INNING BY INNING: A Cubs Fan’s Tortured Account of Victory
After over a century of bad luck and heart break, the Chicago Cubs have finally won another World Series title. Eastbay’s Cleated Marketing Manager, Taylor Wroblewski, returns to break down what each moment was like for millions of Cubs fans throughout the world.
So the Cubs won the World Series. At least, I think that was a real event and not something my mind made up to protect my psyche.
Earlier this week, when I sat down to describe the desperate want that generations of Cubs fans have for a Series win, that was tough to describe. When the Eastbay Blog team asked me this morning to now describe the feeling of victory, I stared at this blank page for 20 minutes. As a lifelong Cubs sufferer, I can hardly figure out how this happened. So let’s walk through the play-by-play of a desperate fan together.
I’m in front of the TV. I’m having a Chicago dog for dinner, because I’m not taking any chances. My game-watch partner has purchased champagne “just in case”, which makes me uncomfortable that we’ve already jinxed the entire thing.
Dexter Fowler hits a leadoff homer. I come screaming through the kitchen and my pug is very alarmed.
I realize what my dad has told me all along: you’re never comfortable as a Cubs fan. The elation of the early lead is soon gone and I’m watching Cleveland players take bases. After a pickoff and a double play, I prepare for a long night. At this point, the group text message I share with my family has gone silent and it’s because we’re panicking.
We’re playing decent defense and we’ve got a lead, but it doesn’t stop me from losing my mind over the Javier Baez error. Errors. It seems like there were 100 if there was one. Kyle Hendricks, you are my hero.
KRIS BRYANT, WHAT A SLIDE! Willson Contreras defies my lack of faith in his batting average and brings in another. Oh my God, this is happening!
Baez goes yard and I revive the family group text with the only thing that makes any sense right now: “REDEMPTION!!!” My dad answers for the first time all evening. I know he’s a mess back in Illinois, but he finally allows himself to think the impossible. The text reads “Is this really happening?!” We’re about 90 minutes into this game and I believe, for maybe the first time in my life, that I am finally going to see my team win the Series.
Corey Kluber walks off the mound and I throw him deuces. I could not be happier to see that guy leave. What a gamer. But then Joe Maddon pulls Hendricks out too. After a bad ump call, Hendricks hands the ball over to Maddon and Lester is dropped right into the dirty inning that Maddon promised me wouldn’t happen.
Hendricks hasn’t shown any obvious signs of weakness yet. My watch partner immediately hates the decision and calls it over-managing, but I’m feeling so great right now as Jon Lester comes in. “It’s fine. He got us here. He obviously knows something we don’t know.” After 28 years, I’ve developed instant trust in the last 28 minutes. I should know better…
A David Ross homer is extra sweet. What a classy guy, in the last game of his career. When you hear him talk, you really get the feel that he understands what this means to Chicago. And one more to give us a three-run cushion is lulling me into a very false sense of security. Nine more outs.
Lester handles everything, despite the base-running threat that the media can’t stop discussing. He got thrown into what could have been catastrophic and frankly, was a stud for the rest of his time on the mound. I want to hear no more about his faults because we only need six more outs and we’ve got this!
Aroldis Chapman replaces Lester. Again, we’re not sure about the call but I’m confident in Chapman, who’s been great this fall. But it doesn’t take long to see that he doesn’t have it tonight. He’s exhausted after three straight games, and who could blame him?
Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez is on second. Brandon Guyer brings him home. And then Rajai Davis hits that two-run homer. It seems to barely make it over the boundary but the game is tied. Time has stopped, the room I’m in is silent, I can’t stop staring at the 6-6 box score, and I realize I’m in tears. Because when you have lived and died with this Cubs team, there is, in fact, crying in baseball.
I rethink everything, and all of a sudden, the Hendricks/Lester decision might go down as the worst call in the history of baseball. The momentum now seems insurmountable and I have the same feeling I now have had so many times in my life. The Cubs just can’t do this. My watch partner is now furious with the previous removal of an ERA master. My mom just reminds me, “They wouldn’t be the Cubs if they didn’t break your heart.”
I have no idea what happens in this inning. I think there were some Chicago base runners, that we might have been close. I’m just staring into space at the obvious demise of this postseason. And then it’s the 10th.
I check in on the group message, as my dad has once again gone silent. My mom tells me he’s pacing.
TOP OF THE 10TH INNING
The rain delay is the most torturous seventeen minutes of my life, while I try to figure out what went wrong. How could Maddon have made those seemingly-awful pitching changes? How could Baez have barehanded that ball so poorly? Why can’t Jason Heyward ever make decent contact? And why can’t my dad and my grandpa just have this, one time? Then some kind of super-fast, slow-motion things start to happen.
Schwarber singles. Do not get your hopes up.
His pinch runner, Albert Almora Jr. takes second on a pop-up.
We’ve scored. WE’VE SCORED IN THE 10TH.
I can’t see straight. I’m going to throw up.
Montero singles and Rizzo scores! ANOTHER ONE!
Heyward strikes out.
Two outs for Baez.
He’s been cold. I can’t watch as he flies out.
I can’t handle this because, as a Cubs fan, I’m absolutely certain that two runs is not enough.
BOTTOM OF THE 10TH INNING
Napoli goes down swinging against our Carl Edwards, Jr. who is just 25 years old and looks like he could actually be crushed under the pressure of this moment. COME ON CARL! Ramirez grounds out. We are one out away when Brandon Guyer walks and the announcers insist on telling me that the go-ahead run is at the plate. And it’s Rajai Davis, again.
I know it’s going to happen, and it does. He puts the bat on the ball, brings one in. I have a death grip on the W towel I picked up with my Dad during Game 1 of the NLDS. I’m channeling all of the Wrigley Field mojo. Please Chicago. Please.
Mike Montgomery comes in to pitch and I have no idea if he can handle the hugeness of this moment. Most people haven’t even really heard of him. But he walks up and throws an 0-1 strike. Then on the second pitch, Michael Martinez swings and I hear the crack. My heart crumbles as I realize with that hit, Cleveland is going to win. But then I’m seeing Kris Bryant moving around on my television screen. I’m not sure I completely understand why until I look up and I force my brain to accept that Rizzo just caught Bryant’s throw to first. And they’re jumping into each other’s arms because Chicago has won the World Series. My Cubs. My dad’s Cubs. My grandparent’s Cubs. They won the World Series.
We popped the not-so-jinxed champagne with the team. My dad actually did open his limited edition bottle of rum. And my grandpa saw the Cubs win, from his favorite chair, offering me only an “Amazing.” text message. It’s not often he’s speechless about sports, but this is no ordinary night. We’re now into the early hours of November 3 and I’m in absolute bliss.
I’m exhausted. Sure, I got no sleep. But I also exerted 28 years of energy on that game. I’ve been a varsity athlete and a sports fan all my life, but THAT was the win I really wanted. It’s not real yet, though.
Because after all those years, goats, cats, and Aisle 4, Row 8, Seat 113… the Cubs actually won the Series.
So I’m back at Eastbay this morning, still handling the marketing campaigns for baseball. The W towel hangs behind my desk, but it feels weird that the office here is still normal. Weird that the Earth is apparently still spinning, just like always. But my sports-loving soul knows that because of last night, it’s no longer the same.
Here’s to us, Cubs fans. We hung in there like champs, even when we weren’t. #FlytheW