Cubs

David Ross' movie gets a perfect ending with World champion Cubs

David Ross' movie gets a perfect ending with World champion Cubs

CLEVELAND - At first, it looked as if David Ross' "storybook season" was going to end on a horrendous note.

After entering Game 7 of the World Series in the middle of the fifth inning, the veteran catcher - playing in the final game of his career - committed an error on the very first batter he was on the field for, throwing Jason Kipnis' swinging bunt into the stands down the first-base line.

A couple pitches later, Ross couldn't block a wild pitch that wound up bouncing so far away, two Indians runs came around to score.

Just like that, the Cubs' 5-1 lead had evaporated into a tense 5-3 cushion.

"That's not how it was scripted," Ross said.

Of course, Ross then stepped up the next inning and drilled a solo homer to center field off Indians dominant reliever Andrew Miller, becoming the oldest player to homer in a Game 7 in baseball history.

Miller had previously given up just one earned run in 25.1 postseason innings entering Game 7.

A good three hours after his homer, Ross was still trying to process it.

"I cannot believe I homered," said Ross, who also played with Miller in Boston. "I honestly can't. Off Andrew Miller, too - one of the nastiest guys I've ever faced and caught.

"The guys kept coming up to me while I was trying to focus on catching and they're like, 'Dude, you just homered in Game 7 off Andrew Miller!' I'm like, "Stop telling me that! I can't think about that right now.'

"And then in the celebration, [Eric] Hinske, who is an ex-teammate of mine and our assistant hitting coach, said 'Yeah, I can't believe you homered. I was crying on the bench. I couldn't get my emotions in check.'

"It was a special night."

What a way to send Ross out - ending a 108-year championship drought in what may be the greatest baseball game ever played.

Ross, 39, believes he has grasped the magnitude of what these Cubs accomplished and what a World Series championship means to the fanbase and the city.

"What a storybook ending for an unbelievable 15- or 16-year career, whatever he's had," Jon Lester said. "You always dream about it. I hope we're all fortunate enough to win a World Series in our last year when we announce our retirement."

That word - "storybook" - has been thrown around by Ross and his teammates over the last few weeks. 

Ross was the starting catcher in the first World Series victory at Wrigley Field since 1945, when he and Lester kept the Indians at bay in a thrilling 3-2 victory in Game 5.

That could've been it - the last time Ross took the field in his career.

But Lester made himself available out of the bullpen for Game 7 and that's right where Joe Maddon went when he took starter Kyle Hendricks out of the game with two outs in the fifth inning.

And the game ended with the Cubs carrying Ross of the field on their shoulders like a remake of "Rudy."

"Everything has been so storybook," Ross said. "I feel like I've been in this movie that's been happening since spring training personally and with this group. You can't write what's gone on.

"I caught a no-hitter. Best team in baseball - first time I've ever been a part of a team over 100 wins."

When the Cubs signed Lester, they also brought Ross in as a package deal, and not just because he was Lester's personal catcher.

Ross helped institute a culture change in the Cubs clubhouse, acting as a steady veteran presence for all the young talent getting its first taste of life in the big leagues.

It's worked, as the Cubs have won 215 games since Ross signed, including five playoff series and, of course, one World Series.

"With David leaving, he's taught us so much," Kyle Schwarber said. "I wish that we could have that guy for another five years because he was very important to our clubhouse and to our team."

Ross had his best offensive season since 2010 and if his teammates want him back, would he ever rethink his retirement proclamation?

"I mean, how do you come back after this?" he said. "I would kick my own you-know-what after this. My family, my wife, these guys what a treat. I'm so, so lucky. 

"I'm gonna come back, but I'm gonna come back just to get that ring. I'm gonna come back just to heckle [Anthony Rizzo] from the seats near first base. 

"I'm gonna come back every once in a while just to enjoy a wonderful city that has treated me so nice."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

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USA TODAY

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.