By Randy Richardson
Actor Vince Vaughn’s low-key narration sets a perfect tone to the drama that is captured in Major League Baseball’s film, “The 2016 World Series,” which made its television debut last night on FS1.
“Time,” said Vaughn in the introduction. “It measures things in universal and inescapable ways.
When you look at how old something is, how long something lasted, you understand it. You understand its meaning. You understand its impact. You understand its promise.”
Flash to an elderly father and his middle-aged son standing outside Wrigley Field and the father, his voice halting as he tries to describe what this means to him. Unable to contain the tears, the son pats him on the back. “It’s okay,” the son said.
Time is the prevailing theme that runs through the 110-minute documentary, which features exclusive access, interviews and unique footage captured during the 2016 Fall Classic, which truly lived up to its name.
We all know the backdrop to the story: The National League Chicago Cubs, a franchise that last won a championship in 1908 facing off against a team that had not brought home a title since 1948. The two teams that had waited longer than any other and only one would still be waiting at the end.
It was a World Series for the ages that managed to even surpass all the hyperbole. Now, one month in the past, the official MLB film of it somehow manages to capture all the emotional drama, from Game 1 through Game 7.
Early on we see the Cubs’ All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the dugout next to veteran catcher David Ross.
“I’m an emotional wreck,” Rizzo tells his teammate, nicknamed “Grandpa Rossy.”
“It’s only going to get worse,” Ross said soberly, almost as if he could foretell what was to come.
I’m watching the highlights of Game 3 while jogging on the treadmill. The viewer is constantly reminded that it is the first World Series game to be played at Wrigley Field since October 1945. I happen to glance down at the timer. It reads 19:08. Of course, it does. This is about time, and waiting, and persevering. I keep running.
The Cubs lost the first two games at the so-called Friendly Confines, falling behind in the Series 3-1. The announcer reminds us that “thirty-nine of the last 43 teams to get to three games to one in the Series have gone on to win the Fall Classic.”
Enter Cubs outfielder Ben Zobrist. “We hung our heads a little bit,” Zobrist said, “and Rossy came up and gave us the kick in the pants and said, ‘Don’t do that. Don’t hang your heads, guys. We’ve won three games in a row so many times this year. We can do this. But we need to do it one game, one inning, one pitch at a time.’”
Then Jon Lester. “I keep telling these guys, nothing’s going to be easy for us,” he said. “It’s never going to just be handed to you. We got to keep going.
“I feel like we exemplify the city of Chicago, kind of the blue collar, let’s just show up and do our work.”
And then Rizzo. “We win Game 5,” he said, “there’s no way we’re going to lose Game 6…and then Game 7’s going to be a crapshoot. That’s the way it was in our minds.”
The foreshadowing of what was still to come. There’s no spoilers here. The Cubs would take Games 5 and 6, leaving it to a deciding Game 7, to be played in Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
Of course, it had to be a dark and stormy night. The Cubs took the early lead and looked ready to close it out with a 6-4 lead and their fireball-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound. And then the Indians’ light-hitting outfielder Rajai Davis blasts a 2-run home run to tie the game.
Said Zobrist: “I’d be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t think about ‘The Curse’ at that moment.”
Then, with the game tied 6-6 and heading into the 10th inning, the grounds crew rolled the tarp over the infield.
“The rain delay lasted only 17 minutes,” said Vaughn, a longtime Cubs fan, “but maybe…just maybe, it was enough time to wash away 108 years of frustration.”
During the break in the game, Cubs’ outfielder Jason Heyward called his teammates together for a huddle in the weight room.
“It was the first meeting we had as players all year,” said Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, “and it happens to be the last game of the year.”
Said Rizzo: “We came out, and we just said, ‘It is our time.’”
The Cubs would of course go on to win by a score of 8-7 in one of the most thrilling 10th innings in all of baseball history.
“We knew it would never be easy,” said Zobrist, named the Series’ MVP, “but I don’t know if we knew it would be this hard.”
It was the Cubs’ time.
“Time is a universal measuring stick,” Vaughn said in closing. “If you understand how old something is – how long it’s been around – then you can understand how much it means.
“One hundred eight years is a long time to wait on anything. But all the time that past, all the pain that transpired, all the stories that became part of the saga are exactly why everyone who watched the 2016 World Series will never forget it.”
No, we won’t ever forget it. This is one that will be locked up in our memories and cherished forever.
Take the time to watch MLB’s “The 2016 World Series,” which will be rebroadcast Sunday at 6 pm CT on FS1. It will be time well spent. Time to relive the emotional roller-coaster ride that was the 2016 World Series, without all of the anxiety that used to come with being a Cubs fan. Just be sure to keep a box of tissues nearby.
“The 2016 World Series” arrives Dec. 6 on two-disc Blu-ray™+ DVD combo pack and on DVD at MLBShop.com.
Randy Richardson is the author of the Wrigleyville murder mystery, Lost in the Ivy, and a regular contributor to Wrigleyville Nation