The 2016 Chicago Cubs had arguably the most laid back clubhouse in baseball. With the team's backs against the wall facing a 3–1 World Series deficit, first baseman Anthony Rizzo took it upon himself to pump up the team.
After the team's Game 7 victory, it was revealed that Rizzo sometimes recited famous movie speeches to his teammates. In Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci's upcoming book, The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, he shares more insight into the clubhouse atmosphere and Rizzo's antics before Game 5 and 6. The book will be available from Penguin Random House LLC on March 28.
An hour before Game 5, Rizzo had broken out his pregame inspirational and comedic presentation, quoting motivational lines from movies with no clothes on. The Cubs won, so Rizzo did it before Game 6, too. They won again, so he did it before Game 7 as well.
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.”
It all worked as the Cubs won the World Series in seven games over the Cleveland Indians.