With Chicago sports up to their usual mediocrity, it is important to look back on times of success. On this date in 2016, the Chicago Cubs erased 108 years of disappointment. A moment that will never be forgotten and one that can never be taken away from this faithful fanbase.
The Chicago Cubs V. Cleveland Indians World Series in 2016 was the best series in the history of baseball. Not only because of the World Series droughts suffered by both franchises, but by the way everything played out.
Although I’m sure most of you reading this already know how things went, it is rather enjoyable to reminisce especially with the times we are in today.
The very first pitch of the 2016 World Series was a milestone for Cubs fans all around the world. Most of which had not seen the Cubs play in the Fall Classic. Every pitch, every hit, every run came with historic value for a franchise and a fanbase deprived of success at the height of the sport.
The series was all even after the first 2 games as the Cubs managed to pull out a victory in Cleveland. Now, it becomes a best of 5. First to win 3 and the series was shifting to Wrigley Field for the next three games! Things are looking up. The Cubs did what they had to do and stole a game one the road, now its back to the Friendly Confines where they can take home the hardware in front of a rowdy home crowd.
However, things did not go according to plan. The Indians took the first two games at Wrigley Field with relative ease. The life had been sucked out of the Cubs sails… Something Cubs fans are all too familiar with. Cleveland took a commanding 3–1 series lead. That put this Cubs team into survival mode.
David Kaplan of ESPN 1000 and a die-hard Cubs fan in his own right came out with a video that he uploaded to twitter. This video… albeit of him shaving his bald head in his shower was a rallying cry for Cubs fans. In the video, Kaplan pushes positivity and a “nothing to lose” mentality. It was a warning to the Indians not to let the Cubs win game 5 and gain momentum heading back to Cleveland.
He then stated that if the Indians allow the Cubs to win game 6, they will have Kyle Hendricks on the mound for a winner-take-all game 7 in which anything can happen. His words, his tone of voice, his optimism in that video stuck with me, personally throughout the rest of that series.
Sure enough, game 5 rolls around. The Cubs get the offense rolling and stay alive to force a game 6 back in Cleveland.
Still a do or die situation in game 6, the Cubs bats stayed hot and they force the two best words in sports ‘Game 7’… one that would be remembered forever.
Game 7 took place on November 2nd, 2016. A day that no Cubs fan will ever forget.
Game 7 of the 2016 World Series will go down as arguably the best world series game 7 in baseball history.
The game begins with a bang… Quite literally as Cubs leadoff man Dexter Fowler hits a homerun off of Indians ace, Corey Kluber… Who was pitching for the 3rd time in this series alone!
Just like that, the cubs are up 1–0.
The Indians come back in the 3rd inning to tie the game at 1 a-piece. The Cubs respond with 2 huge runs in both the 4th and 5th innings. Their lead stood at 5–1 in the bottom of the 5th. Kyle Hendricks still on the mound doing his thing.
Quick flashback — — Cubs Manager Joe Madden was asked about the availability of Jon Lester in game 7. He let reporters know that all hands were on deck and that anyone was available to pitch… He did specify that if Lester were to enter game 7, it would be in a “Clean Inning” Meaning he would start an inning rather than come in mid-inning.
Bottom of the 5th rolls around and Hendricks is still dealing. He had just recorded the first two outs of the inning rather easily when he walks Carlos Santana. This led to Madden doing what he said he wouldn’t… That was putting Jon Lester into the game mid-inning… With a runner on first and Lester known for his incompetency with holding runners on base it seemed like a turning point in the game.
The first batter Lester faces is Chicago native Jason Kipnis. Coincidentally, Kipnis grew up a Cubs fan in Northbrook, Illinois. His neighbor… Steve Bartman… Yes, the same Steve Bartman that many blame for costing the Cubs a chance at a World Series back in 2003… All the bad “juju” was floating around in Cubs fans heads.
Kipnis barely tips a dribbler out in front of home plate. Now Cubs manager David Ross pounces on it and throws the ball over the head of Anthony Rizzo at first base and into the crowd. This set the Indians up with ‘Ducks on the pond’ Runners at 2nd and 3rd with two outs.
Madden elects to leave ol’ faithful Jon Lester in the game to face the dangerous Francisco Lindor. On an 0–1 pitch, Lester bounces a breaking ball well in front of home plate. The ball kicks up and hits catcher, David Ross square in his protective catcher’s mask (looked like it rang his bell pretty good) and the ball flies all the way near the Cubs dugout… This wild pitch ends up scoring both runners and cuts the lead in half.
Now, questions start to swirl… Why did Madden take out Hendricks?
Why did he put Lester into a “Dirty” inning?
Why did Jason Kipnis just HAVE to be neighbors with Steve Bartman of all people?
Now the score is 5–3 heading into the back half of the game… Indians have their best relief pitcher on the mound to keep the game within striking distance when a questionably concussed David Ross comes to the dish with likely his final at bat as a Major League Baseball player.
