It’s a weekday. It’s late at night and it seems as though the entire world should be asleep, but there’s a strange energy around the entirety of the baseball community. The city of Chicago is ethereal, buzzing with a feeling that still cannot be explained. The entire state is bathed in blue.
Here’s the problem with this image – you will never be able to recreate it. The feelings of that night; the stress, the dread, the happiness, the immeasurable amount of longing – one can try to explain them all, but they will never be able to capture the aura of that night.
On Nov. 3rd 2016, the longest drought in sports history was broken when the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the World Series. Even before Kris Bryant threw the final out to Anthony Rizzo to secure the title, the 2016 Chicago Cubs team was cemented in history.
With many players facing uncertainty in terms of where they will be next season (Jon Lester and Kris Bryant being among the faces) and many having already moved on to different teams (like Dexter Fowler and Jake Arrieta), it seems that now – four years later – would be the perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane.
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs dazzled the entire National League, winning 103 games and losing a mere 58. From the first game at home, it was evident that the energy coming from the dugout and the stands was stronger than it ever had been before; the crowd being so loud that the broadcast booths shook on multiple occasions. Then, Willson Contreras gets added into the mix; his first at bat in the major league had every fan at Wrigley Field on their feet – and rightfully so, as his first swing soared into the bleachers for a home run.
Merely a few games later, the Chicago Cubs played a game in Cincinnati. Kris Bryant hit three home runs and two doubles – which, according to an NBCSports article, “Remembering the Kris Bryant Game™ and other Signature games in Cubs History,” was the first time this feat has been accomplished in MLB history. However, Bryant was not the only one to find success in this game. Stars like Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta also had quite a bit of luck with their bats, as well.
Cut to the playoffs – the epitome of stress for Chicago Cubs fans. Facing the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series, the team was able to overpower their contenders three games to one, racking in four runs in the top of the ninth inning during Game 4 (the biggest ninth inning comeback in a postseason clinch game in MLB history). Things only got more stressful during the National League Championship Series against the LA Dodgers. One of the most memorable moments of the series? Miguel Montero’s grand slam in Game One followed by Dexter Fowler’s one-run homer.
When Cubs fans thought about the World Series before 2016, they always thought about “the curse” on their team and the way that they had a tendency to choke during important games. Which was why, when the Chicago Cubs were down three games to one against the Cleveland Indians, everyone assumed it was over. According to an article from The Undefeated, the team was the first since the 1985 Kansas City Royals to overcome a series deficit that large.
However, that deficit was not the only obstacle the team had to overcome. When they pushed their competitors to a Game Seven and opened the scoring right off the bat (pun completely intended), fans were sure to keep their composure and stay responsibly pessimistic – rightfully so, as Rajai Davis homered off of star closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning to tie the game at 6-6. Natural Cubs fan reaction? To give up. Nature’s reaction? A rain delay.
It just so happened that this rain delay gave Jason Heyward enough time to corner his teammates in the locker room and rouse them together with a speech. Ben Zobrist came out of the dugout, doubled down the left-field line in the 10th inning, and Miguel Montero singled to win the game. Cut to the snapshots of Anthony Rizzo on third base, his hands on his helmet as he mouthed the words, “Oh my god,” over and over again because they were one inning away from being World Series champions. The videos of Ben Zobrist jumping and screaming so hard that his helmet flew off as he stepped onto second base. The fans in the stands, sobbing well before Kris Bryant even threw the last out to Anthony Rizzo on first base.
The 2016 Chicago Cubs team and their fans bonded for life that season. Game Seven of the World Series, extra innings, a full count, and 108 years of desire has connected every single fan with every single player from that season for the rest of their lives, and they all know it.