CHICAGO — So, 71 years later, this is what it looks like when the Chicago Cubs storm into the World Series…

Anthony Rizzo hitting everything Clayton Kershaw threw him on the screws: a double, a long ball, a fly ball in the first inning that Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Andrew Toles plumb dropped. Was that a goat impeding his vision?

Kris Bryant hungrily taking a seven-decades-sized bite into Kershaw’s 95 mph cheese and looping an RBI single to right field just two batters into the bottom of the first, immediately flipping the switch from anxiety to anticipation.


Javier Baez alertly doing it again, letting a line drive skip in order to short-hop it, starting another double play and stamping another exclamation mark onto his postseason wizardry.

Kyle Hendricks, a 26-year-old right-hander acquired from Texas for Ryan Dempster four years ago, handling the Dodgers with the touch of a jeweler and the heart of a lion, mowing through 17 in a row after a rare error on Baez in the second.

Wrigley Field, stuffed with 42,386 for the game of their lives, those fans leaning into this 5-0 World Series-punching ticket like few other games in the park’s 102-year history, inhaling nervously, exhaling in relief, screaming, singing, dancing, pleading and, in many cases, shedding tears of joy.

No fear. No goats. No errors.

The Chicago Cubs, lovable winners.

“Perception,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said when this historical event was finished, standing near the pitcher’s mound, thousands of fans still in their seats, hundreds of people on the field, addressing how life had permanently changed by evening’s end. “That’s the big part of it.

“The thing I was always hearing was that the Cubs are lovable losers. I never quite understood that. That’s not the way I was raised.”

It’s not the way he’s raising these young Cubbies, clearly.

“Listening to talk about superstition and all that nonsense, that dragged a lot of people down,” Maddon continued. “I think the perception changes.”

These Cubs are so cool, display so much grace under pressure, that Steve Bartman could have tossed out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 6 and it wouldn’t have fazed them one iota.

So this, too, is what it looks like when the Cubs charge into the World Series: Hall of Famer Billy Williams standing on the field amid the celebration, nearly swallowed by the roaring wall of sound in the minutes after the final out and practically being overcome with emotion.

“I think of all the fellas I played with like Ernie [Banks] and Ron Santo,” Williams said of his two departed teammates. “They’re not here to see it, but I’m thinking about them. Like Jackie Gleason said, ‘How sweet it is!’”

Williams continued: “They’re up there celebrating, too. This is similar to what I thought it would be. I look out at the fans, the full house, the people on the street. You might have 100,000 or 200,000 people out there.

“Everywhere I go in Chicago, people come up to me and say, ‘This is the year! This is the year!’…

“This is really, really great. I can’t hardly explain the feeling I have.”

On Tuesday in Cleveland, the Cubs will play in their first World Series game since Oct. 10, 1945. A Cubs lineup featuring Stan Hack and Peanuts Lowrey was beaten by Hal Newhouser and the Detroit Tigers in Game 7 that day. Two weeks later, the United Nations was founded. Shortly after that, the first ballpoint pens went on sale in New York.

Ballpoint pens?

“This is only the beginning, you know, for myself and for this squad,” shortstop Addison Russell promised. “I’m excited. I’m excited to see what more we can do and what limits we can push. If we can do this in two seasons…”

After winning 97 games last year before running into the wood chipper that was the New York Mets’ pitching staff in the NLCS, they blasted back this year with 103 more wins and raced to baseball’s best overall record.

They took to heart Maddon’s message from day one of spring training: Embrace the target, win every pitch, win every inning, buy into the team.

So this, too, is what it looks like when the Cubs crash the World Series after 71 years: Jason Heyward, who signed an eight-year, $184 million deal last winter, taking his place on the bench for Game 6 Saturday night as Maddon inserted into right field Albert Almora Jr., the first first-round draft pick (sixth overall) of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer after they took over in late 2011.

Heyward’s reaction?

“It’s about the team all season, but even more so in the postseason,” the outfielder said after what seemed like thousands of bottles of Blanc de Blancs champagne had been sprayed, poured, drank and saved. “It’s been that way all year, so many different players helping.

“Joe told us in spring training, if everyone on the roster does one thing positive every night, that’s 25 positive things every night. That’s a lot of positives.”

All of those positives over six weeks of spring training plus 162 regular-season games, then another four more against the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series and, well, six more against the Dodgers in this NLCS…hey, that’s a ton of positives. And at every turn when the Cubs had the chance to hit the skids, they turned it around.

There was the two-week slump just before the All-Star break. The nerves of Game 4 in San Francisco. Maddon reiterated late Saturday night how much he really, really wanted to avoid a Game 5 with the Giants because, even though it would have been in Wrigley Field, he was extremely angst-ridden about the prospect of what Johnny Cueto could do to them.

Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson always said that 1984 was his toughest season because of the way the Detroit Tigers raced out to the record-setting 35-5 start. By June, expectations were so high that all that was left for the Tigers to accomplish was to win the World Series. Sparky always said after that, the rest of that summer he feared being the manager to screw it all up.

If Maddon or the Cubs ever had any of that trepidation, they never let on. But when Dodgers pinch hitter Yasiel Puig bounced to into a 6-4-3 double play, Russell to Baez to Rizzo, with closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound, it was as if the lid popped straight off a pressure cooker.

Unleashed, Wrigley Field sent an emotional howl up to the heavens. Couples took selfies in the stands with the mob of celebrating Cubs on the field behind them. Sons high-fived fathers.

Catcher Willson Contreras hurled his glove up toward the stars, then raced to embrace Chapman.

“One more time!” Contreras shrieked to Chapman, referring to Cleveland and the World Series. “One more time! We’ve got to do this one more time!”

Thirty minutes after the game, Contreras, 24, and his glove had yet to be reunited.

“I don’t know where it’s at,” he said. “That was my first reaction when I saw the double play. It’s amazing.”

Everything about this night, this day, this summer in Wrigley Field was and is amazing.

So this, too, is what it looks like when the Chicago Cubs and the World Series meet again, 71 years later: Epstein walking his dog, a mutt named Winston, earlier in the day, through his Wrigleyville neighborhood, encountering all sorts of well-wishers.

“Yeah, walking the dog, people are very into it, as they should be,” said Epstein, who lives seven blocks from Wrigley Field, in those final, jittery hours before the night that will be remembered forever.

“I love being in a city that’s playing October baseball where you can just feel everyone captivated by the ballclub, everyone walking around tired from staying up late, prioritizing baseball above all else. It’s a great phenomenon.”

So, too, is Baez, and Rizzo, and Bryant. And Hendricks, and Russell, and Maddon.

“A lot of them are in their early 20s, and they’re not burdened by that stuff,” Epstein said of the curse.

Nor will they be, ever again.

No fear. No goats. No errors.

The Chicago Cubs, lovable winners.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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