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It has been called the last great American sports story, a quest that has spanned more than a century and captivated millions of fans. In 2016, the Chicago Cubs were at last baseball's champions, breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat and shedding the label of “lovable losers” once and for all. Led by manager Joe Maddon and built around rising stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs brought the Fall Classic back to the ivy-covered confines of Wrigley Field for the first time since 1945 and won the franchise’s first championship since 1908 in unforgettable fashion.
Re-live the Cubs’ magical postseason run with Won for the Ages. This photo-packed collection of memories, stories and player profiles produced by the staff of the Chicago Tribune is the perfect look back at the sweet ‘16 season.
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The Chicago Tribune is the largest daily newspaper that serves the Chicago area.
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Won for the Ages
By R. Bruce Dole
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 Chicago Tribune
All rights reserved.
Comeback of the century a fitting ending for Cubs and their fans
By Paul Sullivan
It had to end like this, after a 108-year drought that consumed Cubs fans and vexed the experts for decade after decade.
It had to end with the Cubs beating the Indians 8-7 in ten innings in Game 7 of the World Series, in a ballpark occupied by thousands of road-tripping Cubs fans, on a summer-like night in November, in a season where everything fell into place from start to glorious finish.
And it had to end with a Cubbie Occurrence, a Grandpa goodbye, an eighth-inning collapse and a night more nerve-wracking than a presidential election.
The Cubs blew a four-run lead before coming back in extra innings before 38,104 shell-shocked fans at Progressive Field, culminating a comeback from a 31 Series deficit and kick-starting a party in Chicago that may not end until the last snowbank melts next spring.
After Aroldis Chapman gave up a game-tying, two-run homer to Rajai Davis in the eighth, Ben Zobrist's RBI double put the Cubs on top on the tenth, and Miguel Montero added a pinch-RBI single for insurance.
After the Indians closed to within one on Davis' RBI single off Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery induced a grounder to Kris Bryant, ending one of the craziest Game 7s in World Series annals.
Manager Joe Maddon's team lived up to its "we never quit" mantra, finishing off the Series with three straight wins to keep the Indians' 68-year drought alive while ending their own.
Zobrist was named Series MVP, finishing with a .357 average and the game-winning double.
Raise a glass, Cubs fans, for the ones who weren't here, and take a bow for keeping the faith when logic told you to give up.
You wouldn't want it any other way, would you?
This was going to be a classic all along. David Ross, playing in the final game of his career, figured that out during the Game 6 victory.
"I started thinking about it a lot more, just saying, 'Wow, my career is going to end in a Game 7 World Series, how lucky and fortunate am I to be with these guys?'" Ross said. "I kept watching them play and thinking, 'Man, I'm part of something special here. And I'm very, very lucky to be on this team.'"
Ross was involved in the Cubbie Occurrence — a wild pitch by Jon Lester in the fifth that ricocheted off Ross' mask to the backstop, allowing two runs to score and allowing the Indians to creep to within two runs. The worst fears of Cubs fans crept into the back of your mind, if only for a moment.
"Grandpa" Ross alleviated those fears a few minutes later, cranking a 402-foot home run off uber-reliever Andrew Miller, making him the oldest player to homer in a Series.
The sea of blue-and-white jerseys in the stands two hours before the first pitch made it apparent this was not going to be just another road game. The Cubs received a raucous ovation as they walked off the field at the end of batting practice.
But no one could've imagined just how huge the contingent was until Dexter Fowler led off the game with a 406-foot solo home run to center off Corey Kluber.
The ballpark erupted. Occupation Cleveland was underway.
Kluber was mocked by fans in his own park in the first inning, and when the Indians put a graphic on the video board exhorting their fans to cheer, Cubs fans out-shouted them with a "Let's go, Cubs" chant.
Kyle Hendricks started and pitched well into the fifth, and the Cubs grabbed a 3-1 lead with a two-run fourth that starred Davis.
Third-base coach Gary Jones sent Bryant home on a pop to shallow center by Russell, and when Davis' throw to the plate was high, Bryant slid between the legs of catcher Roberto Perez to retake the lead. Davis got a bad jump on Willson Contreras' fly to deep center, resulting in an RBI double that made it 3-1.
