No more curses: Cubs are World Series champions - The Buffalo News
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No more curses: Cubs are World Series champions

CLEVELAND – No more billy goats. No more black cats. No more Bartman too. The best team in baseball all season finally got the job done here early Thursday morning, defying its laundry list of curses and earning a reward more than a century in the making.

Here's a sentence their legions of fans from coast to coast never thought they would ever read: The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

The Cubs survived perhaps the most remarkable Game Seven in baseball history to beat the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, in 10 innings in a thriller that extended to nearly 1 a.m. in Progressive Field. And after waiting 108 years for a championship, was there any chance this would be easy? No way.

"It had to be super hard. It was a rollercoaster," a champagne-drenched Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer said in the raucous clubhouse. "We'll be talking about that game for decades."

[Related: Photos of the Cubs' celebration after winning World Series]

Sure will. The Cubs seemed in control with a 5-1 lead in the fifth and with an 6-3 advantage and four outs from a title as closer Aroldis Chapman was on the mound. But the overworked lefty was ineffective and Rajai Davis' two-out, two-run homer to left sparked bedlam in the crowd and dramatically tied the game at 6-6 in the eighth.

Manager Joe Maddon would have been vilified in Chicago forever had he lost this one. He took out starter Kyle Hendricks and starter-turned-reliever Jon Lester too soon. He overworked Chapman with a five-run lead in Game Six, rendering him ineffective in Game Seven.

When the game went to extra innings, a hard rain hit the ballpark and caused a 17-minute delay. The Cubs were reeling and veteran outfielder Jason Heyward called his teammates into the clubhouse weight room. He sensed they felt the game slipping away and wanted to snap them out of a funk.

"That moment I felt like I had to vent a little bit," Heyward said. "We had a good chance to take the lead in the game. It's about the whole team, everybody getting something done. I let them know I loved them, that we won 103 games in the regular season and we've had a lot thrown at us. We needed 114 wins so everybody go out and get this 114th win."

[Related: Local ratings soar for Game 7 of the World Series]

The Cubs did exactly that in the 10th off Tribe reliever Brian Shaw. Series MVP Ben Zobrist, a champion last year in Kansas City, lashed an RBI double down the third-base line to break the tie and Miguel Montero's RBI single added important assurance. Davis burned the Cubs again with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning and it took lefty Mike Montgomery to wrap up the Cubs' first title since 1908 at 12:47 a.m. on Michael Martinez's slow grounder to Kris Bryant at third.

Bryant fired across the diamond to Anthony Rizzo, sparking celebrations throughout Cubs nation  -- including thousands gathered outside Wrigley Field -- and a dogpile behind the mound.

"It was like a heavyweight fight, man," said Zobrist, who batted .357 and scored five runs in the series. "Just blow for blow, everybody playing their heart out. The Indians never gave up either and I can't believe we're finally standing after 108 years, finally able to hoist the trophy."

"Tradition is worth being upheld, but curses and superstitions are not," Maddon said. "So it's really great for our entire Cub-dom to get beyond that moment and continue to move forward, because now based on the young players we have in this organization, we have an opportunity to be good for a long time, and without any constraints, without any of the negative dialogue."

It was another hard-luck loss for the Indians in their quest for a title that has stretched to 1948. The Tribe also lost Game Seven in extra innings in their last World Series appearance – the 3-2, 11-inning classic at Florida in 1997.

The Indians battled gamely. They never quit. They can hold their heads high. The Cubs, conversely, would have felt the weight of history more than ever had they lost this one. Blowing that game with a three-run lead and four outs to go?

Could the Cubs have ever lived this one down? We'll never have to find out.

They got so many great performances. A leadoff home run from Dexter Fowler. A solo shot by Javier Baez. And another one by 39-year-old catcher David Ross in the sixth that made it 6-3 and stemmed the tide after the Indians scored two runs on a Lester wild pitch that conked Ross in the helmet.

How much do the Cubs adore Ross, who was playing in his final game? They interrupted a post-game FOX interview and carried him off the field. Ross, by the way, became the oldest player ever to homer in Game Seven, beating Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell (1979) by three days.

"I hit a home run in Game Seven and got carried off the field," Ross said. "I felt like Rudy."

It was a strange World Series in many ways. The Cubs became the first team since the '85 Royals to come back to win from a 3-1 deficit and the first since the '79 Pirates to do it by winning Games Six and Seven on the road. The road team, in fact, won five of the last six games after the Indians' 6-0 win in the opener. And true to the theme of October, relievers were so dominant that it became the first World Series in history that saw no starting pitcher record an out in the seventh inning or later of any game.

When Fowler belted Corey Kluber's fourth pitch of the game over the fence almost to straightaway center, the place exploded. Call it Wrigley East. Call it KeyBank Center when the Toronto Maple Leafs get a goal. Maybe times 20.

At the end, it was a win for all the fans who have packed Wrigleyville for the rare good times and for all the sorry years. For the denizens of the game's most famous bleachers and for the folks on the rooftops across the street.

And for the Cubs greats who are no longer with us, like Ron Santo and Ernie Banks. And for legendary announcer Harry Caray, surely hoisting a cold one in celebration up in that big ballpark in the sky. It was for 78-year-old Billy Williams, who was thrilled to be at the opener in this series to finally see the Cubs in the Fall Classic and wishing his friend Banks could be here too.

"There's so many people thinking of their fathers and grandfathers," Hoyer said. "It's bigger than these 25 guys or this organization. It's for the city."

This Cubs team was no fluke. It came within four wins of the World Series last year and then broke through in 2016. And like Maddon said, it's built for the long haul, to maybe do this again.

And if he were still with us, Chicago fans probably have a good idea what Banks – affectionately known to all as "Mr Cub" – might say when they reconvene next spring.

Let's Win Two.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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