Method to the Maddoness
First, man conquered the skies; then radio broadcasts became available; then televisions illuminated homes; then computers transmitted ideas; then man landed on the moon; then the internet was launched, and then the Cubs broke the longest World Series drought in history.
For the first time in 108 years, the Cubs reclaimed their title as world champions and lost their title as the “lovable losers.”
The Cubs overcame a 3-1 World Series deficit to the Cleveland Indians when they took game seven in an extra-inning thriller at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. “After they fell behind 3-1, a lot of people began to doubt them but anyone who had watched them throughout the year knows that they never quit,” senior Matt Willett said.
When the Cubs managed to take the series to game seven, tensions grew higher than ever. Emotions were volatile at Progressive and back at Wrigley as well. “It was an emotional rollercoaster. I experienced every emotion there is during game seven. [Game seven)]had everything,” senior Chris Lesiak said.
This game seven did have everything, and because it did, it ended up being one for the books. “Game sevens are always fun to watch but this game might be one of the best in the history of the game,” Willett said. After taking an early lead, the Cubs held the Indians to one run as Chicago inched higher on the scoreboard, making it 5-1 Cubs after their first five innings and three home runs at bat. By the end of the eighth, though, the teams were tied 6-6 thanks to a two-run Cleveland home run. “When the Indians tied it back up, it was literally like being smacked in the face. I was shaking uncontrollably,” senior Brian Bojarski said.
After an anxiety-deepening 10th inning rain delay, Cubs Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero drove in runs, pushing the Cubs lead to 8-6. Cleveland only got one more RBI during the bottom of the 10th, and just before midnight, the Cubs took the title.
The wait was over; the curse was lifted. And Chicago erupted. Particularly Wrigleyville. “It was insane—you couldn’t hear anything. It was champagne showers on the streets and in the bars,” Lesiak said. “It was the happiest moment. For all the true Cubs fans, it was the happiest moment in our lives. Tears were shed and people were screaming for joy, and it all just felt so unreal,” said Lesiak, who was in Wrigleyville for game seven.
For some fans, this was what they had been waiting for their entire lives, and they were willing to give up a lot to join the experience. “I saved up all my paychecks just for this; I spent $1200, and it was worth it, without a doubt, it was worth it,” Willett said of his post-season ticket purchases.
Although the Cubs show signs that they will be dominant for years to come, many argue that this year will be unique and stand apart from all others. “The Cubs will make the playoffs many more times but none of them will have the same meaning as this season because this is the team that broke the ‘curse.’ The players on this Cubs roster will live in immortality forever,” Willett said.
The Cubs capped off their victory with a championship parade on Nov. 4. The parade was the seventh largest gathering in human existence. “I look to my left, and it’s all just a sea of people wearing Cubs gear. I look to my right, and it’s a sea of Cubs stuff. Anywhere you looked that day, it was all about the Cubs,” Bojarski said.
Being at the parade was no easy task, though, as many woke up early to get a chance to be up close during the parade. “Getting up at 5 a.m. and being at the train at 5:30 a.m. in the morning was one hundred percent worth it. It’s so different seeing them in person when they’re ecstatic at the rally, rather than just seeing them on the TV. It was so fun because you could feel their joy and the city’s joy,” Lesiak said.
But it wasn’t because the Cubs performed some black magic to get rid of the goat curse, or because they exiled Bartman, or because they added extra security to ensure black cats would not streak the field; it all started with the hiring of Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in 2011 and Cubs manager Joe Maddon in 2014.
“Theo Epstein was the most genius move ever. He was the beginning of it all. He is the one who brought so many players here. He brought [Addison] Russell and [Aroldis] Chapman through trades who were huge in the postseason,” Bojarski said.
Upon arriving at Chicago, the first thing Epstein said was that he had a plan, but that fans would have to be patient. His five-year plan clearly worked. Epstein, who broke the Boston Red Sox title drought of 86 years, had a vision for the Cubs; he assembled his lineup around a trio of youthful, patient power hitters (Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant), smooth fielding and intelligent infielders (Javier Baez and Addison Russell) and established veterans who had postseason experience (Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, David Ross).
“Theo brought everyone together overall as a team; the players all complimented each other, and that’s part of the reason for their success,” Lesiak said.
When Maddon joined the team, Cubs fans were slowly starting to see the potential opportunity before them. The quirky and forward-thinking manager, who guided the Tampa Bay Rays to an American League pennant in 2008, excited hopeful fans. “Even though Epstein made many great moves, Maddon was the best of them. He kept the team calm during adversity, and that’s very important in baseball,” Willett said.
His past success was also a reason for the optimism surrounding his hiring. “I had a good feeling that he would turn this team around because of how well he did in Tampa. He has a unique baseball mind,” Lesiak said.
However, Maddon has been second-guessed for his decisions in this World Series. “I’m a huge fan of him but even I was questioning him when it was 7-2 and he still brought Chapman in to close the ninth during game 6. At the same time, though, I think all Cubs fans had the trust that he knew what he was doing,” Lesiak said.