Mistah Goat – he dead.
CLEVELAND – There are games that shine like silver and games that glisten with gold and there is another realm, the platinum level – Jesse Owens in Berlin, Bill Mazeroski’s shot, The Thrilla in Manila, Secretariat, the Miracle on Ice ... the densest moments in our sporting history.
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Manager Joe Maddon and his kids did it. They delivered to Chicago the Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908. They did it in Game 7.
It was heavy.
The heart of the Cubs’ batting order, the defining presence in this epic series, and a third-string catcher came through in the bottom of the 10th inning last night.
Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero drove in runs that will live on in an ethereal scorebook.
Montero’s RBI proved the game winner as the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians 8-7 at Progressive Field, where thousands of Cubs fans roared and thousands of Indians fans felt their heart break.
There were 38,108 on hand and their allegiances were virtually split.
“That was an incredible game to be a part of,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I talked before the game about it being an honor to be in a game like that, but to be associated with those players in theat clubhouse, it’s an honor. And I just told them that.”
The game was not a beautiful one, but it had everything – up to and including a 17-minute rain delay in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Francona and Maddon pushed every button they could find. Given the way Maddon dipped into his bullpen, used his bench and implemented a shift with the infield pulled in – in the third inning – there was a possibility that he might be the source of a pending crucifixion.
Francona will be questioned for some of his moves and non-moves, such as: Why did he send tiring starter Corey Kluber out for the fifth inning, which Javier Baez led off with a home run? There were some horrific blunders, like the passed ball that made Cubs catcher David Ross fall down and scramble, only to watch as two runs scored.
There were some more miscues in the Indians’ outfield, which was curious given how good a defensive team this has been prior to the World Series.
There was a failed safety squeeze on the Cubs’ side. There was a strike zone – somewhere, although nobody quite knew.
The Indians looked well on their way to blowing a 3-1 series lead, ignominiously.
Then, Rajai Davis hit a two-run home run off Cubs flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, who was used to the point of death.
Davis’ line drive just cleared the 17-foot wall down the leftfield line and tied the game 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth. Indians fans, who were feeling resigned to loss, suddenly roared back to life.
The Cubs looked poised to blow a four-run lead, ignominiously. Then Zobrist struck, and then Montero struck.
Could the Indians come back from this, too? Davis drove in a run with a double in the bottom of the 10th, but that was it.
Mike Montgomery, the fifth pitcher Maddon used on this night, got Michael Martinez on a groundout to third, and that was it.
Mistah Goat – he dead.
The moment was laden with history. Major League Baseball is the oldest of the professional sports leagues on the continent. Precursors to the World Series date to 1884, a few years after soccer leagues began organizing in England.
If baseball is no longer the biggest sport in the U.S., it remains our national pastime in part because it has so much past time.
The Cubs and Indians go back deep on the timeline. The National League was founded in 1876 and the Chicago franchise is a charter member. The American league was founded in 1901 and the Cleveland franchise is a charter member.
In their respective leagues, the Cubs and Indians played the part of Sisyphus. The Cubs’ previous World Series title came when William Howard Taft was president. The Indians last won the Series in 1948, when Harry S. Truman was president.
The pressure has built over time.
Last night, the Cubs and Indians were Atlases, the weight of their worlds on their backs. They had more than 175 years of drought between them.
They had the Billy Goat Curse, Steve Bartman, the Curse of Rocky Colavito and Jose Mesa among the blotches on their checkered pasts.
They had the hopes and memories of generations upon generations of fans who can be described in Faulkner’s terms, as “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Last night brought Game 7.
What a magical mix of word and numeral: Game 7, the ultimate act in a play which, for these teams, opened more than a century ago.
Game 7, a tragedy and drama and comedy packed into the last nine innings of the Fall Classic. When it was over, the Indians took possession of the longest drought between World Series titles, and there was nothing LeBron James could do about it.
“It’s going to hurt,” Francona said.
“It hurts because we care, but they need to walk with their head held high because they left nothing on the field.And that’s all we ever ask them to do. They tried until there was nothing left.”
As the rain came pouring down to drive Cubs fans out of the stands at 1:40 a.m. in Cleveland – about than an hour after the game ended – back in Chicago, an unprecedented celebration was raging in Wrigleyville.
Millions of lives were jolted with ecstatic disbelief. Millions of souls finally rested. This is next year.
— You can reach Michael Arace at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MichaelArace1.