Baseball writers offer stories that put Cubs’ historic World Series title in perspective

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The Chicago Tribune’s front page today after the Cubs’ historic win

An historic game deserves equally momentous writing, right?

As everybody knows, the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series title since people primarily relied on horses for transportation in this country by defeating the Cleveland Indians in a heart-palpitating 10-inning game last night.

Stories are still rolling in, but we do have numerous deadline game stories on probably the most-watched baseball game since 1978 when viewers usually only had about three channel options. That Yankees-Dodgers series averaged 44.3 million. This year’s series will probably average about 22-24 million after Game 7 ratings that ultimately might have reached 35-40 million.

In 1956, legendary sports writer Shirley Povich offered exalted prose that matched a performance by Yankees pitcher Don Larsen, who threw the postseason’s only perfect game and gave New York a 3-2 lead in the World Series, at the time the most popular game in America. Think Super Bowl by today’s standards.

In his lead, Povich creatively mixed clichés and repetition to put Larsen’s amazing performance in historic (and perhaps biblical) context:

The million-to-one shot came in. Hell froze over. A month of Sundays hit the calendar. Don Larsen today pitched a no-hit, no-run, no-man-reach-first game in a World Series.

On the mound at Yankee Stadium, the same guy who was knocked out in two innings by the Dodgers on Friday, came up today with one for the record books, posting it there in solo grandeur as the only Perfect Game in World Series history.

With it, the Yankee righthander shattered the Dodgers, 2-0, and beat Sal Maglie, while taking 64,519 suspense-limp fans into his act.

First there was mild speculation, then there was hope, then breaths were held in slackened jaws in the late innings as the big mob wondered if the big Yankee righthander could bring off for them the most fabulous of all World Series games.

Sixty years later, Povich’s story on this game remains among the greatest deadline stories ever written about sports.

So what do you write when covering another historic game that most readers have either viewed live or through highlight clips online or on TV?

The Associated Press’s Ronald Blum wrote a lead that matched the moment in a story that likely ran on hundred of websites across the county, even if his name was not on them all. Consider this lead, which describes the final play and introduces the historical significance of the game:

Kris Bryant started to smile even before he fielded the ball. And with his throw to first for the final out, the agonizing wait ’til next year was over at last.

No more Billy Goat, no more Bartman, no more black-cat curses.

For a legion of fans who waited a lifetime, fly that W: Your Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

Ending more than a century of flops, futility and frustration, the Cubs won their first title since 1908, outlasting the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings of a Game 7 thriller early Thursday.

In most game stories, writers focus on key plays, key players, key moments and key stats, delaying references to a games’ significance, particularly because midseason college basketball games or major league games in July are rarely momentous. But that was not the case last night – or for any Game 7 or elimination game. In these case, context is often most significant.

Thomas Boswell, certainly worth being on the same mantel as Povich, offered this column that focuses on this game’s place in history:

CLEVELAND — The Chicago Cubs won the World Series here Wednesday night for the young, the old and the long dead, too. Of course these Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, in 10 thrilling, brain-warping innings in Game 7 for themselves, for their own joy and glory.

But as they have been reminded endless times in the past seven months of this baseball season, they also won the Cubs’ first title since 1908 for the citizens of a nation without borders. They lifted the silly “curse” of Murphy the Goat and roused the spirits of a worldwide legion of interwoven sufferers who share a passion and an affliction — a lifelong freely chosen Cubness.

Because this game went beyond the baseball surreal, because it provided forgetfulness and forgiveness for several Cubs who might have been enormous goats, including reliever Aroldis Chapman and Manager Joe Maddon, it seemed to encapsulate the team’s long history of staring into the abyss. Only this time, at long last — it only took a century or so — the abyss blinked.

Tyler Kepner, another exceptional baseball writer, focused instead on a moment after the cameras had cleared to offer an intimate look at the game’s significance to a single player before connecting it to the larger picture in the New York Times:

 As the clubhouse cleared out early Wednesday morning, after the Chicago Cubs had forced Game 7 of this rollicking World Series with the Cleveland Indians, Ben Zobrist was asked if he had dreamed of a chance like this.

Zobrist is 35 and has played 11 seasons in the major leagues. He had won and lost a World Series before joining the Cubs as a free agent in the off-season. As his mind flashed back to his childhood, he could not pretend that he expected any of it.

“No,” Zobrist said, laughing softly. “I wasn’t that guy. I mean, I never even thought about playing professionally. I didn’t think that was a possibility for a little kid from Illinois. I just wanted to play the game and win. I was competitive, but I never thought that I would be in a situation like this.”

