Many times, I’ve written articles here that have included the final play of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the little ground ball to Kris Bryant that he fired to Anthony Rizzo to end the game, and the series, in an 8-7 win that gave the Cubs their first World Series title in 108 years.
On this day, the third anniversary of that victory, I want to remind you about and show you some of the other important plays of that game, some of which we don’t talk about often. The game is arguably the greatest in major-league history — there’s a popular T-shirt that calls it exactly that — and given what happened in the game, the back-and-forth, and long World Series droughts for both teams, I think in the end it might even win that argument. Mike Bojanowski did a “Top 10 Game 7” ranking here a few days after the 2016 World Series ended and only Bill Mazeroski’s walkoff homer in 1960, in his estimation, outranked it. I’ll simply add: “Not by much.”
Four pitches into Game 7 in Cleveland, Dexter Fowler gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].
As noted by Joe Buck on the clip, it was the first-ever leadoff home run in a World Series Game 7. It’s still the only one.
The Indians tied the game off Kyle Hendricks in the bottom of the third, but the Cubs took a 3-1 lead in the fourth on a sac fly by Addison Russell and a double by Willson Contreras.
Javier Baez made it 4-1 in the fifth. This clip showing Javy’s homer begins with a couple of errors he had made previously [VIDEO].
A single and a walk brought up Rizzo, and his RBI single made it 5-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth. Hendricks was cruising, but then he walked Carlos Santana with two out in the bottom of the fifth. Or did he?
Pitch 5, which was called ball 3, should have been strike three. But it wasn’t, and Hendricks threw pitch 6 out of the zone for a walk. That brought Joe Maddon out to replace Hendricks with... Jon Lester, who Maddon had said pre-game would not come in unless he had a clean inning.
David Ross entered the game along with Lester. Lester immediately allowed an infield single to Jason Kipnis, who took second on an error by Ross with Santana taking third.
Lester’s pitch bounced in, hit Ross in the mask, and both runners scored to make it 5-3.
A two-run wild pitch? Why, like certain other things, that hadn’t happened in over a century!
There have been two other 2-run wild pitches in World Series history.— Doug Kern (@dakern74) November 3, 2016
NYG Rube Marquard, 1911 G6
PHA Jack Coombs, 1910 G3
This was getting cosmic. So was Ross’ revenge for his fielding gaffe — a home run in the sixth off Andrew Miller [VIDEO].
Ross did have one more plate appearance before leaving the game, in the top of the ninth. He walked. But his final official at-bat in a big-league game was a World Series Game 7 home run. Really, what more could any player ask for? (Besides a trophy, of course.)
6-3 it went, then, to the bottom of the eighth. Lester was cruising, and he recorded the first two outs in the inning quickly. Then Jose Ramirez dribbled an infield hit, and Joe once again decided to bring in a pitcher who should have had a clean inning ... to not have a clean inning. Aroldis Chapman entered and served up a double to former Cubs minor leaguer Brandon Guyer on a fastball that hit only 98 miles per hour, instead of his usual 101 or 102. You could tell he didn’t have much that night.
I know what many of you were thinking right then, and most of it is unprintable. Me? You know something, I had a feeling of serenity through that entire game. Even though the Cubs had blown a three-run lead in the eighth inning, I just had a feeling that somehow they would find a way to win.
The Cubs had the lead run on third base with one out in the ninth. Jason Heyward had walked, stolen second and advanced to third on a throwing error, but Javy tried to bunt and failed and Fowler grounded to short.
We all knew by now that Chapman was throwing the ninth inning on fumes. But he was just about the only one left in Joe’s “circle of trust.” That inning was one of the most remarkable I think I have ever seen. Chapman had nothing, and Indians batters knew he had nothing.
He ran a 3-2 count on Santana and got him to fly to left.
On a 1-1 pitch to Kipnis, Chapman hung a slider... and Kipnis just, and I mean just missed it, hitting a foul ball into the seats down the right-field line. Eventually he, too, ran the count full before Chapman struck him out on a fastball — the only fastball he threw to Kipnis.
Chapman had one bit of gas left, and threw a 98 mile per hour fastball to Francisco Lindor, who flied to right.
That’s about the guttiest pitching performance I can remember, a guy who had nothing near his best stuff getting three outs in a situation where he absolutely, positively had to.
I actually remember thinking that the Cubs might be able to use that rain delay to sort of “reset” things, as they were now in a tie game, take a deep breath, so to speak. I had no idea at the time, none of us did, of what Heyward was about to say in his now-famous clubhouse speech. What he said to his teammates was simple and eloquent:
“I know some things may have happened tonight you don’t like …” Jason Heyward told his teammates. “We’re the best team in baseball, and we’re the best team in baseball for a reason. Now we’re going to show it. We play like the score is nothing-nothing. We have to stay positive and fight for your brothers. Stick together and we’re going to win this game.”
And then they went out and did just that. (Aside: For those of you who don’t like umpire Joe West, he was the crew chief that night. It didn’t rain that hard or for that long. But West ordered the field covered, as it was raining just hard enough that he thought play would be affected.)
You know the details, but let’s review them anyway: Kyle Schwarber, who shouldn’t have even been there, continued his miracle Series with a leadoff single. Albert Almora Jr. ran for him and tagged up and went to second — a very important move — on a deep fly to center by Bryant. Rizzo was given an intentional walk.
Not one of us will ever forget that scene. Zobrist’s reaction, leaping up and down, shows he understood the magnitude of what he’d just done. Rizzo, on third base with his hands on his head in disbelief. I’m no good at lipreading, but toward the end of that clip he clearly says, “Oh my god!”
Russell was given an intentional walk, loading the bases. Incidentally, that’s significant because that was the last-ever intentional walk given by throwing four pitches outside the strike zone. The automatic IBB, or “Manfred” as I like to call it, was instituted for the 2017 season.
Montero had just two hits in the 2016 postseason: His grand slam in Game 1 of the NLCS that deafened Wrigley Field, and this RBI single that plated Rizzo with what turned out to be a very important insurance run.
Bottom of the 10th. Carl Edwards Jr. entered and struck out Mike Napoli. Then he got Ramirez to ground out. Those two outs took just 10 pitches.
One out to go.
After 108 years, though, the baseball gods were not going to let this one be easy. CJ walked Guyer, who took second on defensive indifference. Rajai Davis — who’d hit the game-tying homer off Chapman — sent a single to center, scoring Guyer. That was it for CJ. Mike Montgomery was summoned to pitch to Michael Martinez [VIDEO].
That clip has Pat Hughes’ radio call as well as the call on ESPN Radio by Dan Shulman, a bit of the Fox-TV call by Joe Buck as well as the call by Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton. Here is a shorter clip with Buck’s complete TV call [VIDEO].
What Buck said was straightforward, accurate and perfect for the moment:
Here’s the 0-1... This is gonna be a tough play... Bryant... The Cubs win the World Series! Bryant makes the play! It’s over! And the Cubs have finally won it all!
Say what you will about Joe Buck, that was a very fine call — and then he stopped talking and let the pictures tell the story.
It’s all any of us had ever dreamed of, hoped for, wanted for all our Cub fan lives. Of course I’d like to see that scene again some late October or early November, but if not? I saw it once. My dream came true. Yours too, I’ll bet.
This photo, I believe, sums up all of our emotions: