Cubs-Tribe might have just played greatest game ever
Chicago's 10-inning win over valiant Cleveland squad to be remembered
By Richard Justice
CLEVELAND -- We may have just watched the greatest World Series game ever played, and that may be the thing the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians can agree on weeks from now when there's time to reflect on things.
The Cubs and Indians can take enormous pride in this 4-hour, 28-minute thriller that delivered on virtually every level. When it ended, the Cubs had won, 8-7, in 10 innings to capture their first World Series title in 108 years.
Considering the stakes -- a winner-take-all baseball game, for heaven's sake, featuring two iconic franchises -- this was set up to be an instant classic. As it unfolded -- with the Cubs taking control and the Indians clawing back -- as both teams seemed determined to write their own ending and as the whole thing became a war of wills, it was exactly that.
"Look, I think we just saw the end of one of the great World Series of all-time," Commissioner Rob Manfred said.
The Cubs will be the enduring storyline because this World Series, as wonderful as it was, ended a seven-year quest by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts to construct a model franchise. In hiring two brilliant men -- Theo Epstein, the baseball architect, and Joe Maddon, the manager -- Ricketts has so transformed the Cubs that they'll never be looked at the same way by anyone inside or outside baseball.
No matter how we elevate the Cubs -- and they deserve every last ounce of praise -- we simply cannot allow ourselves to overlook these Indians. This has been a magical baseball summer in Northeast Ohio, and not just because the Indians got to the World Series for the first time in 19 years.
This club showed so much heart and determination during a season that could have been crushed by injuries. Instead, those injuries brought out the best in the franchise, thanks to one of baseball's best managers, Terry Francona, who pushed all the right buttons in a clubhouse with more talent and character than anyone could have known.
"That was an incredible game to be a part of," Francona said. "It is an honor. And I just told [my players] that. It's going to hurt. 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 the things we ever ask them to do. They tried until there was nothing left."
The 112th World Series was a heavyweight fight from the beginning. The Indians won three of the first four games. The Cubs won the next two to force a Game 7 that began Wednesday night, was interrupted by a 17-minute rain delay, and finished in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
How good was it? It had no singular defining moment. Instead, there were dozens of them, which only made it better, more compelling.
"It's got to be a top three game of all time," Epstein said. "Everyone's prone to hyperbole at moments like this, but I think it really was. It felt like it. I died like six times. It was pretty remarkable.''
There would be Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler hitting Indians starter Corey Kluber's fourth pitch of the game over the fence for a 1-0 lead. There would be the Cubs breaking out to leads of 5-1 and 6-3.
And there would be the Indians fighting back, with Rajai Davis tagging Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman for a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. As Cubs fans went silent, Indians fans rocked the ballpark to its bones.
The Cubs stranded runners in scoring position in three of the first five innings. They were robbed of another on a breathtaking defensive play by Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor in the ninth.
There were four errors. There were 36 players used, including eight relievers. The Cubs finally took the lead for good in the top of the 10th, when World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner Ben Zobrist drove in a run with a double down the left-field line. Miguel Montero followed with another run-scoring hit.
"This one about made me pass out," Zobrist said. "It was just an epic battle. We've been listening to Rocky's soundtrack the last three games. We've got our own Italian Stallion, Anthony Rizzo, that's been putting that on. It was like a heavyweight fight, man. Just blow for blow, everybody playing their heart out."
The Indians punched back in the bottom of the 10th to score a run and leave a runner on base when Maddon's fourth reliever, Mike Montgomery, got Michael Martinez to ground out to third to end it.
"It could not have been a more entertaining, difficult series to win," Maddon said. "I believe this is good for our game moving forward, that we're attempting to seize young fans and not just to play the game, but to be fans of the game. You cannot be more entertained than you were over these last seven games."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.