Cubs are World Series cham­pi­ons

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By MIKE HARRINGTON

The Buf­falo News, N.Y.

— 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.”

Sure will. The

CLEVE­LAND

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 vil­li­fied in Chicago for­ever had he lost this one. He took out starter Kyle Hen­dricks and starter-turned-re­liever Jon Lester too soon in this one. He over­worked Chap­man with a five-run lead in Game Six, rend­ing 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.”

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 serires. “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.

BRIAN CASSELLA/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE/TNS

The Chicago Cubs cel­e­brate after de­feat­ing the Cleve­land In­di­ans in Game 7 to win the World Series 8-7 at Pro­gres­sive Field in Cleve­land early Thurs­day morn­ing.

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