November 2nd, 2016 - a date that will live in the hearts and minds of Cubs fans forever. On that night, the infamous 108-year World Series drought was ended by 25 players, plus countless other coaches, support staff, front office members, and of course, a little bit of rain. The historic event was covered heavily by NBC Sports Chicago (then known as CSN Chicago); a group of reporters, hosts and production crew were on the ground at Progressive Field in Cleveland, and it was all hands on deck back at the main production facility in downtown Chicago. Needless to say, it was a memorable night for all involved in the station’s coverage. This is the behind-the-scenes story of Game 7 and the night that baseball history changed forever.
DAVID KAPLAN (pre- and postgame show host)
Game 7 was a microcosm of everything that it is to be a Chicago Cubs fan… everything. It was torturous, it was brutal, it was one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever gone through, and it was awesome.
LUKE STUCKMEYER (on-field and clubhouse reporter)
It was the greatest roller-coaster ride ever. You were up, you were down… it was either going to be the greatest win in Chicago sports history, or the biggest bust ever. I was ready to vomit doing my live shot.
RYAN MCGUFFEY (field producer)
I remember literally every single thing about Game 7. I think I told myself beforehand, remember this night, because no matter what happens, it’s going to be historic, and just because it was the Cubs, no matter what, it was going to be bigger than probably anything I had ever been a part of.
TONY ANDRACKI (digital reporter)
Win or lose, the Cubs were on the precipice of history and here I was, covering the team and tasked with trying to describe and chronicle this momentous event that stretched far beyond just words on a screen.
The Cubs built up a 6-3 lead through 6 innings thanks to some clutch relief pitching from Jon Lester and home runs from Dexter Fowler, Javier Baez, and David Ross. However, with just 9 outs standing between the North Siders and that elusive world championship, nobody felt that lead was safe.
I started binge-eating at one point. I had a pizza, a milkshake, a hotdog… I had a collection of just awful foods and I housed them all by the third inning.
The most intense part of the whole thing is, we’re out on our set, we have a monitor, and it’s 15 seconds delayed. Well, I don’t want to watch 15 seconds delayed. So I’m at the other end of our set out near the street, because I can hear the speaker on the side of the stadium. Now, I hear that they get a hit, it’s 6-4. And (fellow postgame analyst Todd) Hollandsworth is yelling at me, he keeps going, “Would you relax? We’ve got this, it’s over, it’s good.” And I turned to him, and I said you don’t understand. You played here. You didn’t grow up and die with this team like I did. More than any team in any sport, there are no done deals with the Chicago Cubs.
ERIC FOGLE (photographer)
I’m not watching the game, I’m watching him (Kaplan) watching the game, and he’s standing behind the set with his head in his hands when things are going bad, he’s pumping his fist when things are going good, and I just found it to be the most unique and amazing experience that I’ve had.
In the bottom of the 8th, Cubs manager Joe Maddon called on closer Aroldis Chapman to protect a 2-run lead with his team 4 outs away from a title. Facing journeyman outfielder Rajai Davis, Chapman served up a game-tying 2-run home run, the only homer he allowed as a member of the Cubs. Stunningly, the game was tied at 6, and the Cubs appeared to be on the precipice of their greatest postseason disaster.
It was the first time I had really, truly ever been silenced in sports to where I really didn’t comprehend what had just happened, even though everything around me said it clearly happened. It was also the first time in my life that I felt like it really sucked to be a Cubs fan.
We’ve got an ace closer who’s top-3 in the game, and he gives up a home run to Rajai flippin’ Davis? We’re not talking about Mike Trout taking him deep, we’re talking about Rajai Davis, choking up on the bat six inches, and he smokes one to left? When I heard those fireworks go off, I nearly threw up.... You gotta be kidding me, it can’t be that cruel.
SCOTT CHANGNON (roaming photographer)
I was 20 yards away from where Rajai Davis tied the game in the 8th inning. The stadium seemed so loud and mind-numbingly quiet at the same time.
KELLY CRULL (on-field and clubhouse reporter)
I just remember hearing the crowd before the television that’s on a 4-second delay, and just feeling my heart sink into my stomach. Emotionally, my heart had gone into my stomach because honestly, as a reporter, all I’m thinking is, I don’t want to go talk to guys that are crying.
They had just wheeled in all the champagne, they’d wheeled in all the championship hats into the Cubs clubhouse. We’re on a delay from a TV that’s maybe 100 yards down the stadium, you hear everybody cheer, and out comes the champagne, out come the hats, and down comes the cart with the Cleveland championship hats, and they’re going down to the Cleveland dugout. When he hit the home run, I dropped my head because I was more furious than I was frustrated. The first person I looked up and saw was Kerry Wood standing with his kids, and he had this look of, oh my god, this just happened, and the two of us just looked at each other. I just shook my head, I remember Kerry dropping his head and walking away for a second to collect himself, and it was a true Cub moment. It was unbelievable.
The Cubs and Indians headed to extra innings after an eventful but scoreless 9th inning, but in a twist of fate, the heavens opened up and sent the decisive Game 7 into a rain delay, adding even more drama to a game already full of it.
I’ve never seen a hallway that crowded before the end of game or even after a game. Everybody’s family members seemed to be down there. Players’ wives were running back and forth, general managers were running back and forth, and I was just sitting there thinking, could they really do this to Cubs fans again? Is this really going to happen? ... At that point, in my mind, I was pretty sure they weren’t going to win. What are we going to ask them if they lose this game? It’s almost like you would just stick a microphone in there, and just be like, what’s the reaction? You know it’s going to be awful, but I don’t even know how you phrase it.
They were going to get that game in no matter what, but we’re just standing and waiting. It wasn’t 15 minutes later that we are now being pushed all the way back down the hallway to get back in position again, and just waiting to see what happens after that.
