CLEVELAND (AP) — Tens of thousands of fans flocked to downtown Cleveland for a celebration.
The Chicago Cubs crashed the party, beating the Indians 8-7 in Game 7 of the World Series to claim their first championship since 1908. The Indians now own the longest title drought in the majors at 68 years.
When reliever Mike Montgomery recorded the final out in the 10th inning, Cubs fans became unglued, jumping for joy 350 miles away from their beloved Wrigley Field. Indians fans slowly headed for the exits after being forced to wait for next year yet again.
“It truly was an experience of a lifetime and it could have gone either way, all the way to the last pitch,” said Brandon Rapp, 34, of Brunswick. “Obviously, I wish the Indians would have won, but I’m happy for the Cubs. My wife is from Chicago, so at least one of us is going home happy. For me, there’s always next year.”
A boisterous sellout crowd — nearly half of them rooting for Chicago — packed Progressive Field an hour before the first pitch. Revelers also stood shoulder-to-shoulder at adjacent Gateway Plaza on the unseasonably warm evening, watching the game on large screens.
Dueling chants between Indians and Cubs fans were prevalent in the early innings before the visitors built a 5-1 lead, then returned to a fever pitch when Rajai Davis hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.
“Just when all hope seemed lost, Davis hit that homer and you started to believe that the Cubs were still cursed,” said Adam Daher, 27, of Lakewood. “It felt like we had won, so when the Cubs won, it was like someone taking away something from Cleveland.”
Nearby bars filled up by late afternoon in advance of the 8 p.m. start, while a sizable number of Chicago partisans toured the city’s arts district, Playhouse Square and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the lakefront.
After Chicago won the game in extra innings, their fans took over the majority of seats in the lower deck. Long before the Cubs were done celebrating on the field, the Indians’ team store closed for the night because customers were so sparse.
The so-called “Cleveland Curse” was vanquished on June 19 when the Cavaliers won Game 7 of the NBA Finals at Golden State for the franchise’s initial championship. Prior to this summer, the 1964 Browns were the city’s most recent title team.
“The Cavs winning was a life-changing experience, but this would have been the best day of my life,” said Joseph Wiencek, 18, a men’s basketball player at Washington & Jefferson College. “Being here with my parents and sister made it very special because we’ve had season tickets for 25 years, but you would hope to come out on top at the end.”
The Indians have only won two World Series championships in 116 years in the American League.