There are many who have waited their entire life for this moment. They are octogenarians and children, grandparents and great-grandparents and teenagers. For more than a century, the Chicago Cubs were the punchline to an eye-roll-inducing joke. They were haunted by the specters of goats and a man in headphones. The Cubs have seen the fall of the Ottoman Empire, two world wars and a cold one, the advent of television, the atomic bomb, the nuclear family, two passes of Halley’s Comet, and the turning of the century. It has been a long time coming for the North Side of Chicago. And now, the moment has arrived.
For the first time in 108 years, the Cubs won the World Series. The longest championship drought in all of sports was emphatically vanquished once and for all. Chicago came back from a 3-1 deficit to win three games in a row and claim the title, pulling one last rabbit out of their hats and stunning the Cleveland Indians in extra innings.
It was a game that was chaotic enough to exorcise any demons. Fifteen runs scored, one of them on just the fourth pitch of the game when Dexter Fowler sent a ball over the center-field wall for a leadoff home run. Another was on a Javier Baez home run that came after he made two critical fielding errors, and another still when David Ross, 39 years young, took Andrew Miller deep. Just the inning before, two Cleveland runs had scored on a wild pitch that bounced hard off his mask. There were 24 hits, four errors, and one brief extra-inning rain delay.
This was a game that ran roughshod over our emotions and nerves. It drew life from exasperated groans and gasps. For every excellent Kris Bryant slide, there was Joe Maddon inexplicably bringing in Jon Lester with a man on first base, while Kyle Hendricks‘ only struggles were the product of a nebulous strike zone. Terry Francona, who had been so incredibly good this postseason, left his starter in for one batter too long, and the Cubs finally solved the mystery of Corey Kluber.
With two outs in the eighth inning, Maddon turned to his closer. Aroldis Chapman had pitched multiple innings with a large lead the previous night, and had a long outing during the final game at Wrigley Field, as well. His fatigue was immediately apparent. When he surrendered a game-tying home run to Rajai Davis, it looked like Maddon’s luck had finally run out. All series long, Maddon had acted either with conservatism or with the reactionary recoiling of a child in need of a security blanket. He had pushed Chapman to his limit in a game that was over and done with by the sixth inning, and nearly paid for it on Wednesday night with the season on the line. When he sent Chapman back out for the ninth inning, it was an act of even greater madness.
Somehow, Chapman finessed his way through the inning with a heavy reliance on his slider and a fastball that didn’t once show off his trademark triple-digit velocity. Then came the rains, and a Jason Heyward rallying speech that will surely become the stuff of legend. The Cubs rallied for two runs in the tenth. Ben Zobrist, the eventual series MVP, knocked in the go-ahead run. Maddon used a combination of Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery to seal the deal.
Hell has frozen over. The Cubs broke the curse. It’s an event about which many have fantasized, but which also never seemed quite possible. No matter how good the Cubs have been, there has always been something in their way. Ernie Banks didn’t win a championship, nor did Ron Santo. Andre Dawson won his MVP award with Chicago, but not a ring. Ryne Sandberg, Sammy Sosa and Fergie Jenkins all came and went without bringing this team a World Series win.
Bryant brought the title. Anthony Rizzo did. Kyle Schwarber, who somehow came back from a catastrophic knee injury to DH in the World Series, did. The names of the players on this team will go down in history forever, as will the names of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. They are forever enshrined in baseball lore, Bryant alongside the likes of Mickey Mantle; Epstein alongside Connie Mack and Branch Rickey. This may very well go down as the most iconic game in this sport’s history.
The Cubs won, rather fittingly, with Montgomery on the mound. Montgomery was the other pitcher acquired at the trade deadline. He doesn’t throw 100 mph, nor was he acquired in exchange for an excellent two-way shortstop prospect. He was acquired for a husky young DH. Montgomery was once a top pitching prospect before he faltered at the highest levels. This was his second season in the big leagues. He came in to face one batter, Michael Martinez, who first came up at age 28 in 2011. Martinez has only appeared in 267 regular games since then. He’s the 25th man of every roster to which he’s belonged.
Here were two unlikely men, playing in an unlikely spot, in the most unlikely of games. With one swing of his bat, Martinez could have won the World Series. He has only hit the ball over the fence six times since coming up. Instead, Montgomery got him to ground out to Bryant at third base, and that was that. Martinez is now the answer to a trivia question, as is Montgomery.
The Cubs didn’t win the World Series with their high-profile trade acquisition on the mound. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise. The annals of history will not show Chapman, who was suspended under the league’s domestic-violence policy at the start of the season, celebrating recording the final out. They will show Montgomery getting Martinez to ground out. Chapman got the win in the game, but only because he had yet to be officially replaced when the Cubs took the lead. He got the win, but the Cubs won in spite of him.
Montgomery is the perfect man for history to watch over and over again. He is the answer to a trivia question, as are Bryant, Sandberg, Sosa, Banks, Santo, Dawson and Jenkins.
History was made on Wednesday night, the kind of history that ripples across the sports world and the very fabric of baseball. The curse is no more. The Cubs are World Series champions, and no, you’re not dreaming.