Baez made up for two errors with a solo homer in the fifth, knocking out Kluber, and Bryant scored all the way from first on Rizzo's single later in the inning to make it 5-1.
Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey had slowly marched out to the bullpen along with Ross in the second, looking like a scene from an old black-and-white war movie, with Lester playing John Wayne.
Maddon said before the game he didn't want to bring Lester in in a "dirty inning" but did just that with two outs and a man on in the fifth. Ross made a throwing error to put runners on second and third, and Lester bounced a wild pitch that went to the fence and allowed both runs to score, awakening the crowd.
Lester stiffened and got the Cubs into the eighth, when Maddon summoned Chapman, who proved his rubber arm wasn't made of rubber after all. Maddon took a beating on the internet for over-taxing Chapman, but the Cubs saved him from being the designated goat.
The blown save was only a prelude to an ending that will live on forever, on a night Chicago waited 108 years to witness.CHAPTER 2
Kluber, 2 relievers strike out 15 Cubs in opener
By Mark Gonzales and David Haugh
WORLD SERIES GAME 1
OCTOBER 25, 2016 CLEVELAND, OHIO
INDIANS 6, CUBS 0
The slow retreats to the dugout and Jon Lester's stares at plate umpire Larry Vanover seemed as tedious as the 71-year wait since the Cubs' last World Series.
There was no equalizer for the Cubs on a night when Kyle Schwarber made a personally triumphant return from injury and Jason Heyward was left on the bench.
The biggest reason for the Cubs' failure was the precision of Corey Kluber, who made the Indians' return to the World Series for the first time since 1997 a joyful event.
Kluber pitched with remote-control sharpness as he struck out nine in six-plus innings of a 6-0 victory in Game 1 of the World Series at Progressive Field.
The Cubs, embarking on the final lap of their mission to win the franchise's first World Series since 1908, couldn't solve the darting pitches of Kluber to both sides of the plate. Five of Kluber's first six strikeouts were on called third strikes as the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner established a Series record with eight strikeouts in the first three innings.
"That's the first time I've seen him, and he was pretty nasty," Javy Baez said.
Adding to the Cubs' misery was that the Indians scored two runs in the first on Jose Ramirez's 45-foot single and Lester hitting Brandon Guyer with a pitch with the bases loaded.
That immediately took some of the hoopla out of the Cubs' optimism following their 103-victory season and postseason triumphs over the Giants and Dodgers.
Indians catcher Roberto Perez put the game out of reach with his second home run -- a three-run shot off Hector Rondon in the eighth.
Schwarber, who didn't believe that returning from two torn ligaments in his left knee was possible until six days ago, wore a brace that didn't seem to harness him too much while handling the designated hitter duties.
But Cubs president Theo Epstein stopped short of declaring him ready to play the field, so the Cubs will have him available only for pinch hitting when the series shifts to Wrigley Field.
"If it's appropriate, we can always go back to the doctors and take a fresh look at it," Epstein said. "But for right now, it's not a consideration."
The Cubs mounted threats in the seventh and eighth innings against formidable Indians reliever Andrew Miller but came away empty. Miller struck out Addison Russell and David Ross to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh and struck out Schwarber with two runners on to end the eighth.
Miller was forced to throw a season-high 46 pitches in his two innings.
Lester, who entered the game with a 3-0 record and 0.43 ERA in World Series play and had allowed only two runs in 21 postseason innings this month, disagreed with Vanover on several pitches that led to two-out walks to Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to load the bases and set up the Indians' first two runs.
Nobody told Kluber that October supposedly belonged to his more experienced counterpart.
Instead, Kluber played the role of poised veteran — and the Indians indirectly can thank Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. Hoyer was the Padres general manager in 2010 when he traded Kluber, a Double-A prospect projected as a reliever, in a three-way deal with the Cardinals and Indians that brought outfielder Ryan Ludwick to San Diego. Never has that move paid off bigger for the Indians.
