Diary of a Cubs Fan – Part Eight

ClevelandThis is part 8 of a series. You can start at the beginning here.

After the Cubs victory in Game 5, my phone went haywire with messages from friends and family. Everyone was asking the same question, “Are you going to Cleveland?” I responded to each one of them, “If there’s a Game 7, I’ll be there. I haven’t decided about Game 6 yet.”

The truth is, I had decided days ago that I would only go to Game 7, assuming it was played. For one thing, I had no connection for tickets in Cleveland (believe me, I tried every angle I could think of) and tickets were going for astronomical prices. By skipping Game 6 and focusing on Game 7, if I had to spend big bucks, at least it would only be for one game. Also, my travel was already set for the return flight to New York, and changing it around would be a pain in the neck.

After arriving back home, I coordinated with Richie, and we jointly decided to keep an eye on the ticket prices for Game 7, as they seemed to be fluctuating wildly from hour to hour.

On the day of Game 6, something came over me. A good feeling welled up inside me and I somehow became confident that there would indeed be a Game 7.  How un-Cubbie-like of me. This had never happened before. Typically, at this stage, I would be in a state of dread, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I went on-line and booked plane tickets to Cleveland for the next day. Richie and I decided to pull the trigger on tickets. We each monitored the prices and were in text message contact through most of the day. At around 2:00, we saw a good deal for Standing Room tickets in what was called the Right Field Terrace. I checked out the 3D seating chart on the Indians web site, and it looked like this would be a great place to watch the game from. And by this time, I was a pro at standing for 6 hours. We grabbed them.

Game 6, Cubs at Indians, West End Ave.

Ira and BethTonight it would just be Beth and I watching. I didn’t want any distractions. For all I knew, this could be the end of the line, and I needed to focus.

The game started off well, with a Bryant home run to set the stage, and then two more runs came in as a result of a routine fly ball that dropped between two Indians outfielders when they ran into each other. This was a great omen. Not only were the Cubs winning 3-0 right from the get-go, but the Indians error was something that seemed more like a Cubbie move. Could the karma have shifted?

Then in bottom of the first, it was clear that Jake Arrieta showed up in top form. And indeed, he took control of the game.

The big blow came in the top of the 3rd, when Addison Russell blasted a Grand Slam to put the Cubs up 7-0. Like every Cubs fan across the country, relief set in. And indeed, the rest of the game was not much stress. Madden didn’t want to take any chances that this game would slip away, and once again brought in Chapman in the 7th to have him get the last 7 outs. It was a questionable move in that Chapman might be needed again in Game 7, but the Cubs had won, and I was heading to Cleveland. Final Score, Cubs 9 Indians 3.

Game 7, Cubs at Indians, Progressive Field

I was on an early morning flight from La Guardia. As I headed toward the gate, there was a group of Cubs fans singing “Go Cubs Go.” The flight was one of those small regional jets, and was filled with Cubs fans. There were two Cleveland fans, who were on their way to the game, and they were loud in their disapproval of all the Cubs fans heading to Cleveland. They struck up a conversation with each other that was loud enough for everyone on the plane to hear. Annoying, but I kept my mouth shut.

Richie would be driving from Ann Arbor and expected to arrive around 3. He had found us a place to stay with a friend of his, a little over a mile from the ballpark.

RR Hall of FameI arrived in Cleveland at 11am, got on the Red Line from the airport toward downtown, and to kill time, I decided to head directly to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was something that had always been on my bucket list, and here I was. On the way, I called an old Northwestern friend of mine, Mike Baron, who has been living in Cleveland since the ’80s. He told me to call him when I was finished at the Hall, and he would come pick me up so we could grab lunch. We hadn’t seen each other since he moved to Cleveland.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was fun, and I’m really glad I went, but there are only so many guitars you can look at before your eyes start to cross. The most interesting part of the visit was that it was overrun by Cubs fans. Obviously great minds think alike.

Mike and IraI called Mike and we went off to a Greek Restaurant in the Cleveland suburbs, where we were able to reminisce about the old days. Mike has always had a great memory for details, which means he remembers more about me that I do, which is a little disconcerting. After lunch, Mike drove me to Richie’s friend’s apartment, where we met up and organized ourselves for the game.

The walk to the ballpark was over a huge bridge, over what looked like railroad yards and a lot of vacant space. The purpose of the bridge was hard to fathom since there was no water in sight. In any case, we got to the ballpark and got in line at the Right field entrance. There were about 50 people ahead of us, and over time we were joined by a couple of hundred people behind us. The crowd seemed split about 50/50 between Cubs fans and Indians fans.

Some Indians fans next to us confirmed that this gate was the best one for our tickets. The Cubs fan behind us was still monitoring available tickets on Stubhub, and only after the gate was opened, did he press the button to buy one.

WS Game 7 seatsWe ran up to the designated area and grabbed two spots for ourselves, right at the front. It’s hard to describe what this area is like, since I’ve never seen anything like it in any other ballpark. It’s a little like a terrace in an apartment building, each of the areas being big enough to hold as many as 50 people, but visibility of the field is limited to the people standing right at the wall. The only thing I could imagine is that during the regular season, these were areas used for parties. I wished we had brought a barbeque.