MICHAEL CAPPOZZO (photographer)
You had all these MLB people running, Cubs personnel running, clubhouse attendants running, literally it was like a movie, and I think obviously this could be a movie one day.
After the rain delay ended, Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero recorded run-scoring hits to put the Cubs ahead in the top of the 10th inning. The Indians brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom half, but Mike Montgomery retired Michael Martinez on a slow grounder to third, and the Cubs were finally World Champions once again. The first person among the NBC crew to see the final out was producer Jeff Nelson back in Chicago, who was watching on a raw MLB Network center field camera feed.
JEFF NELSON (pre- and postgame producer)
It’s like, holy cow, it really happened. I gave myself 10 seconds. Mom, I’m sorry I swore, I’m sorry, you raised me better than that, but it was just 10 seconds of release Then it’s like, OK, that’s it, get to work, let’s celebrate later.
What? It’s over? It finally happened. It was a pretty amazing, amazing feeling, because I was not David Kaplan the broadcaster, my heart was right there beating on the set. I was dizzy. I actually was light-headed, and I bent over and tried to compose myself because I had gotten a little bit emotional, and I looked back and I remember pointing up to my dad, just going, “we did it,” and then took a deep breath. I fist-bumped Holly and we went on the air, and then it was all a blur.
It doesn’t get bigger than that, it’ll never be that big again.
Knowing the final out was an inning away, I wanted to be in a unique spot that other cameras wouldn’t be at. I remember looking at my phone earlier in the game and noticed on social media that Brett Eldredge - a noted Cubs fan - was sitting with his family in the upper deck. Luckily I found the country music star and posted up in front of him, checking the audio on my microphone and preparing myself for history. After filming Anthony Rizzo catching the final out, I immediately panned my camera to Brett and his family celebrating with thousands of other Cubs fans. Overcome with emotion, Brett hugged his Dad and brother and proceeded to grab the microphone out of my hand and became an impromptu reporter, summing up his thoughts on the historic moment.
At that point, when the Cubs win the World Series, there’s not really a game plan. The game plan is to get every single guy you can possibly get to talk, to talk, and if you didn’t get him, get him the next round, and if you got him already, let’s get him later to see if they said anything different.
When I ran onto that field that night, my little portable live contraption that we run around with was on my backpack, and it malfunctioned. I put my backpack down for about 30 seconds and I was trying to troubleshoot with it, and I just said… Mike, keep it down there, just start rolling, you can always feed it in later. I’m not kidding you, I unhooked it, I picked up my camera, and I turned, and there was (Anthony) Rizzo and the other guys lifting up David Ross right in front of me, and all I had to do was pan up. There he was, and I got that heroic shot of him crying.
After the initial on-field celebration, attention turned to the visiting locker room, which was about to become a champagne-soaked party zone. After the corks were popped, Kelly Crull had a memorable encounter with Evanston native and lifelong Cubs fan Bill Murray.
How do I handle this on live television… I mean, it’s Bill Murray, he’s offering you a swig of champagne, you can’t say no. There’s this fine line to walk where I was like, you know what, I’m pacing myself, Bill, it’s going to be a long weekend, and he seemed to respect that. He was off to a stellar start already, he wanted us all to join him.
Jon Lester gave a speech, and after he finished the speech, everyone popped champagne at the same time. It was one of the most incredible, weirdest noise and smell. For the next few minutes I couldn’t see anything. I had the camera on my head, because I just couldn’t see anything. Who’s been in a room with 50 champagne bottles (being popped)? It’s just chaotic.
(A champagne cork) grazed off the bottom of my chin as it was shooting off in the other direction, and I heard (Cubs pitcher Jason) Hammel say sorry, and I thought, had I looked down another inch, I would have been blinded by a champagne cork.
I was able to make my way through the hallway of the Cubs clubhouse and noticed a cork from a champagne bottle on the floor. I scooped it up and placed it in my pocket as a souvenir I could share with my future children one day. Once my job was done filming the Cubs' celebration, I took a moment for myself - walking out to the pitcher's mound and reached my arms up toward the sky through the steady rain as one final thought washed over me: The Chicago Cubs had FINALLY won the World Series and I was there for every second of it.
In the days and weeks following the Cubs’ Game 7 win, Cubs fans young and old celebrated their team’s triumph. Millions of people gathered later that week for the championship parade through downtown Chicago. For the lucky few who were able to cover the Cubs’ first title in 108 years, it was an experience unlike anything they’d gone through before.
I had always seen the Cubs and their championship drought through my own lens and those vantage points of people around me: Chicagoans, Cubs fans, people who have had the Cubs ingrained in their lives whether they liked it or not. Obviously the 2016 Cubs were a perfect blend of youth, hunger and determination that helped them turn a blind eye to the pressure and weight of 108 years. I'll probably spend the rest of my life trying to truly wrap my head around this World Series and the impact the greatest story in American sports history had.
Unbelievable. Incredible. The most insane game I’ve ever seen, and emotional rollercoaster I’ve ever been on, and a dream come true.
Friday morning, I went out to the cemetery, and I’d bought a pin that said 2016 World Series Champions. I went out to the cemetery and I glued it to my dad’s headstone. I brought him coffee and I talked to him and told him we won, and it was intense, because I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without the love of sports he put in me.
I always figured that when the Cubs won the World Series, if I was there, I’d probably weep on TV. It never happened, and I think it’s because we were so busy. I don’t think I ever really soaked in how much they had won the World Series until we were walking back to the hotel at 4:00am, and we bought a hot dog from a vendor and I thought, this is a fitting end. Cracker jack, take me out to the ballgame, and i just bought a dirty hot dog from a vendor at 4:00am, life’s pretty good. I just saw the Cubs win the World Series.