Game 7 of the World Series was crazy. And there’s so much to talk about from that game.
But before I get into how it all went down, I need to set the record straight on something.
You know the 360 I did between first and second base on that leadoff home run in Game 7? The spin-around — that whole running backwards thing?
Well, it wasn’t what it looked like.
It worked out I guess, but it wasn’t what you think.
Here’s the real story….
So every time I hit a homer, I dap up my first base coach, Brandon Hyde. It’s just something I do after I hit a bomb. Just showing some love.
But this time things were a bit different, because, during the biggest game of my life, after the biggest hit of my career … I got caught in no man’s land.
It was like I was floating as I left the batter’s box and the next thing I knew, the ball cleared the wall … and I’d already passed first. So when I turned to my first base coach, I was already way past him. I had to improvise. And that’s what you saw.
I just kind of turned around too late and had to wing it. I mean, I’d love to take credit for doing something cool, but in reality, it was just that simple.
Charlie Riedel/AP Images
I was on cloud nine after I hit that ball. I almost couldn’t believe what had happened. It was like something out of a dream. And we couldn’t have scripted a better start to that game.
When that 2–1 pitch left Kluber’s hand, I can tell you that I saw it … good.
I kept thinking: Don’t pull this pitch foul. Make this count. Don’t miss this pitch. Get this one!
And then, a split second later … I got it.
I just kept thinking, Did that really happen? Did I really just go deep in Game 7?
As soon as I hit the ball, I had a good feeling. But, you know what? I hit a ball off Kluber back in Chicago, and I thought then that I got him, but the wind brought it back. So I can’t tell you that I knew for certain that leadoff hit in Game 7 was going out.
When I looked out toward center and saw Rajai going back, I noticed that he kind of flinched when he reached the wall, and that he was getting ready to jump.
That’s when I knew it was gone. And, you know, the rest is history … cue the spin move and the backwards running.
After I turned myself around, and as I was rounding second, I just kept thinking….
Did that really happen?
Did I really just go deep in Game 7?
I remember looking over at the dugout and just seeing everyone going nuts. I could hear Cubs fans in the crowd celebrating, but even over the noise, I remember hearing my teammates yelling, “You go, we go!” — guys just screaming that out.
“You go, we go! You go, we go! You go, we go!” That’s all I heard. Again and again.
It was crazy.
I’m not gonna lie, after you hit a home run like that, you’re pretty juiced.
You’re amped up for a couple of minutes, no doubt. But then you just have to wipe the slate clean and refocus, because it’s Game 7. There are no games left after that one. We all knew that we were going to have to stack as many runs as we could, because we were facing one of the best pitchers in the game.
And everyone knows that baseball is a game that can come back and get you if you don’t watch out.
So, sure enough, fast-forward to seven innings later….
When Rajai hit that shot off Chapman in the bottom of the eighth, I just kept saying to myself: Please hit off the wall. Please hit off the wall. Please hit off the wall.
But it didn’t hit off the wall.
To his credit, it was a great AB — Rajai kept fouling Chapman off over and over again. So you could tell that something might go down. But a home run there?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Against one of the best closers in baseball, to tie up Game 7?
When the ball cleared the fence in left, I remember thinking to myself, You’ve gotta be f***ing kidding right now.
And for the second time in the game, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I literally couldn’t believe it.
But, again, you lock it back in quick, because all of a sudden it’s back to 0–0 in the eighth inning. So, you know, alright … new ballgame. Deep breath. Let’s go.
And then, before you knew it, the rain came.
There’s no playbook for a situation like that.
A rain delay right before extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series?
As we came off the field and walked back through the tunnel, some guys were mad, other guys were sad, some guys were waaaaay too pumped.
We were all over the place. You had grown men crying. Literally.
It was crazy to see. And everyone on the team felt responsible, in one way or another, for what had just happened. Everyone was sort of questioning what they could’ve done better through those first nine innings.
Our minds were just … spinning.
It was almost like we were thinking of everything all at once, and we needed something to snap us back to reality. We needed to get our focus back.
Of course, as you know, after we went up the tunnel, J-Hey called a meeting. He brought us together as a team, and he was just real with it.
He saw that there were a lot of emotions swirling for us, and he said what needed to be said: We’ve come too far to let it slip away like this. We’re the better team. So let’s turn up and just go out and play like we know how.
It wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before, but it was something that we needed to hear at that exact moment. And it was how he said it that really had an impact. You could see it in his eyes, you could hear it in his voice. It was really something. I’ll never forget it.
After J-Hey spoke, everyone sort of chimed in and everything just seemed to snowball in a really positive way. Rossy spoke a little bit. Then Riz said something. Then I spoke up. And all of a sudden we were rolling again.
We couldn’t get out of that clubhouse and onto the field fast enough.
The one thing I’ll always remember about when we got that final out was that it actually seemed like it was happening in slo-mo for me.
I remember seeing Martinez hit the ball, and watching KB go to throw it to Riz.
