The most epic drought in sports history is over, and the Cubs are world champions.
After 108 years of waiting, the Cubs won the 2016 World Series with a wild 8-7, 10-inning Game 7 victory over the Indians on Wednesday night at Progressive Field. The triumph completed their climb back from a 3-1 Series deficit to claim their first championship since 1908.
A roller-coaster of emotions spilled out in a game that lasted almost five hours, featuring some wacky plays, a blown four-run lead, a 17-minute rain delay and some 10th inning heroics that sealed the deal.
It was a perfect ending for a franchise that had waited forever for just one championship, and your stomach never will be the same.
This is not a dream. The Cubs did it.
It was real, and it was spectacular. After blowing an eighth-inning lead in stunning fashion, the Cubs bounced back in the 10th with run-scoring hits from Ben Zobrist andMiguel Montero.
Over? Not quite.
The Indians came to within a run with two outs, until Mike Montgomery entered to induce the game-ending grounder to third base that saved the city. The Cubs rushed the field, waved “W’ flags and held a group hugathon.
Tears flowed across Cubs Nation after the final out, and fans responded with the world’s biggest group hug, remembering all the loved ones who could only imagine what it would be like to experience this moment of pure bliss.
The 1969 Cubs, the team that defined the word “collapse,” were off the hook. So were their predecessors in ’84 and 2003, who also came close only to suffer painful endings that scarred two generations of Cubs fans and kept the drought alive.
The billy goat is gone, and the black cat too. And what was the name of the foul-ball dude? No matter. It was never really his fault, and now he’s just a footnote in Cubshistory.
The catchphrase Cubs fans uttered over the last century and change has been “just one before I die,” a plea that fell on deaf ears decade after decade.
Well, you can die in peace now, thanks to Joe Maddon’s resilient club, which was bloodied and on the mat after a Game 4 loss at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs picked themselves up when Jon Lester and Aroldis Chapman tag-teamed the Indians in Game 5, and they battled to a Game 6 victory in Cleveland to set up the mother of all Game 7s between two franchises synonymous with heartache.
The road trips to cemeteries commence Thursday, where caps, balls, pennants and news clippings will be placed on markers of loved ones, letting them know they did it. TheCubs did it.
It may look like the final scene of “Field of Dreams,” a caravan of cars on a mission of closure.
When the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought, Cubs President Theo Epstein was moved by all the cemetery scenes, the touching tributes to those who taught us to love a baseball team through thick and thin — or in the Cubs’ case, through thin and thinner.
Epstein, then the Red Sox’s general manager, said fans have thanked him almost every day since 2004 for “what it meant to their family” and those who didn’t live long enough to see it happen.
“That really resonated,” he said last year. “More than anything else, that feeling influenced my decision to come to Chicago, because that was the one place in the world where you could experience something that meaningful again and play a small part in contributing to something that meaningful.”
Epstein arrived in Chicago in the fall of 2011 with the gargantuan task of rebuilding an organization that had tried everything imaginable.
It took him five seasons, three managers and dozens of moves to get the job done, but he did it. The Cubs did it.
The funny thing about waiting 107 years for a championship was that when it finally happened, you didn’t want the season to end. It was that much fun, from Kyle Schwarber’s smashing of a windshield outside the outfield wall with a spring training home run to Wednesday night.
This was a team in the truest sense of the word.
These Cubs worked together and partied together, and some of them prayed together. The moments were so delicious you could watch them on an endless loop. Dexter Fowler’s surprise return in Arizona. Anthony Rizzo hopping on top of the brick wall. Javier Baez’s backhand swipe to pick off Conor Gillaspie at first in the National League Division Series. Kris Bryant’s home run off the top of a cartoon car at AT&T Park. David Ross’ final regular-season game at Wrigley. Aroldis Chapman’s marathon outing to save the season in Game 5 of the Series at Wrigley.
It was one thing after another, and you loved every second.
