By Charles Grove
and William K. Alcorn
Hope was at an all-time low prior to Game 7 of the World Series between the Indians and the Chicago Cubs for Mahoning Valley fans preparing to watch the game in Cleveland.
The majority consensus seemed to be: “Don’t get your hopes up.”
“I’m expecting them to lose,” Evan Reese of Canfield said. “That way, if they do lose, I won’t be totally crushed. It’s a mental thing at this point.”
Reese’s fears became reality as the Cubs turned back the Indians 8-7 in 10 innings to win their first Series since 1908.
The Cavaliers winning an NBA championship in June has kept some Cleveland fans more sane, but if that hadn’t happened, many Indians fans would be at critical mass after the Tribe failed to close out the series in Games 5 and 6.
“If the Cavs hadn’t won it, I would be thinking, ‘Oh here we go,” Hubbard native Rich Possert said. “But I try to bring a lot of positivity to Cleveland sports. I think our negative attitude has brought teams down over the years.”
Despite the losses, some Indians fans were very confident heading into Game 7 from a pitching perspective. Corey Kluber shut down the Cubs, leading to Indians’ victories in Games 1 and 4.
“We have our best pitcher going so I’ll take that all day long,” Reese said. “And we have a fully intact bullpen too.”
Possert said he was confident with Kluber, but with the Cubs pulling out all the stops with their pitching staff in a winner-take-all game, that keeps the nerve level high.
“I think we’ve got the advantage with pitching, but they’re going to be bringing in a bunch of pitchers,” Possert said. Valley fans weren’t just watching from northeast Ohio either tonight. Possert was watching from his home in Jacksonville, Fla., and said there’s a large contingent of Cleveland and Youngstown sports fans in the Sunshine State.
“I’ve been in the Navy since 1994 and everywhere I’ve gone I’ve found people from northeast Ohio, so there will be a lot of Indians fans down here tonight.”
Just before the Indians’ three-run 8th inning, Possert was pumped up.
“I’m standing in the same spot when LeBron blocked the shot, Kyrie hit the three and K-Love defended. I’m feeling it.”
But after the top of the 10th when the Cubs broke the final deadlock Possert was demoralized.
“My heart is sunk,” he said.
Added Abraham: “This game is designed to break your heart.”
Youngstown area fans, watching the game at Buffalo Wild Wings Bar and Grill in the Southern Park Mall, were generally upbeat early in the game about the Tribe’s chances.
“We always have a shot. But it’s Cleveland, we have to earn everything,” said Bailey Yoder of Salem, who was watching the game with her friends, Denis and Amy Crawford of Boardman.
“I became an Indians fan about 15 years ago because of my father-in-law, Emil Graban, who passed away in May,” said Denis.
“One of the last things I did with Emil was listen to an Indians game on the radio. Little did I know that he would convert me to a team as cursed as the Indians,” he said.
Amy said she has been a faithful Indians fan all her life.
“I have a good feeling tonight,” said Amy, who used to go with her father to Indians games at the old Municipal Stadium.
“I’m feeling good,” said Mike Landgraff of Boardman, who predicted the Indians would win 4-2.
“The Tribe has got to win,” said Breanna Gatte of Boardman, a long-time Indians fan.
“This has me a little worried. There’s a lot of Cleveland in me, but we’ll be alright,” said Ryan Ebie of Boardman.
Nick Latessa of Canfield, who grew up watching the 90s Indians teams with his father, had chewed his nails down to the quick.
“The pitching will be fine. We just need to string some hits together. The bullpen gives me hope,” Latessa said.
Despite the Cubs going up by one run in the 1st inning, friends Ashley Mayer of Columbiana and Nicole Simons of Poland, whose favorite player is Jason Kipnis, said with confidence that the “Indians are going to win.”
“We’re obviously going to hit some homeruns and come back,” said Simons.
There is at least one area man who knows it’s possible for the Indians to win a World Series ... he saw it.
Bill Gerson of Liberty, owner of Mahoning Lumber Center, was a 17-year-old junior at Shaker Heights High School selling popcorn at Municipal Stadium and witnessed the Indians clinch the 1948 World Series over the Boston Braves.