CLEVELAND — The Cubs’ Jason Heyward stood on third base with one out in the top of the ninth inning, after a heartbreaking blow by Rajai Davis in the eighth had tied Game 7 of the World Series against Aroldis Chapman on a damp November night in Cleveland.
And then Javy Baez — after getting the sign with a full count — suddenly and strangely squared to bunt against the Indians’ Bryan Shaw. He fouled it into the ground for the second out.
Heyward wound up stranded and upset. A few minutes later, the game headed to extra innings. Then the rain came.
What followed might be the most famous players-only team meeting in American sports history. And it’s the most vivid common memory of that historic night for the 14 members of that Cubs World Series roster who will return to the scene Tuesday for the first time since.
Heyward told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that night that the Baez decision inspired him to gather players in the weight room outside the visitors’ clubhouse. He admitted to feeling ‘‘some frustration, some anger, but a lot of passion.’’
‘‘I don’t know how much, but it was a part of it,’’ Heyward said Sunday. ‘‘A number of things were a part of it, but that definitely was a part of it.’’
That and a series of gut-punch moments through the second half of a game the Cubs led 5-1 when a cruising Kyle Hendricks was lifted with one on and two outs in the fifth.
‘‘Everything, the whole game,’’ Heyward said. ‘‘The way everything went. It wasn’t all one thing. It was just we needed to get together.’’
He might have been angry, but he wasn’t loud. Teammates say it was the calm, measured tone of his message that lifted the downcast group into a 10th inning that made World Series history.
It was simple: Forget what you’ve seen and experienced the last two hours. Start over. Stick together. Remember, we’re the best team. We’ve come this far. Look around the room and do it for each other. ‘‘Fight for your brothers.’’
‘‘We walked in with one feeling, and we walked out with another,’’ said utility player Ben Zobrist, who drove in the go-ahead run with a 10th-inning double.
‘‘It was very calm,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘No raised voices. It was just: ‘This is where we’re at right now, and this is what we’ve got to do. We know what just happened. That’s OK. But it’s a 0-0 ballgame. We can take it upon ourselves to go win this game right now or go the other way, but it’s up to us.’ Basically, [that] was the bottom line.’’
Almost 18 months later, players remember the scene in vivid detail, including Chapman arriving late, still red-eyed from crying over the lost lead. And David Ross taking a turn in front of teammates, then others speaking up and vowing to pick up Chapman.
‘‘I remember where I was standing,’’ Hendricks said.
Rookie Carl Edwards Jr. had been told he would start the 10th inning, so the voices mingled with his own quiet thoughts.
‘‘They were talking, and I was just listening,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘And I was like: ‘All I need is a run. Just one run, man. And I can handle this.’ ’’
Edwards and Mike Montgomery pitched the final inning. Rookie Albert Almora Jr. had the pivotal baserunning play to set the stage for run-scoring hits by Zobrist and Miguel Montero in the 10th. And Kris Bryant said he remembers every detail of Michael Martinez’s slow grounder to him and his throw to Anthony Rizzo for the final out.
But Heyward has his place seared in baseball history forever.
‘‘Just him talking was important,’’ Zobrist said, ‘‘because his role at that time was [diminished], and it was like he was doing what he could do.
‘‘And it was pretty powerful.’’