UPDATE: Cubs win World Series

The Associated Press comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on November 3, 2016

Chicago beat Cleveland 8-7 in rain-delayed 10 innings for first World Series since 1908

CLEVELAND - Kris Bryant started to smile even before he fielded the ball. And with his throw to first for the final out, the agonizing wait 'til next year was over at last.

No more Billy Goat, no more Bartman, no more black-cat curses.

For a legion of fans who waited a lifetime, fly that W: Your Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

Ending more than a century of flops, futility and frustration, the Cubs won their first title since 1908, outlasting the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings of a Game 7 thriller early Thursday.

They even had to endure an extra-inning rain delay to end the drought.

MORE: To read a guest column by Paul Newberry titled “With help from above, Cubs finally win a title,” please click on box 3 at the bottom of this story

“It happened. It happened. Chicago, it happened,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after gloving the ball for the final out. “We did it. We're world champions. I tell ya, we're world champions. I can't believe it.”

Rizzo put that final ball in his pocket as the Cubs piled up in the middle of the diamond, David Ross got carried off the field by his teammates and Bill Murray partied in the clubhouse.

RELATED: CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS.

The whole time, blue-clad fans who travelled from Wrigley Field filled nearly the entire lower deck behind the Chicago dugout at Progressive Field, singing “Go, Cubs, Go!” in rain. They held up those white flags with the large blue “W” on a night many of their forebears had waited for in vain.

Lovable losers for generations, the Cubs nearly let this one get away, too. All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman blew a 6-3 lead with two outs in the eighth when Rajai Davis hit a tying, two-run homer.

But the Cubs, after tormenting their fans one more time, came right back after a 17-minute rain delay before the top of the 10th.

RELATED: NEXT YEAR IS HERE FOR CUBS FANS.

Series MVP Ben Zobrist hit an RBI double and Miguel Montero singled home a run to make it 8-6. Davis delivered an RBI single with two outs in the bottom half, but Mike Montgomery closed it out at 12:47 a.m., and the celebration was on.

“I think about so many millions of people giving so much love and support to this team for so many years,” said owner Tom Ricketts, who family bought the team in 2009.

Manager Joe Maddon's team halted the longest stretch without a title in baseball, becoming the first club to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

“This is an epic game. It's epic. I can't believe we were able to do it - 108 years in the making,” Zobrist said. “We did it.”

“They never quit, either,” Zobrist said. “They kept coming at us.”

Cleveland was trying to win its first crown since 1948, but manager Terry Francona's club lost the last two games at home.

World Series favourites since spring training, Chicago led the majors with 103 wins this season.

The Cubs then ended more than a century of misery for their loyal fans - barely. Bryant, one of Chicago's young stars, began to celebrate even before fielding a grounder by Michael Martinez to third base and throwing it across to Rizzo for the last out.

“It's the best rain delay of all-time,” Rizzo said.

Zobrist got a Series-high 10 hits, a year after he helped the Royals win the championship. Zobrist was among the players brought to the Cubs by Theo Epstein, the baseball guru who added another crown to his collection. He also assembled the Red Sox team that broke Boston's 86-year drought by winning in 2004.

From Curse of the Bambino to the Billy Goat Curse, he ended another jinx.

“We don't need a plane to fly home,” Epstein said. “It's fitting it's got to be done with one of the best games of all time.”

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward had called a meeting during the rain delay, talking to his teammates in the weight room.

“I just had to remind everybody who we are, what we've overcome to get here,” he said.

While Cubs fans hugged with delight, there was only despair for the Indians, who now have gone longer than anyone without a crown. In the Indians' previous World Series appearance, they were a double-play grounder from winning the 1997 title before losing Game 7 in 11 innings to the Marlins.

“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,” Francona said.

Earlier this year, LeBron James and the Cavaliers ended Cleveland's 52-year championship drought by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat Golden State for the NBA title. James and teammates were in a suite, rooting hard, as the Indians absorbed the same blow as the Warriors.

