By Colin O’Connell
Being a Chicago Cubs fan is different. There’s just no other way to say it. Other teams have been bad for a long time: Cleveland Browns, Sacramento Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs. All of these franchises have struggled for a long time, but none of them were as synonymous with losing like the Cubs. None of their nicknames was “the lovable losers.”
But maybe now they will be, because that nickname no longer belongs to the Cubs. After a 108-year streak of never winning the World Series, the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians.
And it only took eight runs and 10 innings to do it. Easy, peasy.
Now, this is not an analysis of the game. This is not, by any means, an objective look at the facts of what happened that night in Cleveland. This is a cathartic exercise.
This is from a fan who saw his favorite team in the world choke away a chance at a ring when he was four. And then again when he was 13. And again when he was 14. And again when he was 21. But not when he was 22.
For the uninitiated, this goes far beyond a few close calls. The Cubs history is filled with some of the most tragically timed failures in history.
The bad fortune started in 1945. The Cubs played the Tigers in the World Series, and William Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, brought in a pet goat.
The Cubs officials asked Sianis to remove the goat, and Sianis allegedly replied, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”
The Cubs went on to lose that World Series and did not make it to another again for another 71 years.
Unfortunately, the bad luck does not stop there.
On Sept. 9, 1969 the Cubs played an important game against the Mets late in the season.
Both were the best the National League had to offer, and that Cubs team was loaded with four future Hall of Famers.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a black cat scurried out onto the field in front of the legendary Ron Santo, stopped and stared at the Cubs bench for a few seconds and then scurried away.
The Cubs lost that game. Then they lost a bunch more to end the season. The Mets would go on to win the World Series that year.
Then there is 1984. A Cubs-Padres best-of-five series was set, and the Cubs won the first two games. In game five, a routine ground ball was hit to first baseman Leon Durham. It went through his legs. The Padres won the game and series.
Two years later in the World Series, ex-Cub Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox let the ball go through his legs in almost identical fashion.
The Red Sox lost that game and the World Series. Buckner had a Cubs batting glove on when he committed the error.
Eventually 2003 came around, which is the first playoff series that I can remember. The Cubbies looked unbeatable.
With a three-run lead in game six of the National League Championship Series (NLCS), a fly ball sliced towards foul territory on the left field side. Cubs left fielder Moises Alou leaped up for the ball only for a fan, Steve Bartman, to get in the way.
Bartman, who was well within his right to the ball, was pinpointed as the sole reason the Cubs ended up losing the game and eventually the series. This was despite a costly error by the Cubs shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, who most people tend to forget.
Then they got swept in 2007 and 2008 during the first round of the playoffs. Then last year after making it to the NLCS again, they were swept by the Mets.
But on one fateful night in Cleveland, the weight of 108 years of bad luck left the Cubs organization.
During game 7 of the World Series, after being down three games to one, the Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler hit a leadoff home run.
Then the Indians tied it up 1-1 in the bottom of the 3rd inning. After that, the Cubs scored four uncontested runs to go up 5-1.
That would not stop the Indians though, who tacked on two runs in the bottom of the 5th inning after Cubs manager and Hazleton, Pa. native Joe Maddon took out starter Kyle Hendricks for pitcher Jon Lester.
Then came one of the biggest moments of the game. David Ross, affectionately nicknamed “Grandpa” by the young Cubs players who retired after the season, hit a solo shot to put the Cubs up 6-3.
And then the bottom of the 8th inning happened. Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, who is one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, gave up an RBI double to Brandon Guyer.
The Cubs were still up 6-4, but that lead went away when Rajai Davis hit a two-run home run to tie the game up 6-6.
My dad said, “It’s just not fair.”
I couldn’t catch my breath. I kept saying, “This is not happening. This cannot happen again.”
I was born into Cubs fandom. My dad, a fan since the Phillies traded Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs, put me into this insanely depressing fan group without me having much of a choice. Sure, I could have ditched them when I got older, but that is what makes Cubs fans different.
It is easy to be a Yankees fan, a Steelers fan or a Lakers fan. They all win so often. I could have switched to another fan base at any time.
I could have hopped off and just left the struggles and pain this franchise brought me behind. But I did not. And neither did millions of Cubs fans around the country.
But at that moment, after Davis hit a line drive that just cleared the top of the wall, I knew we were going to lose. I didn’t think we were going to lose, I knew we were losing that game.
It would have been the ultimate Cubs game ever, to come back down three games to one, take a huge lead in game seven of the World Series, and then just blow it.
But after a scoreless 9th inning and a 17-minute rain delay, Kyle Schwarber got a key leadoff hit in the top of the 10th. Kyle Schwarber, by the way, got injured in the second game of the season and did not play at all until the World Series.
After a pinch runner for Schwarber and a deep fly ball by Cubs star Kris Bryant, the Cubs had a runner on second when the Indians decided to intentionally walk Anthony Rizzo.
Ben Zobrist came up to bat and on a 1-2 count scorched a ball down the third base side. The Cubs sent their pitch runner Albert Almora Jr. in, and they took the lead 7-6.
The Indians issued another intentional walk to Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, and up came back-up catcher Miguel Montero.
Montero, who struggled the entire season with the bat, only had one hit the entire postseason: a grand slam in the NLCS.
So what does the back-up catcher do? He gets another hit that brings in another run to lift the Cubs to an 8-6 lead.
One stressful bottom of the 10th later, one where the Indians scored yet another run, and the Cubs became World Series champions.
And now the goat, the cat, Durham and Bartman. It’s all gone. All of the pain, all of the pressure of 108 years is gone. None of it matters anymore.
The Cubs are good, scary good. Their best player is 24-years-old, their second best player is 27, and a long list of the players under them are in their low-to-mid 20s. They are set-up for the future to be perennial title contenders.
But I don’t care about any of that right now. I saw my Cubbies win one in my lifetime, and I will never have another sports experience like that again.
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