It is over. The Billy Goat Curse, the Lovable Losers—it’s all over. It’s funny how quickly these curses have become a relic of baseball. The Red Sox ended the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, the White Sox ended their 88-year drought in 2005, and the Chicago Cubs finally ended their 108-year drought two nights ago in, honestly, one of the best games I have ever seen.
What made it so great? This was one of the most highly anticipated games of the past quarter-century. The Cubs obviously had their curse on the line, and the Indians had a drought of their own—68 seasons—that they could have ended with a win.
On ratings alone, it was the most-watched baseball game in the past 25 years. Forty million people tuned in to the broadcast, which is over one-tenth of the US population. What was the last time a game had similar ratings? You guessed it: Game Seven of the 2001 World Series.
Many today believe that it was one of the greatest baseball games of all time, and it’s difficult to dispute. Two all-time great pitchers faced off in Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling (both, ironically, might fall short of the Hall of Fame); Schilling was on three days’ rest, and Clemens was the oldest pitcher of that time to pitch in Game Seven. Like two nights ago, there were twists and turns, and clear similarities.
For one, there were questionable managerial decisions. Bob Brenly of the Diamondbacks left Schilling in the game in the eighth inning (can you imagine that happening today?), and Alfonso Soriano hit a solo shot to break the tie. Much like the Rajai Davis game-tying home run, it was a homer that might be lost to time due to his team being on the losing side.
I would imagine Davis’ blast sticks around in our consciousness a little more just because of how shocking it was, but it’s always funny to me what people remember and what they don’t. If the Yankees had won, that would have been one of the biggest home runs in franchise history. The same could be said for Davis and Cleveland.
There was also (unfortunately) a famous closer meltdown. Mariano Rivera allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth—the bigger play actually being the stunning Tony Womack double that tied the game—and culminated in the Luis Gonzalez walk-off single that put the Diamondbacks on top of the world for the first time in their history. Aroldis Chapman of the Cubs came in with essentially zero command and lost a bit of zip on his fastball, and allowed the Davis home run that pushed the game to a tie.
I can’t truly empathize with Indians fans in this situation. The Yankees were at the end of one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports, and the Indians have yet to taste victory since just after World War II. Honestly, though, the difference in the series goes far beyond Game Seven. I think if you talk with Yankees fans about that series, it’s not with the same tenor as, say, 2004.
This was a hard-fought series where the Yankees were outscored 37-14, and there were great moments on both sides. There was the Derek Jeter “Mr. November” moment, not to mention the Tino Martinez home run in that game to set it up and the Scott Brosius blast in a nigh-identical scenario the next day. This was also one of the greatest series of all time, not only game seven.
That isn’t to say this wasn’t a great series, nor is it to say that Indians fans don’t have a lot to be happy about. They were decimated by injuries, faced a clearly superior team, and somehow strung together an impressive playoff run with a duct tape offense, Corey Kluber, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller.
As is always the case with baseball, woe is not always absolute on the losing side. This was a great series and a great run for a fan base desperate for winning, and they got just that. They also got to see a historic series and a legendary Game Seven that culminated in the end of the Cubs’ drought. We just watched a classic game and series and we as fans should be immensely thankful for an amazing end to a great season. Let’s hope that the next October classic has a few more pinstripes.