By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — There was a moment that night of Game 7, not too long after the rain halted and play was ready to continue, when the realization struck Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery.
He walked to the bullpen alongside Carl Edwards Jr. when it really hit him — the Cubs’ plight and history was in their hands. And sure enough, when Edwards got into trouble in the 10th inning of an 8-7 game , Montgomery was called upon with two outs and the tying run on first base.
Montgomery would become the man on the mound for the final out of the Cub’s first World Series championship in 108 years. His second pitch of that 10th inning, a mean curveball in on right-handed hitter Michael Martinez, forced the slow chopper to Kris Bryant that ended an incredible World Series and his new franchise’s century-plus of futility.
“It’s an honor, really, to be that guy,” Montgomery said Monday as he looked back ahead of the Cubs raising their championship banner. “Granted, I just went out to get one out in the big picture. But it was the biggest out in this team’s history. That’s pretty cool to be a part of.”
Because of that breaking ball, Montgomery’s life will never be the same. It’s a fate he never could’ve predicted when the 2016 season started and he was pitching for the Mariners. But the Cubs wanted pitching depth at the trade deadline, and Montgomery fit perfectly — a reliable lefty who can eat innings and make spot starts. He projects to start for the Cubs in the long term.
Montgomery entered the fold last season amid the Cubs’ push for the playoffs. They were baseball’s best team all season long, and with a 6-3 lead in the eighth inning of Game 7, the Cubs brought in closer Aroldis Chapman to seal the win, as expected. It’s funny how best-laid plans can change, as Chapman allowed a run-scoring double and tying two-run homer.
What Montgomery never expected was that he would be called upon to record his first ever save in Game 7 of the incredible World Series. He has since seen that final out hundreds of times. The Cubs mobbed his mound after that 5-3 putout. His arms were outstretched in the air. It’s an image forever etched in Cubs history.
“It’s almost like I’m immune to it now, I’ve seen it so many times,” Montgomery said.
Like anyone in the game, Montgomery understood what he was getting into. The Cubs’ push was the story of baseball last season. The postseason brought its challenges, but the Cubs overcame.
Monday marked the latest night in the never-ending celebration, with the Cubs raising their World Series championship banner above Wrigley Field. The building has stood for more than a century and never seen a banner.
Had it not been for Montgomery’s breaking ball, history could’ve been different. He was the man on the mound, the center of the celebration and now a legend in Cubs lore.
Typically, players get the ball from a career milestone. Despite his best pleas to Anthony Rizzo, Montgomery knew he probably wasn’t going to get the ball from his first career save. He has enough memories to serve as mementos.
Now, Montgomery is starting to grasp what he was a part of. He’ll be cherished forever in Chicago.
“If you win for them,” he said, “they’ll love you forever.”