Now, Cubs fans know David Ross is not the guy you would expect to hit one of the biggest home runs in Cubs history… but neither is Miguel Montero but we know what he did in the NLCS (and in this deciding game 7 so keep reading if you don’t know).
“Grandpa Rossy” as he was known around the clubhouse came through in the biggest way. He homer’s off of the best relief pitcher in baseball putting the Cubs back up by 3 runs. Again, he may or may not have a concussion from the previous half inning. Just an amazing at bat and an amazing way to finish off your professional career.
Now, Cubs fans around the world are starting to count the outs. Jon Lester stays in the game and breezes through the 6th and 7th innings. He then records the first 2 outs of the 8th… 4 outs and the Cubs are World Series Champions…
After a tough ground ball eats up then Shortstop Addison Russell, Lester is pulled from the game for the flame throwing Aroldis Chapman. A guy in which the Cubs traded a way their top prospect to have for half of a season…
With Aroldis on the bump, the Indians push across a run to make the score 6–4. Still 4 outs away from a World Series victory, the tying run comes to the plate for the Indians. 2 outs. Runner on 2nd. Cubs lead by 2…
BANG… Rajai Davis hits a screaming line drive over the wall in left field and the World Series is tied at 6… Just. Like. That.
The sinking feeling that every Cubs fan felt seeing that ball sail into the seats is one that will never go away. I am getting the chills re-watching the video and writing this blog 4 years later.
Every curse, every bad omen re-surfaced and it felt like a literal punch to the gut. This is what happens when you count the outs!!! (Thanks Joe Buck).
Now we have a whole new ballgame… 6–6 heading into the 9th inning in game 7 of the World Series between two teams with the longest World Series droughts in the MLB. Somebody must win… Right?!?
The 9th inning comes and goes without a hitch and we’re onto the 10th… Extra innings. Game 7. Winner-take-all. Doesn’t get any better than that if you’re a sports fan.
How can any more drama be added to this game you ask? Well, mother nature came rolling in and caused a rain delay after the 9th inning. This rain delay wasn’t just mother nature… it was the baseball Gods sending a gift to the Cubs… A gift that slowed the Indians momentum and gave the Cubs an opportunity to re-group.
During this rain delay, Jason Heyward called a team meeting in the weight room. His words, arguably a lot more valuable than his bat at this stage of the season. Whatever was said in that meeting fueled this team to finish strong. That is exactly what they did.
After a Kyle Schwarber base hit and an intentional walk to Anthony Rizzo, the stage was set. Ben Zobrist, coming off a World Series MVP performance the previous year with Kansas City stepped up to the plate…
After a tough at bat, Zobrist lines a ball down the left field line. Pinch runner, Albert Almora Jr. who made a heads-up tag from 1st to 2nd earlier in the inning scored the go ahead run. Cubs lead 7–6.
What happened next was undervalued and overlooked by many. Previously mentioned Miguel Montero knocked in the 8th and ultimately deciding run with a base hit of his own to extend the Cubs lead to 8–6.
Three outs now stood in between the Chicago Cubs and a World Series Championship…
After the first two outs of the inning are recorded in quick fashion by Carl Edwards Jr. Cubs fans knew they were not out of the woods just yet. Give the Indians credit. They scratched and clawed the entire game.
New-found ‘Cub Killer’ Rajai Davis knocked in another run to make it an 8–7 ballgame.
Now, we have a one run game, tying runner at first base and the Cubs make a move to the bullpen bringing in Veteran Right-hander, Mike Montgomery to face Michael Martinez.
It all came down to this… nothing ever came easy for the Cubs and it wouldn’t be right if game 7 wasn’t the same…
On a 0–1 pitch, Martinez hits a slow ground ball toward 3rd base. Kris Bryant fields the slow grounder with a visible smirk on his face. He has to make a quick throw to first to catch the speedy Martinez.
Once again… nothing came easy as Bryant’s foot slipped on the wet turf as he is making the throw to first… The ball looked to sail upward, but that is why 1st baseman are historically gifted in the height department.
With that, the 3rd and final out is recorded… The game is over. 8–7 in 10.
THE CHICAGO CUBS HAVE WON THE WORLD SERIES…
The celebration on the field and around the city of Chicago was officially on. The Wrigley Field Marquee finally read “World Series Champions”
The late great Cubs broadcaster, Harry Caray once said “Sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series” Well Harry… They did it. They did it for you. They did it for every Cubs fan we have lost over the years that could not bask in the glory of the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series Championship…
When the final out was made, every curse, every bad omen flew right out the window and into Anthony Rizzo’s back pocket.
I want to give a huge shoutout to Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Joe Madden and the entire Cubs organization for giving the most loyal fans in sports what they deserve… Also, a huge thank you to Miguel Montero… The unsung hero who does not get the credit that is owed to him.
If on the slim chance any of the aforementioned individuals are reading this… from Cubs fans young, old and in-between… THANK YOU!
I cannot wait for the ESPN 30 for 30 to come out about a day many thought would never happen.