The Cubbies began the season on April 4th, 2016 against the Los Angeles Angels, and they wrapped it up on October 2nd against the Cincinnati Reds. Along the way, they came out on top in 103 games, the most games they had won in a regular season since 1910.The smell of the Fall Classic wafted over Chicagoland. We old timers, however, knew better. The usual collapse was inevitable.
Good things kept happening, though. We blew away the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series, and in the National League Championship series, we took the Dodgers. Our Cubbies would play the Cleveland Indians in the World Series at last. More than a hundred years had passed since we’d won it, but hey, any team can have a bad century.
The Series was a furious battle from the beginning. The Indians took three of the first four games. Things looked bleak, because only a few teams had ever managed to claw up from such a deep hole. But, with amazing heart and determination, the Cubs won the next two to force a seventh game. The Cubs were the first team to win Games 5 and 6 on the road in a World Series since the Pittsburgh Pirates had done so against the Baltimore Orioles thirty-seven years earlier.
The seventh game began on Wednesday night, was interrupted for about twenty minutes by a rain storm, and finished early Thursday morning. It was a 4 hour, 28-minute marathon that was so tense I regressed to biting my nails, a habit I had kicked, cold turkey, as a seventh grade student in elementary school.
Dexter Fowler, the Cubs lead-off hitter, got things going by hitting the fourth pitch of the game over the fence for a 1-0 lead. Later on, the Cubs had leads of 5-1 and 6-3. The Indians didn’t quit, however. Rajai Davis hit a game tying homer in the eighth off Aroldis Chapman, our closer who threw at 100 miles an hour and never allowed home runs. Then, the heavens opened forcing a twenty minute rain delay that gave the Cubbies a chance to regroup. Jason Heyword delivered an inspiring talk in the clubhouse, and we won it in the tenth.
More than a few sportscasters referred to fan reaction in Chicago as, “An explosion of joy,” and for sure, it was just that. Old timers wept, younger fans partied long into November, and my wife and I danced around the family room. I’ve watched baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and track and field for decades, and I have never witnessed a game that was as thrilling and gratifying as this. Nothing was even close.
Of course, I taped the seventh game, and on a depressing day, when it’s dank and the last of the dirty snow is melting, I sit down with a hot chocolate and watch it all over again. Any sense of the blues vanishes, and I smile. So too, I suspect, are Ernie Banks and Ron Santo.