WORLD SERIES 2016: GAME ONE
There’s an old saying by Cub fans, repeated over the land, that goes: “Oh my god—we’re in the World Series? The World Series!?”
Old, so old, as old as three unreal, brave-new-world days. When those words burst into the talk, pinging around at full speed, fan to ecstatic fan. Appearing one day in bold, drawn big onto the great Cub-fan blackboard in the sky, erasing all others in one big swipe—“Wait ‘til next year…” chalked away into a smudge.
“As sure as God made green apples, someday the Cubs are going to be in the—”
“Oh my god,” someone said again, “We’re in the World Series? The World Series!?”
“We’re in,” it soon became. “We’re in the World Series. We are.”
Ten million fans muttering those words, cramped together on couches, on lawn chairs, on el-train seats—strangers syncing together in robo-tribal lockstep. The Moon Landing, broadcast live over Chicagoland.
October 25th, 2016. A TV set turns on. A commercial break ends. The FOX Sports logo flashes on the screen. The Tom Petty plays: “Waiting… is the hardest part…”
And on comes a montage of long-suffering seniors, old fanatics flipping through ticket stubs and photo books, all joined in on the Great Hope. Old ladies sitting on stoops, gazing at black-and-white photos, reliving heartbreak in old living-room chairs, hands clasped together, smiling into the camera in slow motion. A drought of 68 years next to a drought of 108. Rain dance rituals filling the living rooms of northern Ohio, too, with a muttering of their own—“Please! God! Willie Mays The-Catch-ed us in ’54, we lost out in ’95, Renteria’d in ‘97… Please! No more! Not again!”
And enter Joe Buck: “The waiting is almost over, for one of these two very proud franchises—as we get ready for game one of the 2016 World Series on FOX.”
Another montage into the commercial break. HD clips of old pocketwatches ticking—and then Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Ford, a montage of 20th century past. The Chambers Brothers playing.
Time has come today.
TOP OF THE FIRST: INDIANS 0 – 0 CUBS
It’s 50 degrees in Cleveland. Kluber on the mound. Winter hats in the crowd. Joe Maddon in the Cubs dugout blowing his mittened hands warm. Terry Francona chewing and spitting out in front of the dugout. The Cubs in gray, Indians in their navy. Something of a miracle going on backstage—Kyle Schwarber in the lineup, there in the dugout with no one quite believing it. Like a giant practical joke, a little fib from Rob Manfred to hype up the Series. At first, whispers of the hopeful rehab news. Then batting videos from Arizona. The airplane tweet. The press conference. The BP session. The here and the now and the holy hell he’s here.
Stealing the show, and a pretty big show at that. An overdose of icing on the cake, uncut baseball sugar straight onto the tongue. And we could hardly believe the cake was real.
— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) October 25, 2016
Dexter Fowler steps up first, the stands a pack of raised camera phones, fingers tapping Record. Kluber throws an outside fastball for ball one and we’re off.
Every Cub fan sitting around with unsure footing. You throw on a tuxedo for a wedding—the hell do you wear to the World Series? We hunker down, Cub fans on a couch, training-wheels spectating—stumbling into the surreal.
Fowler watches a two-seamer bend onto the inside corner, his hips bent back dancing out of its way. Strikeout looking for the first out of the Series.
Kris Bryant steps up, goes down on a full-count strikeout—caught looking on a pitch low and away.
The camera zooms on Kluber, red towels spinning, blurring, in the background. “You want noise?” says Joe Buck, “You’ve come to the right corner of the world.”
Rizzo pops out to third. Three down. Five minutes in and the Indians due up.
BOTTOM OF THE FIRST: INDIANS 2 (0) – 0 CUBS
Filmed avatars of the Indians lineup pop up in threes on the TV, sporting bats and the kind of ‘game face’ reserved for the occasion. Over the Cleveland dugout, a fan flashes and reflashes a hand-drawn“CUBS ’84 + ’03 CHOKERS!” poster—jumping around in his seat, waving his arms.
And Jon Lester toes the mound, back in the World Series after two years away, throwing a first-pitch strike to Rajai Davis.
The count goes 0-2, Rajai takes a deep breath. Chases high on a fastball, down swinging. Then a first-pitch lineout from Kipnis—Pitchers’ duel on the minds of all.
We’re all watching, Clevelanders and Chicagoans, feeling the history of the years, the seasons, the rosters and every old ballplayer. Recalling Mordecai Brown, Frank Chance. Lou Boudreau, Bob Feller. We’re thinking of old-time music, suits and ties and tophats and gangsters and cigars and tobacco-pack baseball cards, thinking here we are again—back to win the Fall Classic.
And then, Lindor gets on first with a single, and you hear from Joe Buck.
“Steal a base,” he says, “Steal a taco.”
Lindor takes off on the second pitch, in safely without a throw.
“There’s a new taco hero for 2016,” Buck says, “Francisco Lindor.”
“And everyone in America gets a free Doritos Loco taco.”
The wheeled-out reels of old footage, the montage clips, the legend and lore and the annals of baseball yesteryear. Here we are in this first inning, a snapshot of history in the making. Leave it to James Earl Jones:
“People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers… where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers… rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come. Provide for them a free Doritos Loco taco, Ray, and people will come. If you provide it, people will come. Steal a base, Ray, steal a taco. People most definitely will taco. If you Doritos Loco, Ray. Oh… people will taco. Free taco, Ray.”
I hate TacoBell. Their “Steal a base, steal a taco” promotion is affecting the runners in the World Series. It’s evil.
— Scott Munroe (@sdmunroe) October 26, 2016
As baseball-sane America pretends FOX didn’t just allow that ad into the broadcast, the game rolls on—Mike Napoli walks, Carlos Santana walks. Bases loaded. Russell jogs over for a mound meeting, Lester’s glove over his mouth in some kind of secret plot that comes up short.
And Jose Ramirez knocks a squibber topped on the infield grass to third, Bryant charges late and Lindor scores. Cleveland goes up 1-0.
— MeGustanLosDeportes (@GustanDeportes) October 26, 2016
Brandon Guyer steps up next, with the bases still loaded. The Bean Man. American League leader in the hit by pitch. Hit three times one game by Mark Buehrle. Lefty on the mound throwing cutters. A bad brew mixing. Not another. Will it? Again?
Guyer gets hit on the shin on a cutter from Lester. Leans in, takes one, tosses the bat away and struts on to first.
“No chance he was gonna get that back leg out of the way,” John Smoltz says on the broadcast, not one mention of the habit.
2-0 Indians. Napoli scores. The Indians do the conga line around the bases.
Lester in a jam, Lonnie Chisenhall pops out behind home on a 1-1 count, Davis Ross slamming face-first into the backstop padding with the catch.
Three outs. An inning of the 2016 World Series on the books. Cleveland with the lead.
And just like that. It began.