With the news that Rajai Davis has signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics, the memory of his heroics in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series resurfaced. Knowing what happened next, these are some tough feelings to bring back up, but no one can take away the moment when Davis restored hope to the Cleveland Indians.
Here are a few of those memories from the staff at WFNY:
Dave: It was late, my wife and I were sitting at opposite ends of the couch. There was sadness, frustration, helplessness. This Cubs juggernaut couldn’t be stopped. We just had to sit there and listen to Joe Buck whisper sweet nothings to Kyle Schwarber and learn to accept the inevitable. Then Rajai Davis came up. And he choked up. Laymen wondered what the heck he was doing, but every little league manager knew that choking up was the only way to catch up to a 100 MPH fastball. When the ball was hit Mary Ellen and I both jumped off of the couch. It seemed at the time like it was taking forever. We watched, we looked at each other and we did a bizarre combination jump-hug and we both yelled with delight and excitement. We’re we worried about our neighbors? Not really, they were doing the same thing. When the rain delay hit, I walked outside because I heard people talking. A neighbor from across the street had come across and was talking to my next door neighbor. I went outside to talk to them and we traded a series of “Holy Shit!” exclamations. We all remember what happened later, but I’ve never experienced a baseball moment like that before.
Michael: Let’s reset the stage real quick. It was 6-3 in the eighth inning with two outs. Aroldis Chapman and his 100 mile per hour heater had come to the mound to relieve Jon Lester who just gave up a weak infield single to Jose Ramirez. Game 7 was feeling like the Game 6 dominance of the Chicago Cubs all over again. We were watching at home, and the kids had left the room assuming they knew the outcome. My wife had the “poor guy” pity look on her face as I refused to grapple with the reality that the Indians were about to lose the final three games of the World Series. And then Brandon “southpaw killer” Guyer laced a run-scoring double. Never forget Guyer was the one who set the stage. He is the one who cracked the shade for just enough sunlight to peek in that hope was restored. “If Rajai hits a home run here, then it’s a new game” was the proclamation my wife made as I nervously said I’d be happy with another double to keep this thing going. Of course, Davis fouled four Chapman fastballs off before crushing that game-tying home run. I don’t remember the next few moments other than the kids returned for high-fives and cheers and remained to watch Davis knock in Guyer again in inning 10. A cruel twist being that RBI only got the Tribe within one rather than the championship.
Either that or the ghost of Jose Mesa aided in the whole thing.
Scott: Craig and I were in the first row along the first base line. As anyone who entered Progressive Field during the World Series will tell you, Chicago Cubs fans were everywhere. As the game wore on, my row mate was getting antsy about watching the season end the way it appeared to be heading. When Chapman came in, however, the mood began to change. While Indians fans were nervous about a flame-throwing closer taking the bump, Cubs fans were more so, knowing not just how history had unfolded many times before, but that this one man was pitching on short rest and was being asked to do even more. “You’re going to tie it,” said the fan behind us as Brandon Guyer reached first base. “It’s Rajai Davis,” I said. “He’s hit like nine home runs all season.”1
What happened next was a bit of a blur—a sort of euphoric blackout unlike any I’ve experienced before—but what I remember is watching Davis flick his heavily choked bat at a pitch around the shins, and watching it soar… and soar… Progressive Field was insanely loud, but during those few seconds, I didn’t hear anything—it was movie-like silence, at least until the ball caromed back into the field after hitting that left field camera. I’ve never jumped higher into the air at a sporting event than I did that night. Hugs and high-fives and crescendo screams. It was a moment that, given the timing and magnitude and characters involved, will never be topped. That the Indians didn’t win the entire thing was a shame, but it was a moment so big that even the eventual loss could do little in the way of diminishing it. Rajai Davis will forever be welcomed back to Cleveland.
Craig: I could very easily just say, “What Scott said.” We were there together, as he said, and it was the one moment of pure joy and relief that I can remember from Game 7. That whole series wasn’t much fun in our home park, and for that one moment I felt like we had the upper hand over the invading Cubs fans. I thought it was the turning point where another fan base with more cursed history than we had was going to be crushed into oblivion. It was just so unexpected and huge in a moment against a villainous player on the mound in Chapman. I’ll always appreciate that mini moment of good defeating evil even if Chapman’s team ended up winning.
Josh: Given the fact that it was a work night, East 4th began to clear out somewhat, with the Indians trailing by three and about to lose their third-consecutive game to the juggernaut who was expected to win it all. But, there was a group of us who still had hope. A Cleveland sports fan my entire life, I knew never to give up on a team, a very good team at that, no matter what the score was. The group had thinned out, but there were still plenty of us watching on the television outside of one of the bars. Then, it happened. While I don’t remember exactly what I did at that exact moment, I do remember jumping around, high-fiving strangers, being able to hear the cheers not only downtown, but from those in Progressive Field a well. I then realized that, maybe this was Cleveland’s year. Honestly, at that moment, I thought the Indians had it in the bag. There was no one way they were going to lose the game now.
While the rain delay put a damper on the mood (and momentum), I truly do believe that if there wasn’t a rain delay, the Cleveland Indians would have won the World Series. But, it is what it is, right? The Indians may have lost the game in the end, but Rajai Davis will forever go down in team history for that home run. It’s a moment I will never forget.
