108 years. Down 3-1 in the World Series. Game 7. Extra innings. A rain delay.
Then Kyle Schwarber, who returned to play in the World Series after being out since April 7 with a left knee injury, led off the 10th inning with a single to right field. Albert Almora pinch-ran for Schwarber, then advanced to second when Kris Bryant flied out to center. Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked. Ben Zobrist doubled to left and Almora scored the winning run in what will be considered one of the greatest games in World Series history.
The Chicago Cubs beat Cleveland 8-7, winning their first World Series since 1908 and ending the longest, most famous — and often the most annoying — championship drought in sports.
Finally. After enduring WGN, Harry Carey, bleacher bums, lovable losers and everyone’s infantile fascination with curses — rivaled only by the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox — fans of every other baseball team exhaled.
But fans are not the story — except for one. Teams and players are.
Another thing: There is no such thing as Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. There is no such thing as angels or demons. Or the boogeyman. Or aliens. Or ghosts or witches or curses.
To make up such stories is to live in the Bronze Age. It is a way to explain the unexplainable. Or worse — to excuse the explainable.
There is a simple explanation for the Cubs’ futility. They were so bad for so long, because bad management fielded bad teams comprised of bad players.
From 1945 — when the Cubs made their last World Series appearance — to 1966, they had just two winning seasons. Then they had six straight winning seasons with Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo and Billy Williams. Then 11 more seasons of stink until Ryne Sandberg in 1984 and again in 1989. Then six more losing seasons over eight years. And while there were highlights — Sammy Sosa and Kerry Wood — the Cubs were losers. But lovable losers.
There is also an explanation for the Cubs’ first championship since 1908. They hired Theo Epstein as their President of Baseball Operations on Oct. 21, 2011.
Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer built the team’s minor league system, drafting Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez. They signed free agents Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler. They traded for Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arietta, Kyle Hendricks, Addison Russell and Aroldis Chapman, last night’s winning pitcher who was suspended 30 games at the beginning of the season for an alleged domestic violence incident.
Epstein, whose place in baseball history was already cemented after leading the Red Sox to their first championship in almost a century in 2004 and again in 2007, is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. First the Red Sox. Now the Cubs.
Curses be damned.