How Many 108-Year-Old Cubs Fans Are There, Anyway?
Hazel. Mabel. Vivian.
Three of the kids in a Brooklyn preschool class? Yes. Also the names of three 108-year-old Chicago natives who were alive the last time the Cubs were baseball champions.
In the lead-up to the World Series, the Chicago Tribune, its Northbrook Star, and the Wall Street Journal each published an article about one of them, all born in 1908, the year Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown led the Cubbies to their last World Series victory.
That this trio of sweet grannies, two of whom still live in the Chicago area, found their way into print shouldn’t be a surprise. Until the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians last night, no major U.S. sports franchise had gone longer without a championship, and there’s probably no fan base that’s spent as much wallowing—sometimes lovably, sometimes not—in its collective sorrow.
These are the chances 1 .
The probability of a woman born in 1908 and surviving to 108 is 1 in 3,371, Dale Hall, managing director of research at the Society of Actuaries, estimates. (For a man, it's 1 in 36,139.) Data on the number of births each year get spotty when you look back that far, but let's use an estimate of 2.7 million (PDF) and work off the assumption that half the babies born in 1908 were women.
Based on that rough math, there should be about 400 women born in the U.S. in 1908 still alive today.
Figured another way, there were 72,891 people at least 100 years old in the U.S. as of July 1, 2008, according to estimates from the Census Bureau. A 100-year-old has about a 30 percent chance of dying within a year, according to a slightly outdated table published by the Social Security Administration; for a 101-year-old, the chance is 32 percent. Follow the probabilities down the table and you can figure there are about 830 people in the U.S. born in 1908 or earlier. 2
Current estimates suggest there are about 324 million people in the U.S. About 9.7 million, or 3 percent of the national population, live in the Chicago metro are. So there should be no more than 25 people 108 years old in the Windy City.
Only 10 percent of Chicago Facebook users self-identify as Cubs fans, according to DNAInfo. And you could hardly blame a centenarian who got tired of those icy gusts off Lake Michigan and moved down South or out West.
Yet there we were, with two 108-year-old Cubs fans in Illinois and a third in New Hampshire, who might now qualify as two-time champions. That's a happy fact. As the actuarial tables make clear, there's always next year, until there isn't.