

23. Troy Glaus, Anaheim Angels (2002)

(Photo by Robert Lachman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

22. David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals (2011)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

21. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (2010)

(Photo by: Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

20. Hideki Matsui, New York Yankees (2009)

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

19. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (2004-06, 2011)

(Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

17. Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox (2004, 2007)

(Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

16. Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians (2016)

(Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

15. Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks (2001)

(Jed Jacobsohn/ALLSPORT)

14. Edgar Renteria, Florida Marlins (1997)

(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

13. Aaron Boone, New York Yankees (2003)

(Photo by Allen Kee/WireImage)

12. Carlos Beltran, Houston Astros (2004)

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11. Josh Beckett, Florida Marlins (2003)

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10. Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants (2002)

(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

7. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (2014)

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

6. Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees (1998-2003)

(JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

5. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (2004, 2007, 2013)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

3. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (1996-2006, 2009-2012)

Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)

2. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (1996-2007, 2009-2011)

(Todd Warshaw via Getty Images)

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