After defeating San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs, Chicago became the first team to earn a title by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Dexter Fowler homered on Corey Kluber's fourth pitch of the game, 23-year-old Javier Baez and the 39-year-old Ross - set to now retire - also went deep for the Cubs, who led 5-1 in the fifth inning and 6-3 in the eighth.

Chapman wound up with the win, and Montgomery got one out for his first save in the majors.

Bryan Shaw, who gave up a leadoff single to Kyle Schwarber in the 10th, took the loss in just the fourth Game 7 that went to extra innings.

RELATED: CLICK HERE FOR A STORY ON THE INDIANS SEASON.

Albert Almora Jr., pinch-running for Schwarber, alertly took second on Bryant's long fly to centre. Rizzo was intentionally walked, and Zobrist slapped an opposite-field double past a diving third baseman Jose Ramirez. Montero singled to make it a two-run lead.

Then in the bottom half, Carl Edwards Jr. struck out Mike Napoli, Ramirez grounded out, Brandon Guyer walked and Davis hit an RBI single. Montgomery took over, and helped set off a wild celebration on Chicago's North Side.

Even a dedicated White Sox fan could appreciate the victory.

“It happened: ↕Cubs win World Series. That's change even this South Sider can believe in. Want to come to the White House before I leave?” President Barack Obama tweeted.

Twenty-one other teams had won the World Series since Cubs last were champions. They reached the top again on the 39,466th day after Orval Overall's three-hit shutout won the 1908 finale at Detroit in a game that took 1 hour, 24 minutes - this latest Game 7 lasted 4:24, not including the rain delay.

Back then, Theodore Roosevelt was president, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states, and the first Ford Model T car was two weeks old.

The Cubs were last champions when Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance won consecutive titles in 1907-08, until now the only ones in team history. The Cubbies had not even reached the Series since 1945.

This one was for Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo and Billy Williams, who never reached the post-season.

For Gabby Hartnett, Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux, whose October runs fell short.

For Lee Elia and the “nickle-dime people” who spent so many wind-swept afternoons in the Friendly Confines watching loss after loss.

For Bill Veeck, who planted ivy vines against Wrigley Field's outfield walls.

For William Sianis, the Billy Goat Tavern owner said to have proclaimed when he was asked to leave Wrigley with his pet during the '45 Series: “Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more.”

For Steve Bartman, whose life was upended when he tried to catch a foul ball as the Cubs came apart in the 2003 playoffs.

For Harry Caray, who promised viewers after the 1991 finale that “sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series.”

Maddon, hired before the 2015 season, won his first Series title after establishing a loose clubhouse that featured at times Warren the pink flamingo, Simon the magician and the motto: “Try not to suck.”

“It was just an epic battle,” Zobrist said. “Just blow for blow, everybody playing their heart out. The Indians never gave up, either, and I can't believe we're finally standing, after 108 years, finally able to hoist the trophy.”

PEN PALS

This was the first World Series in which no starting pitcher got at least one out in the seventh inning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only other in which no starter finished at least seven innings was in 2002, when San Francisco's Russ Ortiz threw 6 1/3 innings in Game 6.

UP NEXT

Cleveland's spring training opener is scheduled for Feb. 26 against the Cubs in Mesa, Arizona.

World Series 1-3 Comebacks

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Teams that have rebounded from an 1-3 deficit to win the World Series:

2016-Chicago (NL) 4, Cleveland (AL) 3

1985-Kansas City (AL) 4, St. Louis (NL) 3

1979-Pittsburgh (NL) 4, Baltimore (AL) 3

1968-Detroit (AL) 4, St. Louis (NL) 3

1958-New York (AL) 4, Milwaukee (NL) 3

1925-Pittsburgh (NL) 4, Washington (AL) 3

1903-Boston (AL) 5, Pittsburgh (NL) 3

COLUMN - PAUL NEWBERRY: With help from above, Cubs finally win a title

The fleeting storm along Lake Erie couldn't have come at a better time for the Chicago Cubs.

It was as if the gods finally cut this snake-bit franchise a long overdue break.

One hundred and eight years overdue.

