Mutual respect: Tribe, Cubs admire each other

Mutual respect: Tribe, Cubs admire each other

CLEVELAND -- Theo Epstein emerged from the pack, drenched in champagne and beer from the celebration of the Cubs' first World Series championship since 1908.

"Where's Tito?" said Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations. "What's my best chance of seeing Tito?"

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It was still moments after the ending of a thrilling seven-game series, capped off by one of the most exciting Game 7s in MLB history with the Cubs narrowly edging the Indians with an 8-7 victory in 10 innings on Wednesday night.

Epstein was looking for Indians manager Terry Francona, his former manager when he was an executive with the Red Sox. Eventually, Epstein was whisked away to the home clubhouse for a chance to meet with Francona, whom he would later call a great postseason manager.

"I congratulated him," Epstein said. "That's a great organization. This series, season could have gone either way. They're to be congratulated."

Epstein celebrates win

It could have gone either way, and there only seemed to be a winner because there had to be.

"I think it's appropriate to congratulate the Chicago Cubs, Joe Maddon and Theo and Jed, and Mr. Ricketts and their entire organization," Francona said, refering to general manager Jed Hoyer and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts . "That was quite a series, and you knew somebody was going to go home happy, but they deserve a lot of congratulations."

Maddon tips cap to the Indians

Both franchises carried long championship droughts -- 68 years for Cleveland and 108 for Chicago -- into this World Series. Both teams scored the same number of runs in the series (27). They played into a Game 7, then needed extra innings to decide the winner of that game.

"I feel like I played a whole season right there," Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler said.

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Each team has one of the best and most respected managers in the baseball and some of the most exciting young players in baseball. The players extended themselves beyond their usual limits on the field. Aces pitched on short rest and in relief. Closers regularly appeared before of the ninth inning and stretched themselves to secure as many as eight outs in one game.

"I think on the surface, looking at it from my perspective, really evenly matched teams that play the game the same way," Maddon said. "A lot of passion about it, a lot of respect for the game itself. And I know Tito, I know he's always been that guy. So the entire organization, not just him, but obviously the ownership and front office and players. I know some of the players on that team.

"It could not have been a more entertaining, difficult series to win."

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And yet the Cubs are the World Series champions because they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win the final three games. Chicago was the favorite from the beginning of this 2016 season, but Cleveland embraced its underdog mentality throughout the entire postseason and hung with the Cubs until the final inning.

"We were one of the last two teams standing and that team right there won 103 games in the regular season," Indians reliever Cody Allen said. "That's a really … good team. You think about every publisher, outlet or whatever, picked them to win it from the get-go. They were supposed to win it. They were not supposed to even lose three games to us. And we took them to the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series and we lost by a run."

Jamal Collier has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2014. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.