"I don't think anybody is hanging his head in here," Anthony Rizzo said in the Cubs clubhouse. "Give (Kluber) credit. He hit his spots.CHAPTER 3
Batmen return as Cubs square Series and head home
By Mark Gonzales
WORLD SERIES GAME 2
OCTOBER 26, 2016 CLEVELAND, OHIO
CUBS 5, INDIANS 1
Jake Arrieta's dominating performance was just what the doctor ordered after the Cubs had dropped the World Series opener.
Now if they can compensate for the potential full-time loss of Kyle Schwarber without a designated hitter for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the World Series at Wrigley Field their championship prospects may swell.
In an effort reminiscent of some of his starts during his 2015 National League Cy Young Award season, Arrieta didn't allow a hit until he gave up two in the sixth inning. And left-hander Mike Montgomery provided timely support in relief for the Cubs to beat the Indians 5-1 at chilly Progressive Field to even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
Schwarber continued his amazing recovery from left knee surgery with two RBI singles while serving as the DH for the second consecutive game.
"You feel like he has been here all year," Dexter Fowler said.
Schwarber hadn't played since April 7 after tearing two ligaments and was believed to be sidelined until spring training.
The Cubs knocked out nine hits and patiently drew eight walks. But in the next three games Schwarber likely will be limited to pinch hitting with no DH in the National League park.
Manager Joe Maddon has been encouraged by Schwarber's sharp eye as well as his mobility, adding that Schwarber could practice in the outfield between games if medically cleared.
"There's nothing about watching him that tells me he's inhibited right now," Maddon said.
For his part, Arrieta seemed immune to the blustery conditions Wednesday night as he declined to wear a long-sleeved shirt under his jersey and rode a stationary bike between innings as he dominated the Indians after issuing two walks with two outs in the first. Jason Kipnis got the Indians' first hit, legging out a one-out double in the sixth.
"I kind of had my foot on the gas a little too much at the start, trying to do more than I needed to," Arrieta said. "Then I got back to executing good pitches toward the bottom of the zone."
Montgomery again showed his value as he induced Jose Ramirez to ground back to the mound to get Arrieta out of a jam in the sixth after a second hit. In the seventh, Montgomery struck out three -- capped when he whiffed Carlos Santana on a breaking pitch with runners at first and second.
After being blanked in Game 1, Maddon opted for a lineup that featured right-handed batters Jorge Soler and rookie Willson Contreras against Trevor Bauer.
Four Cubs starters 25 or younger -- Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Schwarber and Addison Russell -- collected hits.
"They're scratching the surface of how good they can be," Maddon said.
The Cubs worked Bauer for several deep counts, while the Indians committed a few untimely miscues.
Anthony Rizzo smacked a double down the right-field line in the first, and Bryant scored easily from first when right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall threw to second base instead of toward home.
Ben Zobrist fouled off six consecutive pitches during a 10-pitch at-bat in the first. Rizzo helped give Arrieta a larger cushion when he fouled off five consecutive pitches before working reliever Zach McAllister for a walk with one out in the fifth.
"We wore them down," Fowler said. "If it's not one guy, it's another guy. Rizz was that guy."
Since Rizzo broke out of his slump with a home run using Matt Szczur's bat in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the NLCS, he hasn't looked back. In his last five games, he's 8-for-21 with three doubles, two home runs, five runs and six RBIs.
"I'm going to ride this out with Szczur's bat all the way," Rizzo said. "Hail, Szczur."CHAPTER 4
Nothing in Return
Tomlin and bullpen shut door on Cubs in Wrigley's first World Series game since 1945
By Paul Sullivan
WORLD SERIES GAME 3
OCTOBER 28, 2016 CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
INDIANS 1, CUBS 0
From Billy Williams' ceremonial first pitch to a last-gasp rally in the bottom of the ninth, fans savored every morsel of Wrigley Field's first World Series game in 71 years.
But good karma was not in the cards for the Cubs, and a crowd of 41,703 could not will them to win on a historic night just because it felt right.
The Indians pulled out a 1-0 win and went ahead 2-1 in the Series, assuring Chicago will not have a Cubs clincher at Wrigley.
Even as the Cubs offense wheezed and coughed against Josh Tomlin and three relievers, the idea of a not-so-secret weapon was in the back of everyone's minds.
