Cleveland Chicago 2016 Game One 1

Game 97 // First Inning, Cleveland // We’ve Waited A Sure Long While

WORLD SERIES 2016: GAME ONE


 

There’s an old saying by Cub fans that goes: “Oh my god—we’re in the World Series?”

An old saying three days old. When those words burst into the chatter 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 are.” 

Ten million fans saying those words, crammed together on couches, on lawn chairs, on el-train seats—strangers coming together for our own little 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 joining in for the Great Hope. Old ladies sitting on stoops, gazing at photos in black-and-white, reliving heartbreak with 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 saying 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.

 

1948, Indians.

 

 

1908, Cubs.

 

 

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 hands warm. Terry Francona chewing and spitting out in front of the dugout. The Cubs in gray, Indians in navy.

Something of a miracle going on backstage—with Kyle Schwarber inserted into 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.

After an entire season and playoffs missed from tearing his ACL and LCL in the first week, and then this.

Earlier in the week, whispers of 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.

 

 

And for the first of the first, Game One of this Series, Dexter Fowler steps up to the plate, 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.

And 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 on the TV, holding bats against their shoulders, with the kind of ‘game face’ reserved for the occasion. Over the Cleveland dugout, a fan flashes 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.

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 top hats and gangsters and cigars and tobacco-pack baseball cards, thinking here we are again—back to win the Fall Classic.

 

 

Francisco 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.”

On this most historic, important of baseball nights, you remember the words of 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 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. 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.”

 

 

As baseball-sane America pretends that ad didn’t happen, 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.

And Jose Ramirez knocks a squibber topped on the infield grass to third, Bryant charges late and Lindor scores. Cleveland goes up 1-0.

 

 

Brandon Guyer steps up next, with the bases still loaded. American League leader in the hit by pitch. A lefty on the mound now throwing cutters. A bad brew mixing. Not another. Will it? Again?

And he’s hit on the shin on a cutter from Lester. Leans in, takes one, tosses the bat away and struts on to first.

2-0 Indians. Napoli scores. The Indians do the conga line around the bases.

 

 

Lester still in a jam, Lonnie Chisenhall pops out behind home, as Davis Ross slams face-first into the backstop padding for the catch.

Three outs. An inning of the 2016 World Series on the books. Cleveland with the lead.

 

And just like that. It began.

 

 

 

Previously:

Inning 95: The Cubbies Win the Pennant

Inning 90: Playoff Baseball in the ‘Land

 

 

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