It all started in the winter after the 1919 season when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the rights Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000, which translates to north of a billion dollars with inflation over the last almost 100 years. From that date, technically back to the fall of 1918, the Red Sox did not win a World Series for the rest of the century. Then in the fall 2001, Larry Lucchino, the president and CEO, hired Epstein, whom he had worked for with the Padres organization as the director in player development. At the end of the 2002 season, Epstein was promoted to GM.
Initially, Epstein made some key free agent signings in Kevin Millar and Curt Schilling, but then he made a move that shocked Sox Nation. On July 31, 2004, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Cubs in a four-team deal that brought back Orlando Cabrera from Montreal and Doug Mientkiewicz from Minnesota. But Epstein had his pieces in place for a serious run through October, as they won the Wild Card with a 98-64 record, 3 games behind the Yankees in the AL East.
In the ALDS, the Sox made quick work of the Anaheim Angels, sweeping them in 3 games. Then, the magic started happening. Against the Yankees in the ALCS, Boston lost the first three games 10-7, 3-1, and 19-8, falling into a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 deficit. Game 4 at Fenway went 12 innings, with the Sox winning 6-4 thanks to a David Ortiz walk-off home run off of Paul Quantrill. Ortiz would be the hero against the next night in the Bronx, as a single to center field in the bottom of the 14th scored Johnny Damon. The Sox won 5-4. Boston game out flying in Game 7, scoring two runs off Kevin Brown in the top of the 1st, and hitting a grand slam in the next inning. The Sox did the impossible, winning the game 10-3 and moved to the World Series for the first time since 1986.
Boston would meet the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, sweeping them in four games to win their first championship in 86 years and, with it, killing the Curse of the Bambino forever. Theo Epstein instantly became a hero in New England, as the man who brought an end to almost nine decades without a championship. The Sox would be back in the World Series again 3 years later, where the swept the Colorado Rockies in four games, and in 2013, again beating the Cardinals 4-2, a team still with Epstein’s fingerprints on it.
Then we have the story of the North Siders, the Chicago Cubbies. After winning back to back titles in 1907 and 1908, the Cubs would be dormant for an entire century. The won several more pennants, including 1918, where they lost to the Red Sox in the World Series, until 1945. Legend has it the night of October 6th, local tavern owner William Sianis brought his pet goat into Wrigley Stadium with him. He was soon asked to leave, as other fans complained about the smell of the animal. It is absolutely amazing to me that in a time when men wore suits to baseball games, this moron thought it was okay to take his fucking goat with him, but I digress.
On his way out, it is said that Sianis declared, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. They would go on to lose the Series to the Detroit Tigers in seven games, and would not win another NL pennant for 71 years. And for many of those years, the team, to but it simply, stunk. They would only make the playoffs three times (1984, 1989, and 1998) before 2003, when, after defeating the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, Steve Bartman did the unthinkable, catching a foul ball only inches above the glove of Chicago left fielder Moisés Alou, igniting a late rally by the Florida Marlins in Game 6, which they would eventually win. The Marlins would go on to win Game 7, moving on the to World Series.
In October 2011, the Chicago Cubs announced that they had come to terms with Epstein, for five-years and a reported $18.5 million. He said that he had a five year play to turn the team, who had finished in 5th in the NL Central the last two years, around. By 2015, the Cubs finished in 3rd, winning the second NL wild card, and advanced to their first NLCS since 2003, only to get swept by the Mets in 4 games. Then came this year.
A lineup with Epstein acquisitions including Joe Maddon, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, was on a path to make history. Finishing the regular season at 103-58, best in the Majors, the Cubs won the NL Central by 17.5 games. In the NLDS, the defeated the San Francisco Giants 3-1. In the NLCS, searching for their fist pennant in over 70 years, the Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in 6 games, advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945.
Chicago met the American League champions, the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, a team who had the second longest title drought in the majors, not winning since 1948. Cleveland jumped out to a 3-1 lead (shut up, Lebron’s actually a Yankee fan), but the Cubs turned things around in Game 5, winning on the arm of Jon Lester 3-2 at Wrigley Field. In Game 6 in Cleveland, the Cubby bats came alive. Home runs by Kris Bryant, Addison Russell (a grand slam), and Anthony Rizzo fueled a 9-3 victory.
The table was set for Wednesday night, November the 2nd. Cubs and Indians, for all the glory, and to give something to a city that hadn’t happened in over a generation. Game 7 was hands down the greatest baseball game I’ve ever watched. After nearly 4 and a half hours, and a rain delay in between the 9th and 10th innings, history was written. Early on the morning of November 3, 2016 in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 7, third basemen Kris Bryant (drafted by Epstein in 2013) fielded a groundball off of the bat of Michael Martinez and threw the ball to Anthony Rizzo (acquired in a trade with San Diego, orchestrated by Epstein) the Curse of the Billy Goat was finally dead, and Theo Epstein was immortalized.
In 14 years working in the Majors, Theo Epstein has ended 194 years of suffering for two of the most historic teams in America, the Boston Red Sox, who couldn’t quite seal the deal for 86 years (BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER!!!), and the Cubs, the lovable losers from the north side of Chicago. It is safe to say that he has reserved himself a spot in Cooperstown when he decides to call it a day and close the book on what has been an absolutely amazing story to this point. All I am left wondering now is how many more World Series will the Cubs win over the next decade with the young stud Epstein has developed. Oh, and how many beers will he drink on his bender now that he is back in the Windy City.
Will somebody build this fucking guy a statue?
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