The ivy is beginning to change from green to red, an awesome autumnal attribute the public has rarely, if ever, seen. The corner of Clark and Addison is bustling with activity in the final days of October, some people simply gawking at the old yard that is still blissfully open for business, others lined up on the off chance an unclaimed ticket should rain down from the heavens or, less majestically but still successfully, from the ticket booths. Over at the Harry Caray statue at Sheffield and Waveland, they’ve placed green apples at the legs of the beloved broadcaster, a nod to his long-ago promise that “sure as God made green apples, someday the Cubs are going to be in the World Series.”
Well, finally, they are in the World Series, and it arrives at Wrigley Field tonight, with the Indians and Cubs knotted at one win apiece in a Fall Classic with historic implications. And the sound that is going to emanate out of this building — from generations of fans who had to wonder if this day would ever come — will be a roar 71 long years in the making.
“It’s going to be electric,” Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber said. “It’s going to be really, really loud.”
If the Cubs in the Series sounds like baseball’s version of a miracle, then so, too, is Schwarber’s active status in this Series, just six months after major reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
Alas, Schwarber was not medically cleared to play the field in the games played under National League rules, but his prodigious bat, no worse for the rust, did help the Cubs earn a split at Progressive Field to ensure tonight’s atmosphere will be all the more festive.
“I know that people have been waiting for this for a long time [and] are going to savour it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “And hopefully on our part, we can do something to really make it even better.”
On the other side, the Indians are savoring their status as the unwelcome intruders to this North Side soiree.
“It is going to be us against the world,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “But ‘us’ is pretty good. We have a good feeling.”
The Indians were still feeling out the possibility of using designated hitter Carlos Santana in left field to keep his bat in the lineup. Santana’s lone appearance in left in a big league game came on Aug. 12, 2012, and only for a few innings.
Thankfully, the starting pitching options for this one were much easier to decipher. The Indians will send Josh Tomlin to the mound opposite the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks, and both men will be fighting the elements, which will call for 15-20-mph winds blowing out, a potential launching pad.
Hendricks is an NL Cy Young Award candidate who has picked up precisely where his rousing regular season left off. He has a 1.65 ERA in 16 1/3 postseason innings. Tomlin, meanwhile, has been one of those surprise stars October tends to churn out. Injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar thrust Tomlin into a more prominent rotation role than expected, and he has delivered two strong starts against the tough lineups of the Red Sox and Blue Jays, allowing three runs in 10 2/3.
And if you think the Cubs returning home to a Wrigley World Series is a great story, consider what’s going on in Tomlin’s world. His dad, Jerry, hasn’t watched him pitch in person since a rare condition left him paralyzed from the chest down in mid-August. The elder Tomlin was released from the hospital last week, and he will be in attendance for Game 3.
“He hasn’t been to a game in quite a while, and it wasn’t looking like he was going to get to come to a game at all,” Tomlin said. “So to have him here and just to be able to see him is the thing I’m most looking forward to. But the fact that we get to experience the World Series together is pretty neat.”
This Series has presented us with no shortage of satisfying subplots, but the games themselves have both been blowouts so far. The Indians locked down that loaded Cubs lineup with their two best weapons — Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller — in Game 1, but the Cubs, behind a strong start from Jake Arrieta and a sudden offensive upswing against Trevor Bauer and the bullpen, turned the tables against a sloppy Tribe team in Game 2.
Game 3 looms as a potentially important swing spot. The team winning Game 3 of a 1-1 World Series has gone on to win it all on 37 occasions (64.9 percent of the time), including 11 of the last 14 instances. For what it’s worth, the home team has won Game 3 after a tie just 45.6 percent of the time and only three times in the last 10 tries.
Of course, for the Cubs, this is no ordinary home game. This is a game generations of fans have pined and pleaded for, and their prayers have finally been answered, possibly by the maker of those green apples. Just as Caray suspected, Wrigley Field is finally the center of the sporting world. And finally, the focus will no longer be on the years but the cheers.
VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.