Kyle: Like most of my fantasies, it began in Hawaii. Unlike most of my fantasies, this one actually happened… which may partially explain why it ended the way it did. My pretense for being in Honolulu was a work conference, one of those legitimately important but nonetheless silly “professional development” exercises that even my financially-emaciated public sector employer is willing to indulge. I was sitting in a tourist haven a few hundred feet from Waikiki Beach with a fellow Indians fan I befriended at the airport (more evidence of my hypothesis that no one is never more than 100 feet from someone from Ohio). I was watching Andrew Miller forfeit a home run to the geriatric David Ross to put the Indians down 6-3 around the time a Hawaiian beach sunset was unfolding directly behind me — a fitting metaphor for all the things I’ve neglected in my life for the sake of sports.
Sometime around the top of the eighth inning, a Cubs fan at the end of the bar got cocky with his team up three runs and picked up my bar tab. The uninitiated would mistake this as a gesture of goodwill, but I knew better. Not to be outdone by a rival smart ass, I returned the favor by buying him and his girlfriend each a shot of Jägermeister, a foul alcoholic green syrup enjoyed straight only by the truly wicked and myself. The Cubs fan reluctantly slurped down the liqueur, sporting a grimace that betrayed a disgust for both the beverage and the karmic swing he had tempted. Within five minutes of the fan’s premature celebration, Brandon Guyer had brought the Indians within two runs with an RBI single. I was feeling good. When Rajai Davis struck his immortal tying blow to deep left field, I screamed involuntarily, knocked my stool over, and nearly lost my arm doing one of those full wind-up high fives that the frail shouldn’t attempt without a spotter, as the bar of mildly interested travelers briefly exploded in pandemonium.
Alas, my attempt to manipulate fate came up short. A few hours later, I was quietly staring down, stirring some french fries in a pool of ketchup, listening to some shitty non-offensive mid-2000s pop like Maroon 5 or Gwen Stefani try to sedate me into enjoying a Mai Tai while the Cubs showered one another in Champagne in my team’s locker room. Then I went back to my room to eat pretzels dipped in nacho cheese while listening to Ryan Adams Live at Carnegie Hall between fits of quiet sobbing — which, to be fair, is how most of my fantasies end.
Jim: I have to preface this with the simple fact that I’ve been through so much with this team over the years, as we all have. My first memories were at the old Municipal Stadium, watching those red-clad teams play really bad baseball. When they didn’t win a series in ’95, and nearly won in ’97, it tore out my soul. In ’97, after they lost, I didn’t move for what seemed like hours. I needed the taste of that gone. I needed a new memory…a better memory.
That Game 7 was painful for me. I didn’t go out to watch it. I didn’t drive downtown, as I was planning. I just stayed home. I wanted to watch every second, take in every nuance, without having to worry about distractions. But that game was painful. When Kluber started losing his grip on the game, it felt pretty hopeless. When Miller gave up the home run to David Ross, I honestly wanted to turn the TV off. But I couldn’t.
When JRam hustled out an infield single with two outs, I felt like something could happen. When Guyer doubled, scoring JRam, I KNEW something big was going to happen. But up came Rajai, and I couldn’t watch. I turned the the radio on, turned off the TV, and prayed.
The minute the ball was hit, you could hear it in Tom Hamilton’s voice…”Swung on…LINED TO DEEP LEFT FIELD…IT IS…….GONE!!!!!” I don’t remember much, over the next few seconds. I remember screaming…I remember running outside to see if anyone else was running outside…and then thought…TV…TURN ON THE DAMN TV!
Watching that stadium, in that moment…wiped my heart clean. I’ll never forget 1997. It pains me to even mention it, but somehow, even in loss, that eighth inning home run felt like a win. I could taste a series in the ninth inning of that Marlins game in ’97, just like I could taste it here in 2016, but for some reason, the pure joy of that home run, in a game we shouldn’t have been in after Kluber and Miller failed to dominate, in a series we shouldn’t have made it to a Game 7 in, was perfect.
Pat: I was getting so incredibly frustrated with the team. They were blowing this incredible chance to make history in their home stadium. It seemed like no one could touch the Cubs’ pitchers and they were getting close to the point where they would bring on Aroldis Chapman to throw some smoking 103 mph fastballs right down our gullets and give us an even smaller chance to win the game.
I had to get out of the house. I had to change my luck, change my mindset, change my underwear; I had to do something! It was already really late, but I decided to drive over to the Buffalo Wild Wings that is only a couple of minutes from my house and watch the game there with a couple craft beers to share the misery with other Indians fans2. I was already starting to feel a little better even though the team was still playing poorly.
Suddenly, the Indians had something cooking. Brandon Guyer was standing on base when Rajai Davis belted a curling liner that seemed like it was destined to hit the wall for a double. But it never did. Instead it just hung in the air like it stole Michael Jordan’s secret to extending hang time, and it smacked against the railing above the wall. I went crazy, I couldn’t help myself. I yelled out and gave high fives to every Indians fan who was celebrating there with me. I couldn’t believe the Indians could pull of something like that. It truly felt magical, and it’s one of the rare memories that will actually stay vivid and vibrant in my head throughout the rest of my life, regardless of the final outcome of the game.