After the Chicago Cubs managed to bounce back from a late blown lead in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and come out of a rain delay swinging, much was made of the team's clubhouse meeting as it waited for Mother Nature to cooperate.
But maybe the focus should be on the pregame meeting, with the credit going to All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Why? Because he found a way to fire up his teammates before the game, and did so while...naked.
In Tom Verducci's new book The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, there is an excerpt—via Sports Illustrated—that details Rizzo's stirring pregame pep talk:
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 Hector 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.”
Imagine waiting for the biggest game of your life—and one of the biggest in baseball history—and having one of your leaders do something like that.
Chicago jumped out to a 5-1 lead in Game 7 before watching it slowly slip away. The Cubs ultimately regrouped during a fateful rain delay, which was also detailed in Verducci's book, and pull out an 8-7 victory to end a 108-year title drought.