Jason Kipnis, the Indians’ two-time All-Star second baseman, grew up in a Chicago suburb with dreams of playing the World Series in Wrigley Field. Dreams shared by a few million Cub fans who couldn’t wait to get the party started when the World Series finally came to Wrigley Field after lo these many decades.
And after his Indians managed to squeeze their way to a 1-0 Game Three win in the Confines, Kipnis took into consideration the broken hearts in the ballpark, in front of the television sets, next to the radios, wherever Cub Country congregated, and had words for those hearts.
“I love it. I hope we break all of them. I hope we break every single one of them,” said Kipnis after the game. “I hope I come home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, the offseason, and I just want to have a smile on my face when I look at all these Cubs fans.”
You don’t blame him for wishing his Indians—who haven’t won a World Series since the year in which windsurfing, hair spray, cat litter, the restroom hair dryer, cable television, and the video game were invented—continue crashing the Chicago party. But you want to counsel him against providing clubhouse billboard fodder and motivation.
Someone on the Cubs is bound to see his published remarks. And liable to tack them up on a clubhouse billboard. These Cubs take only one thing more seriously than trying to win baseball games, and Kipnis—who was once one of those fans—just stuck the knife into their backs after a game either team might have been lucky to win in the first place. Never discount that kind of motivation, about which more shortly.
Oh, yes, Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Game Three starter whose masterpiece against the Dodgers got the Cubs to the Series in the first place, pitched magnificently. And, oh, yes, Josh Tomlin, motivated by the presence of his partially-paralysed father in the stands, pitched even more magnficently.
So did both bullpens, even if it was Miller Time after four and two thirds, Miller struck out pinch hitter Miguel Montero to end the fifth before striking out the side in the sixth, and both teams put pressure enough on each other’s pitching staffs while compelling Indians skipper Terry Francona to empty his bench to preserve what little lead the Indians came up with.
And so did Coco Crisp, the prodigal Indian who didn’t start Game Three, who was sent out to pinch hit for Miller himself, after pinch runner Michael Martinez caught the Tribe’s luckiest break of the night—scrambling and diving back to third on a throw up the line, and getting the safe call despite television replays showing his lead hand touched Cub third baseman Kris Bryant’s foot before touching the pad after the tag.
Crisp hit a clean line single to left to score Martinez with the game’s only run and the end of Hendricks’s night. And the game came down to Indians reliever Cody Allen against Cubs second baseman Javier Baez—who continued his highlight reel-quality fielding, in hand with a few other Cubs and Indians all night long otherwise—with deuces wild in the bottom of the ninth.
Allen caught Baez overanxious, threw him a fastball climbing the mountain, and Baez, hoping to hit one maybe into the rooftop seats, struck out violently enough to end it. The fact that this was only the fourth time in World Series history that neither starting pitcher surrendered a run* seemed a mere sidebar. So, almost, did the Indians throwing their fifth shutout of this postseason while the Cubs suffered their fourth.
Now, back to Kipnis and his publicly expressed wish that every last Cub heart get broken. Not very nice to say about a team and its fans who’ve been waiting for a World Series win since Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, Bulgaria declared independence from the Ottoman Empire, and screen legend Carole Lombard was born.
Jason Kipnis, meet Lew Burdette and David Cone. Two great pitchers who fell just short of Hall of Fame great. Two great pitchers whose big yaps ended up costing their teams big enough.
Burdette beat the Yankees three times in the 1957 Series to help the Braves to Milwaukee’s only World Series championship ever, so far. A year later, the Braves and the Yankees met in the Series again.
The Braves won the first two games; Burdette pitched and won the second of them. “I wish the Yankees were in the National League,” the puckish righthander cracked after the game. “They’d be lucky enough to finish second.”
Oops. The Yankees would go on to shake off a 3-1 Series deficit to win the ’58 Series, beating Burdette twice along the way while they were at it.
Cone helped the Mets win the National League East in 1988 and agreed to write a guest ghosted column for the New York Daily News during the postseason.
Uh, oh. The Mets beat the Dodgers in Game One of that National League Championship Series, despite eventual LCS and World Series MVP Orel Hershiser shutting them out for eight innings, when they bushwhacked closer Jay Howell in the ninth with Darryl Strawberry’s RBI double and Gary Carter’s two-run double, and reliever Randy Myers kept the Dodgers shut in the bottom of the ninth.
Cone popped off in his column. He said Hershiser, who’d win that year’s Cy Young Award while he was at it, was “lucky” to shut the Mets out for eight innings, and that Howell had little to no chance with that “high school curve” he threw.
Guess who started Game Two? And guess who got thumped for four early runs and was knocked out of the game in the third inning, en route the Dodgers outlasting the Mets for the pennant? Not to mention, guess whose career as a newspaper columnist (ghosted or otherwise) ended posthaste?
You could understand part of where Kipnis came from with his comments. It does seem like the entire world is rooting for the Cubs, and the Indians are just the guys who happened to be the underappreciated other pennant winner in the contest. He said it himself in due course:
There’s so much Cubs talk, on ESPN and all that stuff, that we actually appreciate it. We like to go under the radar. We’ve been the underdogs the whole time — in every series. That’s fine by us. We’ll just be that other team that won the World Series. What do you think?
You haven’t heard anything about us. We’ve probably got guys coming off the bench you don’t even know the names of. So we like to just worry about ourselves and go play the game of baseball and compete. And that’s all we’re caring about right now.
If all he’d said was that, Kipnis would have hit a few rhetorical home runs while his Indians—read this carefully, folks—actually sit two wins away from the kind of party Cleveland hasn’t had since American strategists were planning the Berlin Airlift. Kipnis already earned mucho kudos for shaking off an ankle sprain to play this Series.
Well, the Dodgers sat two wins away from getting to the World Series before these Cubs overthrew them over a week ago. And whatever they thought in their own hearts, none of those Dodgers had the audacity to come right out and say they hoped to break millions of them.
Cone had to dine heartily on his own words both in his own first start and when the Dodgers out-lasted the Mets in 1988. All it might take is someone pinning Kipnis’s words up on the billboard in the Cubs clubhouse, as the 1988 Dodgers did to David Cone, and Kipnis just might find himself dining even more heartily on his. In a waffle Cone with Burdette topping.
* For the record, the only other such pairs of World Series starters were:
—Freddy Garcia and Brandon backe, 2005 Game Four.
—Dennis Martinez and Tom Glavine, 1995 Game Six.
—John Smoltz and Jack Morris, 1991 Game Seven.