As the zeros mounted up on the ancient center-field scoreboard, it seemed as though the entire city was simply waiting for Kyle Schwarber to come off the bench and save the day, just as it was written in the Gospel of Maddon.
But when Schwarber finally appeared in the eighth and received his expected Wrigley roar of approval, the result was not what the script doctor ordered. Indians reliever Bryan Shaw turned Schwarber's bat into a bunch of toothpicks, inducing him to hit a soft pop to short.
"I wasn't trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark," Schwarber said. "I just wanted to hit the ball hard. ... If it gets in the air it's probably gone, but that's not in my mind."
The Cubs threatened in the ninth on a leadoff single by Anthony Rizzo and a two-out error by Mike Napoli on Jason Heyward's grounder. But with the tying and winning runs in scoring position, Cody Allen struck out Javier Baez to end the night with a whisper.
"That's the way it is," Rizzo said. "We knew it was not going to be easy. We've been in this situation before, being down in a series. We've just got to come back and do what we do."
The Cubs had several chances, but a lack of hustle may have spoiled one.
After a rousing seventh-inning stretch performance by Bill Murray, who reminded fans it was last call for beer, Lonnie Chisenhall misplayed Jorge Soler's fly to the right-field corner, turning it into a triple.
Soler seemed to forget he was playing in a World Series, watching the ball before jogging down the line until Chisenhall missed it, only then turning on the burners.
Soler thought it was a foul ball and said he "didn't think so" when asked if he could've scored had he run hard.
Would he have liked to have found out?
"Of course I would," he said. "But I don't think I would have gone any farther if I did (run hard)."
Shaw fell behind Baez 2-0 before getting Baez to ground out to short, stranding Soler on third and ending the threat.
After all the pregame hype, the Game 3 loss was tough to swallow. It was apparent this would be a day unlike any in recent memory for Cubs fans, a day most of them had been waiting a lifetime to witness.
The Cubs were actually playing in a World Series game at the corner of Clark and Addison.
"People are so happy and in such a great mood," President Theo Epstein said before the game. "Families are connecting with one another, generations. ... It's so many things on so many levels."
Epstein was told there was no way out now. The Cubs had to win this thing.
"Can't screw it up," he said with a grin. "We better win now.
"Wouldn't want to taint the memory for anyone."
A memorable night, yes, but the result was one they'd all rather forget.CHAPTER 5
For second straight game, Indians stifle Cubs bats
By David Haugh
WORLD SERIES GAME 4
OCTOBER 29, 2016 CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
INDIANS 7, CUBS 2
The disaster ended fittingly at Wrigley Field, with Javy Baez hitting a feeble grounder to the pitcher's mound for the final out of an ugly 7-2 loss to the Indians.
There were no loud boos, a few jeers, but mostly stunned silence from the crowd of 41,706. Anxiety seldom shouts down anybody.
What just happened? Will the real Chicago Cubs please stand up? Anybody seen Kris Bryant?
Save the slogans and forget the mantras. Not even Cubs manager Joe Maddon can talk his team out of this mess, a 3-1 World Series deficit after a devastating defeat in Game 4. The Cubs will have to hit again before anybody takes their hopes for an epic comeback seriously. Baseball history says it can happen but the Cubs have no business looking further into the future than nine innings. They have lost the right to look ahead, not to mention their confidence at the plate. They have starters Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks prepared to pitch three consecutive gems but it won't matter if the Cubs can't score runs to support them.
"We made mistakes but we have to do more offensively to give us a chance," Maddon said.
On a night actor Vince Vaughn sang during the seventh-inning stretch, the Indians reprised their role as party crashers. The Cubs still haven't won a World Series game at Wrigley Field since Oct. 8, 1945.
Maddon can avoid visiting what he calls "Negative Town," but welcome to reality: The Indians need only need one more victory with two of the next three games scheduled for Progressive Field — and the unhittable Corey Kluber looming if Game 7 is necessary. If the Cubs can pull off this unlikely feat, it will be the best history they have made yet.
Excerpted from Won for the Ages by R. Bruce Dole. Copyright © 2016 Chicago Tribune. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
National League Division Series,
National League Championship Series,