By Lauren Grimaldi
Photo credit: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune
Photo caption: After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series.
Pigs are flying. Hell has frozen over. Next year is here. You need not wait for tomorrow because it has finally come. Area goats can come out of their decades long hiding as they are no longer on the Most Wanted list. You can now wash your socks, shave your beard or otherwise end whatever superstition you’ve been keeping up for so long.
It’s finally over, though it has only just begun.
The Chicago Cubs are the 2016 World Series champions.
Shortly after 11:30 p.m. Chicago time, a smiling Kris Bryant excitedly threw a baseball with 108 stitches to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to end the team’s 108-year championship drought. The quick moment that will forever be seared into the mind of every Cubs fan throughout the nation could not have been more perfect.
The two young superstars making the historical play only seemed fit. Anthony Rizzo, who overcame cancer in 2008, is the heart and soul of this franchise. His arrival gave a dead team a heartbeat. His impeccable leadership, natural charisma and talent come once in a generation of baseball. He suffered through multiple seasons of 100-plus losses, but never lost faith in the plan of Theo Epstein. The look on his face as he caught the final out was one of jubilation, relief and awe.
It was at this moment that the 27-year-old realized that he and his teammates had brought to Chicago what so many could not: a championship.
And Kris Bryant, in just his second year in the Major Leagues, smirking like a young boy dreaming of playing in the World Series with his neighborhood friends, made the most important play of his entire life. Despite seemingly impossible to live up to expectations, Bryant has proven to be even more invaluable to the Cubs than one could have ever dreamed.
However, this simple play that sent the city and the team soaring very well could not have happened.
Baseball has a way of exciting the masses and then invoking fear into their hearts.
Cubs fans know this all too well and were only further reminded of it when Rajai Davis hit a two-run home run to tie the game with five outs to go.
While Cleveland exploded in this moment, Chicago fell silent. It was then anyone’s game.
It could come down to an error, a slight miscue, or just mere happenstance. And games like that have not treated the Cubs well in the past. The devastation of years past crept into everyone’s mind, with all knowing that another such collapse would be the worst of all time. The fans would have forever questioned decisive managerial decisions and therefore only added to their uniquely impressive resume of despair and heartbreak.
And then, the weirdness continued.
As if there could not be more tension in a tied Game 7 in the late innings, mother nature decided to make things just a little bit more interesting.
A rain delay was called after the ninth inning of the winner take all match. Though it only lasted 17 minutes, this quick break in action will be looked back on in history as a turning point for the North Side.
Outfielder Jason Heyward called a team meeting to offer a few words of encouragement. “I told them I love them. I told them I’m proud of the way they overcame everything together,” Heyward said, following the game. “I told them everyone has to look in the mirror, and know everyone contributed to this season and to where we are at this point.
I said, ‘I don’t know how it’s going to happen, how we’re going to do it, but let’s go out and try to get a W.'”
And the Cubs certainly heeded Heyward’s words.
Kyle Schwarber, who was never even supposed to play in the World Series, got it started with a leadoff single, before being lifted for Albert Almora in a pinch run situation. Almora’s tremendous baserunning provided Ben Zobrist with a chance to be a hero and he did not falter.
He laced a double to left field, scoring Almora as a result. Miguel Montero then came in to pinch hit and singled, scoring Rizzo who had been intentionally walked earlier in the inning. The job had been done. It was now simply time to finish it off.
The score was 8-6. The task was simple: just get three more outs. Carl Edwards Jr., a rookie reliever and late season addition to the Cubs bullpen, came out onto the mound soaring. He easily got the first two outs in the inning.
But even still, the end could not be that easy. Edwards then walked Brandon Guyer and a defensive miscue allowed for the base runner to advance. Rajai Davis then singled making it 8-7. Gulp.
A pitching change for the Cubs brought on Mike Montgomery who induced a groundout to end the inning, the series, the 2016 baseball season, and that pesky curse once and for all.
This exact moment was one for the ages. It was for lifelong Cubs fans and newcomers. It was for the dead and the alive. For the young and the old, the rich and the poor. It was for Chicago. It was for the United States of America. It was for the world. Cubs fans everywhere were then united under one simple task: celebration.
The team that won this game may be comprised of simple humans like the rest of us at the end of the day. But they are also heroes. Their likenesses will be entrenched into Chicago sports lore for the rest of times. Their superstars cannot help but be beloved because their backgrounds make them endearing.
Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester both survived cancer.
Javier Baez’s sister passed away just a few short years ago at the age of 21. And he remembers her as his best friend and biggest supporter. Since her passing, he’s turned around a tough start to his career and was the NLCS co-MVP.
Kyle Schwarber worked his way back from a devastating knee injury to hit as the designated hitter in the World Series, a proposal that even the most optimistic Cubs fans dared to dream about prior to it becoming reality.
There is David Ross, affectionately nicknamed Grandpa Rossy by both the team and fan base, who led this team to victory through his charismatic leadership. Ross goes out a champion and hit a home run in the final game of his career.
Though they are just regular people at the end of the day, this team’s character makes this win so incredibly heartwarming.
The spirits of the living and the passed were alive at Wrigley and stretched far beyond the blocks closest to the Friendly Confines. Horns honked throughout the city, fireworks were set off in the suburbs, and almost all had a restless night.
History was made on November 2, 2016 and it can never be erased. The Chicago Cubs actually won the World Series.
There is no other sport quite like baseball and the gravitas of this very moment proves it. The raw emotion that comes with this particular sport and the deep dedication of its most loyal followers prove that the game is something special. Nothing can match what was seen in Game 7.
It was simply a sight to behold, even if it was unbearable for the supporters of the two teams involved in the series. On this night, everyone felt as if they were in a community that only this sport could provide so perfectly. Baseball simply cannot be romanticized enough.
For once, there was nothing wrong with crying in baseball. For once, the Cubs did not collapse under pressure. There was finally something for Wrigleyville to celebrate. The elation that so many believed would never come is finally here. And it’s wonderful to be apart of it.