The good news is that we had a wall to lean on, and a full view of the field as long as we protected our positions. Fortunately they didn’t sell that many tickets to stand in this particular area, so everyone had decent perch. We made friends with the folks around us, the majority being Cubs fans.

There’s no point in recapping the game, since the whole world was watching. But it’s worth noting that early on, when the Cubs were scoring runs off Cleveland’s ace Corey Kluber and then more later against the un-hittable Andrew Miller, Cubs fans were celebrating so hard that they were literally bouncing off the walls.

I must say that I was a bit more circumspect. Cubs history was weighing heavily on my mood.

The jubilation continued even as the Indians scored a few runs, making it a closer game than I was comfortable with. Meanwhile Indians fans were pretty silent, giving the impression that this was a Cubs home game, which I’m sure came across on the TV broadcast. 

It all turned around when the Indians tied the score in the 8th inning. It was a complete shocker. Indians fans went wild, and Cubs fans retreated into silence. The big blow came off of Chapman, who at this point was clearly hittable. As with several other pitchers during this post-season, if you give the opposition too many opportunities to see what you’ve got, they will find a way to hit you.

When the 9th inning ended with a tie score, I ran to the bathroom, figuring that with all the commercials I would be back in time for the beginning of the 10th. As I exited the men’s room, the crowds were heading in the wrong direction. It took me second to realize that it was raining, hard. The game was delayed.

I made my way against traffic to the area where Rich was waiting for me, and we moved further back to get under an overhang. I was already rationalizing a potential loss. Look, at least I’d gotten to see the Cubs in a World Series. I had witnessed history, and if they didn’t go all the way this year, they have such a great young team, at some point it’ll happen. Richie, as is his way, was way more optimistic. He said, “Try to imagine that the Indians had been ahead, and it was the Cubs who had just come back to tie it. Wouldn’t we be really happy right now? The score is the same either way.” “Good point,” I said. “It’s like we pre-tied the game.” I was feeling better. We heard later that Jason Heyward had called a Cubs team meeting during the rain delay and pretty much gave that same speech.

The rain delay ended after 17 minutes, and as the tarp was being removed from the field, someone told us that the really heavy rain was still on its way, and would arrive around 1:30am. That meant the game better be over in 90 minutes or it might have to be suspended until the next day.

victoryThe game started again and the Cubs scored two runs. We were jubilant. Can we hold a two run lead? The first two outs in the bottom of the 10th came easily, but then things went haywire again. All around us Cubs fans were in praying positions, biting their nails, caps on backwards. The Indians got one run back, but then a ground ball to Bryant and a throw to Rizzo ended the game. Final score, Cubs 8 Indians 7.

The Cubs had won the World Series and the celebration began.

As Indians fans filed out of the park, Cubs fans gathered around the Cubs dugout, or as close as they could get. Richie and I managed to get fairly close and joined in the hysteria. Fans were singing, crying, waving the “W,” screaming–it was pandemonium. The Cubs players and staff came out on the field with their families. With each appearance, the crowd roared. Unlike when the Cubs won the Pennant at Wrigley, the trophy presentation was not broadcast onto the scoreboard so the fans could see it. I thought that was pretty shabby.

Finally Richie and I had had enough, or so we thought. It was 1:30am and I had to make a 6am flight. As we were about to leave the ballpark, the skies opened up and it was a deluge. A Cubs fan near us said out loud, “I guess this is the part where hell freezes over.” We were kind of stuck. It was over a mile walk back to the apartment, and I had no change of clothes with me. I had stupidly left my umbrella in my bag.

We asked an usher if there were bars nearby that might still be open, and he told us that all the bars across the street from the right field corner of the park were open. We decided to make a mad dash and hope that the rain would let-up after a while. We ran to the first bar we came across, and it turned out to be perfect. It was a cavernous place, totally packed with celebrating Cubs fans. The owners were smart enough that they were playing Cubs and Chicago related songs over the loudspeakers, and when “Go Cubs Go” came on, the entire place sang along. Richie and I grabbed some drinks and found a table.

It was now 2:30 and there was no let-up in the pouring rain. I figured I would try to order an Uber. After the order went through (estimated time 7 minutes), my phone battery went dead. We never found the Uber.

Cleveland ScoreboardThe rain finally did let-up a little, and we started power walking toward the bridge we had to cross to get back to the apartment. Then it started to pour again. We saw a tent where two broadcasters were doing a live show. Next to that was another tent with technicians in it. We went under that tent, and the guys were nice enough to allow us to stay. Then a car pulled up with two guys who were trying to say hello to one of the broadcasters. A quick meeting took place right in front of us, and I got up the nerve to ask the guys with the car if they would be willing to drive us the one mile across the bridge. They were wearing Cubs hats, so I thought they might be willing, and they agreed to do it.

We got back to the apartment at about 3:25. If I were going to make my plane, I would have to be on the Red Line around 4:15 at the latest. Obviously there was no point in sleeping. I splashed water on my face, recharged my phone, and then headed off to the airport. I had pulled my first all-nighter since college.

At the airport, there were Cubs fans sleeping everywhere. It was a pretty funny sight. When I got on the plane, I too passed out. I was jolted out of a deep sleep by the plane touching down at La Guardia.

Had I dreamt the entire thing?

The final chapter of this series is here.

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