CLEVELAND -- What happens when the cork pops on a 108-year-old bottle of champagne?
Well, as soon as the throw from Kris Bryant settled into Anthony Rizzo's glove in the bottom of the 10th inning of the damnedest game in the damnedest World Series ... maybe ever, the Chicago Cubs sprang from the visitors dugout to celebrate their 8-7 victory and first World Series title since -- let it breathe -- 1908.
Yes, there were ghosts out there, and millions of long-suffering Cubs fans, but this celebration was about this mostly young team that survived expectations and defied the odds by winning the last three games of the Series. One player stood apart from his teammates, looking at them for a moment and smiling proudly.
That was David Ross, known as Grandpa Rossy, the backup catcher who had long ago announced that this would be his last season. He came into the game in the fifth to catch his battery- and soulmate, Jon Lester, and he had a big hand in this game.
OK, yes -- first he made a throwing error, and then he fell on his butt chasing a wild pitch while the Indians scored two runs to close the lead to 5-3. But then, in the top of the sixth, he hit a home run off the virtually unhittable Andrew Miller to put the Cubs back on top, 6-3. As he later described, in his return to the dugout, assistant batting coach Eric Hinske told him, "Dude, you just homered in Game 7 off Andrew Miller!"
At 37 years, 228 days, he also became the oldest player to hit a home run in Game 7 of a World Series, surpassing Willie Stargell of the 1979 Pirates by only three days. (Those "We Are Fam-a-lee" Pirates also happen to be the last team to come back from a 3-1 deficit by winning the last two games on the road.)
In the end, like Ross' performance Wednesday, and the Cubs' over the course of the season, this game had a lot of ups and downs. (In a charming TV miked-up moment during the game, Ross told a nervous Rizzo, "Just continue to breathe. That's all you can do, buddy. It's only gonna get worse.") But by the time it ended, all that was important was the ending: A ground out to Bryant. At which time, all heaven broke loose as an inordinate number of Cubs fans cheered and Cleveland fans turned away.
As the Cubs celebrated on the field, Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports interviewed Ross, who spoke eloquently about how proud he was of his teammates and was interrupted by manager Joe Maddon in a tight embrace. "What a group of winners," Ross told Rosenthal. "These guys never quit. They've answered every challenge all year long. ... It's a good organization, I'm so happy for these guys and I'm just glad they took me on this journey." The interview ended when Rizzo and Jason Heyward came over to take Ross on a literal journey, hoisting him on their shoulders and carrying him off.
What a last ride this has been for Ross, who started his major league career with the Dodgers in 2002 and won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013. He caught Jake Arrieta's no-hitter earlier this season and won 100 regular-season games for the first time. And he has earned the love and respect of every player and coach in the room.
But he was nowhere to be found as the corks popped and the champagne flowed in the visitors clubhouse. Employees posed and took selfies with the World Series trophy. Maddon brought a silver plate of crab legs into his office. Bill Murray held court, of course, but he was subdued and pensive as he wiped the bubbly from his eyes. "The dream has come true," he said. "It's wonderful but a little overwhelming. We've been good losers. I just hope we can be good winners."
Ross chose to spend time with his family in the weight room below the clubhouse, but eventually the media found him. Asked if he was rethinking his decision to retire, he said, "Oh, God, no. How can I top this? If I come back, it'll be to get my ring and maybe yell at Rizzo from the seats.
"This has been a storybook season for me. And I got my happy ending."