Aroldis Chapman had nothing left.
Hanging one gimpy slider after another over the plate, spinning meatball after meatball into the wheelhouse of every Indians hitter, the sweat pouring down his brow.
It was obvious he shouldn’t have been out there after giving Joe Maddon games 5 and 6 with uncharacteristically long relief appearances, and the Indians knew it – they responded.
After Chapman gave up an RBI double to Guyer, Rajai Davis wasn’t about to let the moment escape him. He laid into one of Chapman’s soggy, spent pitches and cranked it over the left field wall to tie the game. As Progressive Field exploded in cheers, millions of Cubs fans, especially the old folks, suddenly felt their heart sink.
I was watching with my mom and dad as the score was suddenly tied, and the dream of winning a World Series went from being 4 simple outs away to perhaps only ever having been a fleeting dream. My dad slumped in his chair, quietly shaking his head in a silent mixture of shock & disappointment. His eyebrows fluttered up and down in thought, letting the crushing moment wash over him like a bucket of ice-cold water. My mom shouted obscenities, kicking a coat-closet door, and muttering a torrent of swear words and defeatist rambling that made it very evident which parent I inherited that particular trait from.
We were tied, and after an uneventful 9th inning it was headed to extras. The tarps came out, the game went into a rain delay, and with that I announced I was going to head home. Figuring the game was going to resume in 30-45 minutes, I thought I’d get home in time to see the end.
I was wrong.
In what was the shortest rain delay perhaps in Cleveland sports history, the game resumed inside of 20 minutes and I was stranded halfway between my parents house & my apartment residence in Savoy. I was committed to the drive now, and win or lose I was going to listen to the end of the World Series.
Schwarber got a base hit and Almora pinch-ran. The Indians walked Rizzo. Zobrist hits an RBI double to give the Cubs a 7-6 lead. Montero knocked in another crucial run to make it 8-6. The Cubs left the bases loaded in the end and suddenly it was down to Carl Edwards Jr to make history.
He recorded 2 outs quickly…too quickly. My hands were shaking on the steering wheel. My voice was cracking as I talked nervously to myself. Edwards walked Guyer. Davis drove in Guyer – AGAIN. Edwards’ night was over, and it was up to Montgomery to get that final out.
I was about 100 yards from home when the Bryant throw to Rizzo closed out the most stressful game 7 in baseball history, and screamed weirdly in my car. I’ve recorded it for posterity’s sake.
I called my mom and dad. I asked them how it felt. My mom said she simply couldn’t believe it. My dad paused a moment and said, “I never thought I’d live to see it.”
They made history.
Did Joe Maddon manage the worst game of his short Cubs tenure? Yes he did.
Did the Cubs bats struggle mindlessly in huge stretches throughout the playoffs? Yes they did.
Did Jason Heyward’s ability as a hitter completely implode in the 2nd half of the year? Yes it did.
Does it matter? Not today.
As the rain came down on the field between the 9th and 10th innings, the Cubs gathered in the weight room just inside the dugout in Progressive Field. Joe Maddon remained in the dugout poring over a lineup sheet & likely wondering how he’d have to explain the numerous poor decisions he made in costing the Cubs this moment.
Theo Epstein & Tom Ricketts loomed in the background while the players gathered together. Some reportedly had tears in their eyes, but it was Jason Heyward who spoke up, encouraging the team to remember who they are and how they got there.
Between innings, the rain washed away 108 years of ghosts, goats, and black cats. It washed away a century of fear, jokes, and disappointment.
A short while after the rain abated, as Anthony Rizzo crammed the Hall-of-Fame-bound baseball into his back pocket and ran into the dogpile near the pitcher’s mound to celebrate, millions of people thought of Harry Caray, Ron Santo, and Ernie Banks.
Others wondered how Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins, & Billy Williams would’ve celebrated the moment.
All of us to the last man, woman, and child thought of the countless mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends who have waited their whole lives to see this. We all thought of those who didn’t live to watch the moment.
The swirling nether between life and death was touched last night by a baseball team, and whenever the rain runs down our fingers, those fortunate enough to know this fleeting joy will remember what we felt on this warm November night.