Cubs Break 108 Year Old Drought, Win World Series
In an epic ten inning game that brought to an end the longest Championship drought in American sports, the Chicago Cubs won Game Seven of the World Series last night, beating the Cleveland Indians on the road after being down three games to one just a few days ago:
CLEVELAND — If you are going to endure years — no, generations — of futility and heartbreak, when you do finally win a World Series championship, it may as well be a memorable one.
The Chicago Cubs did just that, shattering their 108-year championship drought in epic fashion: with an 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7, which began on Wednesday night, carried into Thursday morning and seemed to end all too soon.
When the Indians rallied with three runs in the eighth inning — including a two-out, two-strike, two-run thunderbolt of a home run by Rajai Davis off closer Aroldis Chapman — the Cubs found a way to beat back the ghosts of playoffs past.
After a brief rain delay following the ninth inning, they pushed two runs across in the 10th inning on a double by Ben Zobrist, the Series’s most valuable player, and a single by Miguel Montero.
The Cubs then had to hold their breath in the bottom of the inning when Davis hit a run-scoring single to pull the Indians to a run behind. But reliever Mike Montgomery replaced Carl Edwards and got Michael Martinez to hit a slow roller into the infield. Third baseman Kris Bryant scooped it up and threw across to first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
As the ball made its flight across the diamond, the stadium went silent for one of only a few times all night — and only until it settled into Rizzo’s glove. Then the huge contingent of Cubs fans erupted, and the players raced to the middle of the infield to celebrate.
“We’re world champions,” Rizzo said in the alcohol-soaked visitors’ clubhouse after he had taken a break from embracing the actor Bill Murray. “The Chicago Cubs are world champions. Let that sink in.”
Thousands of fans lingered for nearly an hour after the game, moving into the field level of the stadium, waving the ubiquitous W flags, singing the victory anthem “Go Cubs Go” and roaring when Rizzo held up the ball he had caught for the final out.
One fan held a sign: “Now I can die in peace.”
That sleep will no longer be tortured by old memories — of collapses in 1969, 1984 and 2003, and talk of curses of black cats, billy goats and Steve Bartman, the fan who infamously interfered with a foul ball in the playoffs.
“If you want to believe in that kind of stuff, it’s going to hold you back for a long time,” Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said. “I love tradition. I think tradition is worth time mentally, and tradition is worth being upheld. But curses and superstitions are not.”
On Wednesday night, the Cubs did not so much beat the Indians as survive them.
The heart-stopping end to the series — and the 108-year wait — carried with it an additional historical perk. The Cubs became the first team to rally from a three-games-to-one Series deficit since Kansas City did so in 1985 and the first to do it on the road since Pittsburgh in 1979.
Meanwhile, in this matchup of long-suffering franchises, the Indians’ suffering will carry on longer. They have not won since 1948 — and the excruciating way in which they suffered the defeat, with three consecutive losses — will take its place atop a list that until now was topped by the 1997 World Series, in which the Indians lost a ninth-inning lead, and eventually the Series, to Florida.
When the Indians retreated to their clubhouse during the rain delay, lockers were covered in plastic and Champagne was made ready.
“It’s going to hurt,” said Indians Manager Terry Francona, who called it an incredible game. “It hurts because we care, but they need to walk with their head held high because they left nothing on the field. And that’s all the things we ever ask them to do. They tried until there was nothing left.”
The Indians had overcome all season — the 24th-highest payroll in baseball was dented by injuries to outfielder Michael Brantley and pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco and the loss of two players to drug suspensions — and they fought uphill all night, never taking the lead on Wednesday.
To win, the Cubs beat two of the most dominant pitchers in this postseason — the Indians’ ace, Corey Kluber, and their versatile reliever Andrew Miller — who gave up more runs on Wednesday than they had allowed in the entire postseason. They then had to bounce back after Davis’s home run.
The roller coaster of a game took place in an unusually neutral environment, with so many of the Cubs’ passionate and well-heeled fans finding their way into the stadium. The crowd of 38,104 was evenly split, and the two groups of fans spent the evening alternating full-throated roars, robbing the environment of any lulls. Not even the 17-minute rain delay affected their spirits.
They were the latest to witness the Cubs, who won 103 games in the regular season — the most in baseball — showing their mettle during the playoffs.
They rallied from four runs down in the ninth inning to eliminate San Francisco, which had won 10 consecutive elimination games. After being shut out for 21 consecutive innings by Los Angeles in the National League Championship Series, they rebounded to win three in a row — beating Clayton Kershaw in the clincher.
When the Cubs went to Wrigley Field on Sunday knowing they would have to win three in a row, Rizzo lightened the mood. He arranged for the “Rocky” movies to be played on all of the televisions in the clubhouse and then shadowboxed around the room while half dressed.
Rizzo’s message: The Series was going the distance.
They tossed their hats and gloves into the air after the final out like joyous Little Leaguers and then threw themselves into each other’s arms like brothers — and this will connect them forever.
They sang along with “Go, Cubs, Go” as thousands of fans who wouldn’t miss World SeriesGame 7 for the world broke into song. They carried retiring catcher David Ross on their shoulders and wore wide-eyed expressions of disbelief to which every Cubs fan could relate.
