Sometimes, a little pregame horseplay can do wonders.
The Chicago Cubs trailed the Cleveland Indians three games to one in the 2016 World Series when first baseman Anthony Rizzo lightened the mood before Game 5 by stripping down and quoting motivational lines from movies, according to catcher David Ross, as told in an excerpt for Tom Verducci’s upcoming book “The Cubs Way: The Zen Of Building The Best Team In Baseball And Breaking The Curse.”
The naked comedy show worked, as the Cubs won Game 5 at Wrigley Field to force the series back to Cleveland. So Rizzo went through the routine before Game 6, which Chicago also won, and then again before Game 7, though his grand finale nearly divided the Cubs’ clubhouse prior to having its intended effect.
The following is an excerpt from Verducci’s book:
An hour before the seventh game of the World Series, Rizzo stripped off all his clothes, cranked the theme from Rocky on the clubhouse stereo one more time, jumped on top of a coffee table and began quoting lines from the movie and throwing his best shadow-boxing punches. Pitcher Héctor Rondon, joining in on the hijinks, picked up an aerosol can of shoe cleaner and sprayed it in the direction of Rizzo’s groin.
Startled and angered, Rizzo stopped and yelled, “What the heck, man!” He cut the music and stormed off toward the showers to clean off the spray.
“I’m thinking, Dang, what’s he doing?” Ross said. “We can’t have this negative vibe right before the game. I go by there. I can tell he’s a little irritated.”
Ten minutes went by. Rizzo finally emerged from the shower. He walked back silently to his locker with a towel around this waist. The room was quiet and uneasy.
Ross walked up to Rizzo and broke the silence.
“Hey! It’s not how many times you get knocked down … it’s how many times you get up!”
Rizzo chuckled. “You know what?” he said. “You’re right!”
Said Ross, “He rips the towel off, runs up, turns the music on again, and he jumps back on the coffee table and starts doing the Rocky motions again.”
Game 7 ended up being one for the ages, as both teams had an opportunity to emerge victorious. The Cubs outlasted the Indians 8-7 in 10 innings, though, and they even relived the Rocky-inspired battle cry in the dugout during the game, according to Ross.
When you’re trying to snap a 108-year World Series drought, it’s evidently best to keep things loose.
Thumbnail photo via Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Images