It was the arrival of the controversial Chapman from the Yankees in July that sent Chicago into a tizzy. Did they sell their souls in pursuit of a championship? Three months and hundreds of triple-digit fastballs later, few were debating the move.
Epstein said the Cubs had done their homework and Chapman would not be an issue. He was the final piece to the puzzle Epstein had been working on for five years, and the move signaled the Cubs were going for broke.
“If not now, when?” Epstein said.
The Schwarber comeback was so unbelievable, so corny, even Disney wouldn’t have dared touch it. After going down with a torn ACL in the third game of the season after an outfield collision with Fowler, he spent the entire season rehabbing and hoping he could make it back for the end.
“Pedro Strop said all along, ‘Man, you’re going to be back for the World Series,'” Schwarber said.
Schwarber did it. The Cubs did it.
One-hundred and eight years is a long time, and Cubs fans have suffered through a lot of bad baseball before getting to this day, coming within inches of a World Series twice before losing the grip on the rope.
In May 1984, Jim Brady, the Illinois-born press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, told reporters: “This is our year. This is the year of the Cubs. I’ve been waiting for the antitrust department of the Justice Department to come in and get us. We conspired before the season even started. This year there will be no ‘April Fold,’ no ‘June Swoon’ and no ‘October Surprise.'”
A month later, young second baseman Ryne Sandberg hit a game-tying home run off Bruce Sutter in the ninth at Wrigley and a game-tying homer off Sutter in the 10th in a comeback victory for the ages.
The Cubs were one game from the World Series before it all fell apart, suddenly and shockingly. They blew the final three games of the NL Championship Series in San Diego when a ball went under Leon Durham’s glove in Game 5.
It would be 19 years before they got that close again, but in the summer of 2003, Dusty Baker made us believe again. The Cubs had two young studs in Mark Prior and Kerry Wood who everyone knew would carry them to multiple titles. They combined for 32 victories in ’03, and Wood beat the Braves in the division series for their first postseason series triumph since 1908.
But it all fell apart, suddenly and shockingly. They blew the final three games of the NLCS to the Marlins, with Prior imploding during the Marlins’ eight-run eighth inning of Game 6 at Wrigley when the Cubs were five outs away. Over the next three injury-plagued years, Wood and Prior combined for 30 victories.
But things changed when Maddon arrived for Year 4 of Epstein’s rebuild, promising at his introductory news conference in 2014 he would be “talking playoffs next year.”
After getting swept in the NLCS in ’15, the Cubs won 103 games this year, launched a ninth-inning comeback to take the division series against the Giants, then came back from back-to-back shutouts to down the Dodgers in six games. At long last, they had won a National League pennant for the first time in 71 years.
All that was left was the Indians, a gritty team with a lockdown bullpen and a likely Hall of Fame manager in Terry Francona, who ended the drought in Boston with Epstein 12 years earlier.
With the Cubs on the ropes, trailing 3-1 and gasping for air, they got some electroshock therapy from Lester and Chapman at Wrigley, then headed to Cleveland after a brief timeout for some trick-or-treating.
A Game 6 victory kept hope alive, setting up the wild and crazy Game 7.
It was one for the ages, with more twists and turns that a San Francisco street.
They had it, they blew it, and then came a 17-minute rain delay.
After waiting 108 years, what was another 17 minutes?
Schwarber started off the rally with a single in the 10th. Pinch-runner Albert Almora Jr. came in and advanced to second on Bryant’s long flyout. After an intentional walk to Rizzo, Zobrist doubled down the left-field line, and Montero came up big with an RBI single after an intentional walk to Addison Russell.
The Cubs walked off the field saluting the thousands of fans who had traveled to Cleveland to scarf up tickets, singing “Go Cubs Go: as the clocked ticked to midnight back home.
It took a while, and it wasn’t the way they had drawn it up.
But they did it.
The Cubs did it.
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