The Cubs partied like it was 1908 after their 8-7 victory Wednesday over the Indians ended the longest, cruelest wait in sports.
“This about made me pass out,” World Series MVP Ben Zobrist said. “An epic battle. I can’t believe that after 108 years, we’re able to hoist the trophy.”
For generations of fans, the scene of the Cubs celebrating a World Series title will provide the most indelible images of Chicago sports for years to come. None of us will live long enough to see anything better, any moment packed with more meaning. This is the view from the top of the sports world, the center of baseball utopia, a place where doubt and dread and devastation no longer reside, a place the World Series-winning Cubs and their loyal fans now occupy.
At exactly 11:47 p.m. Wednesday at Progressive Field, decades of suffering ended when first baseman Anthony Rizzo caught third baseman Kris Bryant’s throw for the last out, officially marking the greatest moment in Chicago sports history. Holy cow, they did it, Harry. Hey, hey, Jack, the Cubs are World Series champions. Click your heels in heaven, Ronnie. The wait is over, Ernie, after all those seasons you believed when nobody else did.
The last great American sports story now has an ending, the happiest one ever, pleasing baseball romantics and fulfilling the lives of so many Cubs fans. Many of the longest-suffering ones will say they can die happy now, no exaggeration. The younger fans who consider Ryne Sandberg old will expect more championships to follow, and they will. The rest of us can celebrate the death of redundancy when discussing the Cubs because this forever changes their tradition.
It seems impossible to write yet harder to fathom. The Cubs have won the World Series. That is no longer a punch line or part of a movie pitch. The Cubs have won without pigs flying or hell freezing over. That might not sink in for Cubs fans until they stop smiling, maybe sometime next summer. Or maybe never.
Naturally for the Cubs, nothing came easily. They waited out a 17-minute rain delay before the 10th. And extra innings were necessary because of Joe Maddon’s unnecessary use of Aroldis Chapman 24 hours earlier with a five-run lead. Chapman came on in the eighth with the Cubs four outs from history, and his weary left arm gave up three runs — a double to Brandon Guyer and a two-run homer to Rajai Davis — to tie the score at 6-6. Every jaw back in Chicago hit the floor and every blood pressure rose. This felt like a cruel joke.
But the Cubs offense bailed out Maddon when Zobrist doubled and Miguel Montero singled to drive in runs in the 10th. Any second-guessing will be moot by the time the champagne dries. They can laugh about it at every reunion.
In rallying from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series, the Cubs culminated the five-year plan President Theo Epstein brought to town in 2011. Two years before Epstein arrived, the family of nerdy investment banker Tom Ricketts bought the Cubs for $745 million, talking about championships nobody took seriously.
Ricketts, a die-hard fan who met his wife, Cecelia, in the Wrigley Field bleachers, had visions of doing what the Cubs had not done since 1908. Ricketts’ legacy now becomes being the guy who helped make the dreams shared by so many fans like him come true.
Epstein surely will go into the Baseball Hall of Fame one day, known as the Curse Buster after ending a combined 194 years of waiting for the Red Sox and Cubs. His roster transformation gives the Cubs reason to believe they will be planning more parades. After more than a century of futility, faith in the Cubs is no longer blind — not after becoming the first champions since the Royals in 1985 to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit.
For years, of course, the hapless Cubs were the team that nearly everyone except perhaps their rivals on the other side of town felt sorry for. Cubs fans no doubt grew frustrated at the jokes, at the people who pointed out that the last time that their team had won the World Series much of Central Europe was divided between the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Russia was still ruled by the Czars, and the Middle East by the Ottoman Empire, and at the idea that maybe there really was something to the legend about the team having been cursed for refusing to allow a Billy Goat to attend a game at Wrigley Field. For a time, it was probably the case that the fact that the last win had been in 1908 wasn’t that big of a deal. After all, the team had found a way to make it to the World Series seven times between 1908 and 1945 even if they did ended up losing the series itself. After 1945, though, it seemed as though the team found a way to fall short even when it seemed impossible that they could do so. Late season collapses, losses in the postseason that seemed as if they were the stuff of parody (see e.g., Bartman, Steve), and eternal disappointment. on a scale that perhaps only Boston Red Sox fans could understand. Last year, when it seemed like the curse might finally be broken, the team once again faced frustration at the hands of the New York Mets as they had back in 1969.
This year, though, the Cubs were seemingly unstoppable. From the beginning of the season, they surged to the front of the National League Central Division and didn’t look back. Win after win piled up as the team that Theo Epstein built came together to win 103 games that dwarfed any other team in baseball this year. They dominated through the post-season, knocking back challenge after challenge with an ease that made one forget that this was the same team once known as the eternal “cellar dwellers” of the National League. What was different this year, though, is what happened when the seemingly unstoppable Cubs found their backs against the wall. After Game Five at Wrigley on Saturday night, they were down three games to one and faced the prospect of having to win the last game at home and then sweep the Indians on the road, something that hadn’t happened in the World Series since the 1985 Royals. Instead of folding, though, these Cubs turned their back on the curse and went on to post two impressive and decisive victories that forced last night’s Game Seven that, seemingly appropriately, didn’t end until going into extra innings.
So now, the curse is broken, the jokes can stop, and long-suffering Cubs fans can enjoy a well-deserved Championship. Congratulations guys, it’s about time.
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