Shell-shocked after blowing a three-run lead with four outs to go in Game 7 of the World Series, the Cubs looked more like deer staring into headlights as they headed to extra innings against the Cleveland Indians. A series of head-scratching moves by manager Joe Maddon, who seemed intent on making sure the drought lasted into its 109th year, cost Chicago a chance to wrap this thing up in regulation.

Then it started raining.

The tarp was hurriedly rolled out to cover the infield and the Cubs used the unexpected break to regain their composure with a hastily called team meeting. The delay lasted only 17 minutes, but that was long enough to steady their shaky nerves.

Chicago went out in the 10th inning and turned a 6-6 tie into an 8-6 lead. Ben Zobrist delivered a run-scoring double down the left-field line, and third-string catcher Miguel Montero followed with an RBI single to give the Cubs some much-needed breathing room.

Then, shortly before 1 a.m. on the East Coast, the Cubs stamped out the Curse of the Billy Goat and Steve Bartman and Black Cats and Fly Balls Lost In the Sun - everything that conspired to keep them from celebrating a World Series title since their last one in 1908. With the gutsy Indians having scored one final run, cutting the deficit to 8-7 and putting the potential tying run on base, third baseman Kris Bryant swept across the infield, scooped up a soft ground ball and whipped a throw over to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to end it once and for all.

Next year finally arrived.

Now, they can hoist a championship banner over Wrigley Field, not just a “W” flag.

“It happened! It happened! Chicago, it happened!” Rizzo kept saying over and over again, as if he wasn't quite sure about it himself. “We did it! We're world champions! I tell ya, we're world champions! I can't believe it!”

As one should've expected for a franchise that has endured so much misery, the Series-clinching win was downright gut-wrenching. Really, that was the way it had to be. The Cubs raced out to a 5-1 lead and were still up 6-3 with two outs in the eighth. But Maddon had already set in motion an excruciating finish for long-suffering Cubs fans by yanking starter Kyle Hendricks far too soon, and then calling upon overworked closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth to close things out.

Chapman, predictably, surrendered a run-scoring hit to make it 6-4, followed by a two-run homer to Rajai Davis that sent Cleveland's fans - who know a thing or two about suffering - into a delirious dance.

With the Cavaliers' drought-breaking NBA title already in the bank just a few months ago, it looked as though the Indians would improbably bring home their first World Series title since 1948 to add to the city's trophy case. In the ninth, when Maddon inexplicably called for a safety suicide bunt with two strikes, only to have Javier Baez foul it off for a strikeout with the potential go-ahead run at third base, it seemed inevitable that Chicago would find a way to blow it.

Then the skies opened up.

And the Cubs settled down.

Jason Heyward, a big free-agent signee who's been a huge disappointment in an otherwise thrilling season, called his teammates together in the weight room.

“I just had to remind everybody who we are and what it took to get here,” Heyward said.

His words settled everyone down.

“It was the best thing for us,” Bryant said.

Rizzo concurred.

“We rallied together,” he said. “We knew we could do this. We pulled together and the boys believed.”

Team architect Theo Epstein, who oversaw a drought-breaking title for the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and now has done the same with the Cubs, happened to walk past the weight room during the delay.

“They were all gathered around saying, 'This is only going to make it sweeter boys. Let's grind. Let's grind. Here we go,”' Epstein related. “They went out and had an unbelievable inning.”

Cleveland manager Terry Francona downplayed the stoppage, saying he didn't think it decided the game.

“I don't think it really did,” he said. “Bryan Shaw was the guy we had out there. Of all the guys we have, he probably bounces back as good as anybody.”

But Shaw, who got the final two outs in the ninth, looked like a totally different pitcher when he went back to the mound in the 10th. He surrendered three hits and two intentional walks. The only out he got was a towering fly ball by Bryant that was caught just short of the wall in centre field.

For the Indians, the drought goes on.

For the Cubs, there's no more talk about 1908.

They are World Series champions.

All it took was a stirring comeback from a 3-1 deficit, one of the greatest Game 7s in baseball history - and a little help from above.

Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry@ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .