Chalk it up to things I never thought I’d write: Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo delivered motivational movie quotes to pump up his teammates before the final three World Series games … naked.
That’s right. The Chicago Cubs’ 2016 unlikely ascent to the top of the baseball world gets even better.
According to Tom Verducci, author of the yet-to-be-released The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse, Rizzo didn’t get naked once – or even twice. He broke out the birthday suit before Games 5, 6 and 7 of last year’s Fall Classic with his team’s back against the wall.
"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."
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We saw Rizzo’s Rocky imitation on the base paths late in the series, but I have to admit, I never picture him naked throwing those punches through the air. Whatever he did, it worked. Rizzo batted .360/.484/.600 with five runs batted in over the seven-game set.
Rizzo as Rocky before Game 7
Staying loose has been a staple in manager Joe Maddon’s clubhouses – long before he took over at the helm of the Cubs. This stretches back to when he led the Tampa Bay Rays to a World Series nearly a decade ago.
Some things have changed, but Maddon clearly hasn’t.
Shirts like ‘If you look good, wear it’ and ‘Do simple better’ have popped up over the course of his two years in Chicago. At first, maybe, it was an ideology. But now, clearly, the leaders of the clubhouse are more bought in than ever.
"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."
The book goes on to detail how that encounter wound up, with Hector Rondon getting involved, but the moral of the story is simple: the relaxed, comfortable clubhouse culture that Joe Maddon and Anthony Rizzo bring to the Chicago Cubs changed everything.