The field was wet, and I just see KB’s foot sliiiiiiide out in super slo-mo.
So then he throws it, and my eyes just follow the ball. I don’t even see Riz, I’m just watching that ball like my life depended on it.
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports
And then I see Riz go up high — up on his tippytoe — and grab the ball.
And then … wow. Just WOW!
Did this really happen. Is it really over? Was what I just saw a dream?
Was this whole night, this entire game … a dream?
No lie, I actually had to blink twice, to make sure it was all real.
I think I was the last one in on the infield celebrating, because I needed a few seconds.
I’m getting chills all over again just thinking about it.
This wasn’t easy. That’s for sure. And there were times when it might have seemed like we weren’t going to pull it off. But to be honest, even when we went down 3–1, we never flinched.
We remained confident, and we knew we were capable of winning three in a row. That was like nothing to us because Dexter Fowlerwe’d gone on winning streaks so many times during the season. We weren’t worried. We never panicked. We had our big horses — Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks — coming. We could have won five in a row at that point. We felt that confident.
But we also stayed loose.
Joe made sure of that. When we were making travel plans for our trip back to Cleveland after Game 5, we all got this text message about a change in plans. We normally would’ve flown out in the morning. But it turned out that our travel day was going to be Halloween, and Joe wanted us to be able to trick-or-treat with our families. He let us know that we were going to stay in Chicago until 7 p.m. so that we could all enjoy some family time and have fun with our kids.
I mean, for real: Who does that?
The two biggest games of our careers are on the horizon, and we’re out trick-or-treating until nighttime rolls around. I’ll never forget that. Thanks to Joe, my wife and I took our daughter out and had fun together — she was a tiny little elephant!
Joe Maddon gets it. He just does.
He knew we’d all be better off if we spent some time with our families and just living life, instead of stewing about 108 years and curses and having to win the next two games. He understood that we play better when we’re loose.
Probably the best example of that occurred right before Game 7. An hour or so before the first pitch — in what would be the biggest game of all our lives — my teammates and I were back in the clubhouse … all huddled together …
Playing Mario Kart.
At first it just started out with a few guys. But before long everyone was in on it. No one wanted to lose, because it was one of those things like, you lose … you’re out. Next guy steps in for you.
And the crazy thing was, it seemed like each guy had the best Mario Kart races of his life that night. Riz, Tommy Lastella, everyone was at their career-best level. It was impressive.
In retrospect, maybe that was a good omen.
I’m not saying that Mario Kart was the key to our trophy or anything. But, you know, a few hours later we were world champs.
When we got back to Chicago, things didn’t really slow down. And, in some ways, everything just kept getting better and better.
I’ve never in my life seen anything like that parade.
Every corner we turned, and every place you looked, there were people. Everywhere. Just masses and masses of people — lining the streets, on top of buildings, anywhere you could fit a person … there would be a person. Or two. Or 100. It was surreal, and it really allowed me to understand and appreciate the magnitude of what we accomplished — 108 years!
I thought of Ernie Banks. A lot. And I know he’s smiling down on the entire city of Chicago right now, proud as can be.
And, of course, I couldn’t help but think about the historic element of this World Series. But beyond just how long this city, these fans, this franchise have been waiting for a world championship, I was thinking about all the players who have worn the Cubs uniform through the years and who have passed away, or just guys who weren’t able to experience the joy that we were fortunate enough to feel on that night in Cleveland.
I thought of Ernie Banks. A lot.
And I know he’s smiling down on the entire city of Chicago right now, proud as can be.
Then there’s guys like Billy Williams, and Dempster, and Ryno, and Kerry Wood, and on and on — guys who are still around and who had our backs every step of the way. We did this for all those guys, too.
And since I’m name-dropping, I have two more to mention in closing. As you can imagine, my phone’s kinda been blowing up for the past week, but one call and one text in particular stand out.
My mentor, Barry Bonds, called me up after we won Game 7, and he was elated. He was just so happy for me, and it was really awesome. Barry likes to joke around with me by pointing to all the trophies and awards that he won during his career. So throughout this playoff run, I’ve been looking forward to when I could come back with: Hey, yeah, those trophies are cool … but have you seen this World Series ring?
And when he called me up, he actually beat me to the punch. He was like, Now you have something that I don’t have. I may have a bunch of awards, but I don’t have a ring. I’ll never forget that phone call.
Then, a little while later, in the midst of all the congratulatory text messages, I saw one from Michael Jordan.
People have been talking a lot about goats this year, but that guy is the G.O.A.T.
And he was texting me?
I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but it just didn’t seem real.
He congratulated me and told me how happy he was for me, and he told me to pass along his congrats to the boys.
And then he just wrote, “MJ.”
That’s … crazy.
I still can’t believe it happened. I still can’t believe any of this happened.
But it was all real. It wasn’t a dream.
And now the World Series trophy is finally in Wrigley.
I’m getting chills again. For real.
You go, we go forever!