Chicago native Kipnis fulfills dream with three-run homer at Wrigley
CHICAGO — Jason Kipnis remembered re-enacting a World Series home run in his backyard, about 20 miles north of Wrigley Field, perhaps driving a softball or an acorn off a tree.
And then he sent a three-run shot soaring about 10 rows up in the right-field bleachers of the Friendly Confines on Saturday night.
“It went a lot farther than that one, too, in my mind,” he said. “You can’t draw this up. Everyone makes that situation, T-ball in the backyard or Wiffle Ball, and I actually got to live it. You can imagine what kind of high I’m feeling right now.”
Kipnis helped beat the team he rooted for as a child and moved the Cleveland Indians within a win of their first World Series title since 1948. His seventh-inning homer off Travis Wood broke open the game, helping the Indians rout the Cubs 7-2 for a 3-1 Series lead.
His home run quieted Wrigley Field fans. In his backyard in suburban Northbrook, supporters were moe boisterous.
“The crowd went nuts — the crowd as in my mom probably sitting on a chair, my dad pitching or something like that,” he recalled. “But a little different atmosphere.”
A two-time All-Star at age 29, Kipnis is in his fifth season as Cleveland’s starting second baseman. Nicknamed Dirtbag for his frequently soiled uniforms, he exemplifies the Indians’ Cleveland-against-the-world attitude. Even in droughts, the Indians headed into the World Series one-upped by the Cubs, whose last title was in 1908.
“We’re one win away. That’s the special part,” Kipnis said. “But this is a fun night for me. It’s not an ending yet, we got one more to get, and it will probably be the hardest victory of the year.”
Kipnis reached down and lined a cutter 403 feet from home plate. He had three hits, doubling in the third inning and scoring to give Cleveland a 3-1 lead. He raised his Series average.
“The big hit there for me was Kipnis’ homer,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That really made the game awkward.”
Kipnis joined Jimmie Foxx (1929) and Babe Ruth (1932) as the only players to hit three-run Series homers against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He became the first second baseman to homer in all three postseason rounds following drives against Boston in the Division Series opener and Toronto in Game 3 of the Championship Series.
Last weekend, Kipnis watched on television as the Cubs won the National League for the first time since 1945. Some of his friends were at Wrigley, and Kipnis said he felt choked up.
On Thursday’s off night, he got to have dinner with his family. He reveled at playing a World Series game with “my family in the stands, friends in the stands.”
“Probably can’t say the words that were going into my mind. Kids are watching this channel,” he said in the postgame interview room, a low-ceilinged medieval-looking chamber not far from Wrigley’s cramped visitors’ clubhouse.
“It’s just excitement. I had a lot of joy in playing this game,” he said, “and to be put into a situation like this and actually have something happen like that is, for lack of a better term, it’s a dream come true.