Cleveland blows 3-1 lead, Cubs champs after 108 years

He stands up, puts on his green turtleneck shirt, old-school style glasses, and throwback Chicago Cubs baseball hat. For the first time since 2003, he can finally walk outside and feel the hustling winds that characterize downtown Chicago. Steve Bartman can finally smile. Steve Bartman can walk outside and stroll through the Windy City without facing the shame held over his head for the past 13 years.
     Never in the history of any sport in North America has a team gone so long without winning a championship, and never in the history of sports has a fan played such a crucial role in reaffirming the most well-known curse in all of baseball. It took the Chicago Cubs 108 years to bring home a World Series championship, and break the 70 year old Curse of the Billy Goat.
     After falling behind three games to one, the Chicago Cubs have beaten the Cleveland Indians and are World Series Champions for the first time since 1908. This event was so historically significant, that over five million people showed up for the World Series parade, making it the seventh largest gathering in human history.
     Needless to say, the 2016 World Series was unlike any other. Some would say the Cubs forced themselves into the winner’s circle with young talent beyond compare. Others argue it was destiny and that it would take only 108 years for any team, as there are 108 stitches on a baseball. Either way, the Cubs were able to accomplish what the people of Chicago have been waiting their whole lives to see.
     The Cubs’ secret weapon was none other than President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, the same gentleman responsible for breaking the Curse of the Bambino, a similar misfortune that haunted the Boston Red Sox for 86 years. Epstein built a mega-team for Chicago, assembling a powerhouse of high-caliber players for the 2016 season. In 162 games, the Cubs scored 808 runs and .772 OPS, both of which placed the Cubs third in the league in those categories. On the mound, the Cubs’ staff earned a 3.15 ERA, a whopping 0.36 points ahead of the next best team, and threw 15 shutouts, both of which lead all of baseball. The pitching staff was led by Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Mike Montgomery, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, and, the hardest throwing human being on the planet, Aroldis Chapman, all of which were acquired under Epstein’s guidance. In terms of offense, Epstein is responsible for acquiring the likes of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, Dexter Fowler, and World Series MVP Ben Zobrist. Epstein and Co. are in good hands, as many of these players are under contract for many years to come.
     Although many credit the talent of the Cubs and the wit of manager Joe Maddon, some say Cleveland jinxed themselves and were never destined to be crowned champions. In this year’s NBA season, the Golden State Warriors set the record for best regular season record in basketball history, winning 73 games while only losing nine (one game better than the famous 1996 Chicago Bulls). After pushing their way into the NBA Finals, the Warriors were on the verge of wrapping up one of the most dominant seasons in NBA history. Led by phenome Steph “Chef” Curry, the Warriors seemed to be cruising by the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, quickly jumping out to a three to one lead in their best-of-seven series.
     However, Golden State started celebrating too soon. What began – and almost finished – as a seemingly flawless season suddenly morphed into one of the greatest disappointments of the year. The Cavaliers took the next three games and emerged as champions of the NBA, leaving Golden State in shock.
     The city of Cleveland rejoiced. The Internet exploded. Memes upon memes flooded in ranging from Crying Jordan to “Golden State blew a 3-1 lead” written in obscure places on obscure images. For months, the Warriors became the laughing stock of the internet, which is a pretty high honor in this country. The Cavaliers won the NBA finals on June 19. At that same time, the Cleveland Indians were a comfortable eight games above .500, comfortably in first place in the AL Central. From that point on, the Indians won 56 games while only losing 37, the best record in the MLB. Cleveland was high on their sports teams’ successes and had no problem reminding fans from all over that the “Warriors blew a 3-1 lead.”
     The citizens of Cleveland have been forced to eat their words. After jumping out to a quick three-to-one lead, the Indians managed to lose the next three games, blowing the lead, in an ironic twist on the Cavalier’s championship series just months prior.
     The blame for the Cubs’ historical season can’t be entirely placed on Cleveland’s inability to close their mouths. But as we saw with Golden State and with the 2007 New England Patriots, record-breaking regular seasons don’t guarantee a championship. Playoff baseball is very, very different from regular season baseball. To single out the primary reason for the Cubs’ postseason success would be difficult, nearly impossible even. Was it Jason Heyward’s rain-delay speech? The cold-bloodedness and naiveté of the roster’s youth? Or did it come down to clutch performances from older players like it always does?
     However it came about, the Cubs’ journey through the World Series was unforgettable, and could not have been orchestrated any better. It seemed that the Cubs were constantly on the verge of succumbing to the curse, but something always pulled them out. Some argue it was the youth of the team that found ways to win games. Baez, Bryant, Schwarber, Rizzo, Contreras, and Russell are all 25 or under, comprising one of the youngest infields in baseball. Yet, it was performances from older players like Lester, Arrieta, and Miguel Montero that gave the team its extra edge.
     All season the Cubs prided itself on its youth, but with history on the line, the veterans stepped up. In Game Five of the series, David Ross, 39, drove in the third run of a three-run fourth inning. This was the only time the Cubs scored in Game Five, but it was good enough as Ross’s RBI ended up being game-winning after Lester, 32, maintained six innings of quality work. In Game Six, the youth led the charge on offense, scoring nine runs. This managed to be more than enough, as veteran Arrieta, 30, posted 5.2 strong innings while only surrendering two runs.
     Game Seven was likely the most historic game in Cubs World Series history. Cleveland’s started throwing ace Corey Kluber, a former Cy Young winner, and the Cubs retaliated with Kyle Hendricks, a current Cy Young candidate. After several back-and-forth lead changes throughout the game, the Cubs settled on a comfortable 6-3 lead going into the eighth inning. But Cleveland wasn’t done. After scoring earlier in the inning, Rajai Davis of the Indians pulled through with a two-run blast to tie the game. The Cleveland stadium erupted, and for a brief moment, all of Chicago stood still. But the Cubs weren’t done yet either. In the top of the 10th, Zobrist doubled down the left-field line, scoring Albert Almora to make the score 7-6. A single by Montero scored Rizzo, pushing the score to 8-6. Cleveland fought back once more, as Davis drove in another run to make the game 8-7. The Cubs then called on lefty specialist Mike Montgomery.  With two outs and a runner on first, Indians pinch-hitter Michael Martinez stepped up to the plate. Martinez proceeded to roll over a Montgomery curveball, hitting it softly towards Bryant at third baseball. Bryant, scooped up the ball and, with a smile on his face, made an on-the-run throw to first base, successfully recording the final out of a 108 year drought.  
           Rewind to the past. It’s the last game for the Cubs in the 1991 season. Greg Maddux has finished a complete game, earning his 15th win of the season. However, Maddux’s successful season was not enough, as the Cubs failed to reach the postseason, and thus the World Series. Harry Caray, broadcaster for the Cubs at the time, signs off the last game of the season by saying, “But that day will come. As sure as God made green apples, someday the Cubs are going to be in the World Series.” Harry can smile. Steve Bartman can smile. Chicago can smile.

Ricky Conti

Ricky '19 is a senior math and econ major on the baseball team from SoCal. He is colorblind and always gets the green and red Gatorades mixed up.

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