Long-suffering fans of the Chicago Cubs erupted in celebration early Thursday from Cleveland to Wrigleyville and beyond, alternating between elation and disbelief after their team put an end to the longest dry spell in sports history – with the help of some rain.
In a hard-fought victory that could inspire baseball fans for generations, the Cubs overcame the Cleveland Indians, 8-7, in a 10-inning Game 7 of the World Series, a match that held crowds in suspense until the very end, at 12:47 a.m.
"It was like a heavyweight fight, man. Just blow for blow, everybody playing their heart out," Cubs second baseman and World Series MVP Ben Zobrist told CNN. "The Indians never gave up either, and I can't believe we're finally standing, after 108 years, finally able to hoist the trophy."
This marks the first time since 1908 that the Cubs have won a World Series, and it breaks a 71-year-old "curse" that some superstitious fans say had been in force since a Chicago tavern owner and his goat were denied entrance to Wrigley Field on Oct. 6, 1945, just one month after World War II ended.
Although most of the current Cubs players were born in the 1990s and remain unlikely to believe in curses, USA Today baseball columnist Bob Nightengale credited the reversal in part to a rain delay that halted Cleveland's momentum just before the 10th inning.
"It saved the Cubs from their worst collapse in franchise history, and perhaps the most painful winter any of them would ever endure, into the most beautiful evening of their lives," Mr. Nightengale wrote.
The delay, which lasted 17 minutes, gave the Cubs an opportunity to recompose themselves and listen to a pep talk from right fielder Jason Heyward in the weight room.
"I think the rain delay was the best thing that ever happened to us, to be honest with you," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told USA Today. "Things had kind of stopped going in our direction.
"I think that delay allowed our guys to regroup. And maybe, after 108 years, you get some divine intervention."
Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said the young players on the team should take pride in having won the hard way, though the reality of their accomplishment might not sink in for awhile.
"Some of the guys in here are so young, I really don't think they understand what they just accomplished," Lester told ESPN. "I don't think they'll understand it until they get a little bit older."
The Cubs are among only seven teams to win the World Series after losing three of the first four games. The Kansas City Royals were the most recent team to accomplish that, in 1985.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said this is the sort of game that could reinvigorate enthusiasm for the sport.
"It could not have been a more entertaining, difficult series to win," Mr. Maddon told CNN. "I think beyond all that, I want to believe and I do believe this is good for our game moving forward, that we're attempting to seize young fans and not just to play the game, but to be fans of the game. You cannot be more entertained than you were over these last seven games. It's incredible."
The historic Cubs victory left their opponents with a bruising history of defeat. The Indians, who last won a World Series in 1948, now have the longest dry spell between championships. Despite the stinging loss, which echoes a similar loss to the then-Florida now-Miami Marlins in 1997, the Indians should be proud of themselves, team manager Terry Francona said.
"It's going to hurt," he told CNN. "It hurts because we care, but they need to walk with their head held high because they left nothing on the field. And that's all the things we ever ask them to do. They tried until there was nothing left."