Yet how many other little kids from Illinois did? Thousands, millions? How many have wondered, over the last 108 years, what it might be like to stand in the batter’s box in Game 7 of the World Series, with the score tied in the 10th inning, and drive in the winning run for the Cubs?

Early Thursday morning at Progressive Field, Zobrist lived it. His one-out, opposite-field double off Bryan Shaw stayed fair down the third base line, driving home Albert Almora Jr. and putting the Cubs ahead for good in an 8-7 victory that clinched the World Series.

Let’s look at coverage from last night’s thrilling game. If you missed it, you missed a part of history. But at least you can still capture the essence of the games from highlight clips and in amazing stories, such as these:

The New York Times’ Billy Wirth offered this lead that addresses readers directly:

CLEVELAND — If you are going to endure years — no, generations — of futility and heartbreak, when you do finally win a World Series championship, it may as well be a memorable one.

The Chicago Cubs did just that, shattering their 108-year championship drought in epic fashion: with an 8-7, 10-inning victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7, which began on Wednesday night, carried into Thursday morning and seemed to end all too soon.

When the Indians rallied with three runs in the eighth inning — including a two-out, two-strike, two-run thunderbolt of a home run by Rajai Davis off closer Aroldis Chapman — the Cubs found a way to beat back the ghosts of playoffs past.

There’s also this take from Cleveland Plain Dealer’s excellent baseball writer Paul Hoynes, who offers this wonderful lead from the perspective of a city that must now wait to end its nearly 70-year drought.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A city and a team waits and waits and waits.

Great teams, bad teams, it doesn’t seem to matter, because the waiting never ends. It is always about a glance at the horizon, a whispered “what if.’ Nearly seven decades of living the journey, but never holding the final prize.

Willie Mays’ catch in 1954. The outlandish strike zone for the Atlanta Braves in 1995. Jose Mesa, Tony Fernandez and Edgar Renteria in 1997. So many cuts and wounds to the soul that only the worst is expected, never the best.

All that could have ended Wednesday night in Game 7 of the World Series, but it didn’t as the Indians lost to the Cubs, 8-7, in 10 innings at Progressive Field after holding a 3-1 lead in the series.

Here’s more coverage on last night’s exciting game. Enjoy the moment, Cubs fans. Hopefully, Indians fans can take solace in a young team that exceeded expectations and that never stopped competing.

  • Chicago Tribune: Chicago Cubs win World Series championship with 8-7 victory over Cleveland Indians
  • Washington Post: Plenty of heroes, no goats: An epic Game 7 finally delivers Cubs a World Series
  • USA Today: Reign men: Cubs ‘killed the curse’ with epic Game 7 victory in World Series
  • Los Angeles Times: 108 is enough: Cubs beat Indians to end baseball’s longest World Series drought
  • Reuters: Cubs win World Series for first time since 1908
  • New York Daily News: Cubs win first World Series since 1908 with 8-7 extra inning win over Indians
  • London Guardian: Chicago Cubs defeat Cleveland Indians to win first World Series title since 1908
  • NPR: Chicago Cubs Defeat Cleveland Indians In 10 Innings To Win World Series

BTW, here is Buster Olney’s list of the greatest broadcast calls from World Series history.

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About jgisondi

I am the author of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports," the second edition now available from Congressional Quarterly Press/SAGE, and "Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot" (U of Nebraska Press). Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition goes beyond general guidance about sports writing, offering readers practical advice on covering 20 specific sports. From auto racing to wrestling, author Joe Gisondi gives tips on the seemingly straightforward—like where to stand on the sideline and how to identify a key player—along with the more specialized—such as figuring out shot selection in lacrosse and understanding a coxswain’s call for a harder stroke in rowing. In the new Second Edition, readers also explore sports reporting across multimedia platforms, developing a foundational understanding for social media, mobile media, visual storytelling, writing for television and radio, and applying sabermetrics. Fully revised with new examples and updated information to give readers confidence in covering just about any game, match, meet, race, regatta or tournament, Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition is the ideal go-to resource to have on hand when mastering the beat. In "Monster Trek," Joe Gisondi brings to life the celebrities in bigfoot culture: people such as Matt Moneymaker, Jeff Meldrum, and Cliff Barackman, who explore remote wooded areas of the country for weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on infrared imagers, cameras, and high-end camping equipment. Pursuing the answer to why these seekers of bigfoot do what they do, Gisondi brings to the reader their most interesting—and in many cases, harrowing—expeditions. You can order both from Amazon.
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