CHICAGO — Until 9:45 p.m. local time on Saturday, it had been seven decades since the Cubs last stood in this position, champions of the National League. Yet as their delirious fans jumped and shouted and wept at the end of seven decades of darkness, the Cubs themselves set their sights on the horizon.
“We’re going to dance, we’re going to party,” said shortstop Addison Russell, his clothes still drenched from champagne. “We know what they want, a World Series title. Now we have a chance to win one.”
Throughout their October run, the Cubs have not lost their focus on the ultimate goal: ending their championship futility that dates to 1908. That resolve came out again after winning the pennant. Wrigleyville partied into the night and the Cubs savored their moment of triumph, though always acknowledging what could come next.
“We’re still not there yet,” said Cubs righthander Kyle Hendricks, whose brilliance in Game 6 clinched the pennant. “We have four more to go. So as good as this feels, as much as we’re going to enjoy it, we’re going to have fun tonight. But getting up tomorrow, we know what we got to do come Tuesday.”
That’s when the World Series against the Indians begins.
“We’re trying to rewrite history,” centerfielder Dexter Fowler said.
Thus far, the Cubs have shown all the signs of a team capable of just that. At every hint of adversity this postseason, they have channeled the focus to endure.
In the National League Division Series against the Giants, the Cubs took a 2-0 series lead before dropping Game 3 in 13 innings. They entered the ninth inning of Game 4 trailing 5-2, and a loss would have forced an elimination game against Giants righthander Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs won Game 4 to spare themselves, much to the relief of manager Joe Maddon, who admitted that he feared the matchup.
Against the Dodgers, the Cubs fell behind 2-1 in the series, forcing them to play from behind for the first time. After being shut out in Games 2 and 3, the Cubs broke out of the slump they had dragged through the postseason and outscored the Dodgers 23-6 in the final three NLCS games.
With that, the Cubs took a step forward, wiping away the memories of getting shut down by the Mets’ talented arms in last year’s league championship series. “Nobody’s overwhelmed by anything,” Maddon said. “That’s the difference between last year and this year.”
As if on demand, the Cubs conjured up the version of themselves that racked up 103 regular-season wins and established that they would be a force come October — regardless of the franchise’s sordid history.
“These are special fans,” Maddon said about an hour after the end of Game 6, with Wrigley Field still rocking. “We’re really happy to give them this first step.”
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant often boasts about how he pays little attention to history. Leading up to Game 6, he admitted that he did not know precisely how long it had been since the Cubs last won the pennant. But he has not lost track of another important year — 1908 — the last time they won the World Series.
“Yeah,” said Bryant, the target clear in his mind. “I think I know that one.”