Sixty-eight years ago, the Cleveland Indians hoisted their last World Series championship pennant. This year they hope to end an almost seven decades-long drought while their opponents the Chicago Cubs hope win a title that has eluded them for more than a century.

Sixty-eight years ago, the Cleveland Indians hoisted their last World Series championship pennant. This year they hope to end an almost seven decades-long drought while their opponents the Chicago Cubs hope win a title that has eluded them for more than a century.

This historic series got underway Tuesday evening and in 2016 one of those two major league baseball teams will accomplish a feat their long-suffering fans have never witnessed, win a World Series title.

Ironically, a Helena icon of sorts was among the heroes of that last Cleveland Indians world championship team. Gene Bearden was a rookie southpaw pitcher in 1948. He made the big league club during the spring but pitched sparingly until May 8.

His freshman year was nothing short of phenomenal. Bearden won the first six of his seven starting assignments, including four complete games and two shutouts. He went on to post a 20-7 record and a sparkling American League-leading earned run average of 2.47.

Bearden drew the starting assignment in game 3 of the 1948 World Series. Josh Leventhal in his book, "The World Series An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World Series," called Bearden's performance "a masterful 5-hit shutout." For a pitcher, Bearden was also considered an excellent bat-handler. He helped his own cause with a double, driving in a run. He later scored.

For the game, Bearden went 2-for-3 at the plate and wound up hitting .500 for the Series.

However, Bearden was far from finished. He entered game 6, which turned out to be the deciding game of the Series, in relief of starter Bob Lemon. He allowed two inherited bases runners to score but he closed the door on the Boston Braves the rest of the way, earning a 5-inning save.

A jubilant Indians squad practically carried Bearden off the field.

History was made that year when the Indians' Satchel Paige became the first African American to pitch in a World Series.

The Indians haven't won a world championship since, though they have made several trips to the series over the past several years. They recorded a then record-setting 111-win season in 1954 but were swept in four straight games by the New York Giants. It would be another 41 years before The Tribe would return to the Series. This time the Atlanta Braves tripped up the Indians 4 games to 2. Their last shot in 1997 ended on a 2-out single in the bottom of the 11th inning of game 7 to the 4-year-old Florida Marlins.

Just five years before his World Series heroics, Bearden was seriously injured during a World War II battle. As a member of the U.S. Navy, he served aboard the USS Helena. Japanese torpedoes sank the Helena. Bearden who was working in the engine room was forced to abandon ship and suffered a fractured skull and crushed knee.

He underwent several operations and was hospitalized until 1945. He had metal plates inserted in his head and his knee. Bearden rarely discussed his wartime experience.

Casey Stengel, one of Bearden's minor league managers and who went on to manage the New York Yankees to several world championships, taught Bearden how to throw a knuckleball and the rest they say is history.

Following the 1948 World Series Bearden became somewhat of a journeyman pitcher and pitched for the Washington Senators, the Detroit Tigers, the old St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles), and the Chicago White Sox.

His career statistics were 45 wins against 38 losses, a 3.96 earned run average and 259 strikeouts. He has since been enshrined in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. A sign declaring Helena as Bearden's hometown is seen by visitors as the enter Arkansas from Mississippi via the Helena Bridge. The baseball stadium, home to the Central Cougars, in North Helena Park was named in his honor.

Bearden died March 18, 2004 at Alexander City, Alabama at the age of 83.

Editor's Note – Information for this article was obtained from several online sources including Wikipedia.