CHICAGO – On the biggest baseball day in Chicago in 71 years, the Cubs were done in by a breakfast cereal that once played in Peoria.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Coco Crisp came off the Indians bench with two out in the top of the seventh inning of World Series Game 3 on Friday night and singled to drive in pinch-running teammate Michael Martinez. It was the only run of the game, and Crisp’s famous smile lit up the skies all the way back to Cleveland.

“Personally, I would do anything, besides get hit by a pitch — that’s a joke — to help out this team,” Crisp said. “Everybody on this team has done something big. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the long ball.”

The 1-0 loss put the Cubs down 2-1 in the Series. More troubling, Saturday night they have to face Indians ace Corey Kluber, who shut them down in Game 1.

As if all that weren’t enough, the odds are now stacked against them. In 37 previous World Series that were tied after two games, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the championship 64.9 percent of the time.

But then, those are just numbers, and numbers don’t play this game.

“I don’t think anybody is hanging their head in here,” Cubs left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “It’s just one game, and we came back and won three in a row to take the (National League Championship Series).”

So, there.

During this October run, we’ve frequently discussed the importance of veteran leadership to the Cubs. Guys like Zobrist, David Ross and pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey — all who’ve won World Series with other teams — are credited with showing the young stars how it’s done.

The Indians have two of those guys. One is first baseman Mike Napoli. The other is Crisp, whom they acquired from the A’s on the Aug. 31 trade deadline. Crisp won his championship with the Red Sox in 2007.

Seven years before that, playing in the Cardinals organization, Crisp played 27 games for the Peoria Chiefs after being promoted from New Jersey in the New York Penn League. It’s a promotion he still hasn’t figured out.

“I was shocked, because I hadn’t been hitting that well (.239),” Crisp recalled. “But when I got to Peoria, I started hitting better (.276).”

Maybe it was the name. Maybe it was his smile. Maybe it was his flair on the bases. In a short time, he became a popular player with fans at the old Pete Vonachen Stadium. Crisp said he still gets tweets from Chiefs fans.

Lots of times, players don’t remember much about short stints in the bush leagues. Crisp has quite a few memories of his time in Peoria, such as learning card games from teammates Albert Pujols and Chris Duncan — and one particular game when he was schooled in baseball etiquette.

Crisp was on second base, scratching a mosquito bite on his arm, and the opposing pitcher stepped off the mound and barked at him to stop stealing signs from the catcher. He kept scratching the bite, not understanding why the pitcher was upset.
“I didn’t know all those intricate things back then,” Crisp said. “I was like, hit the ball, steal a base, score a run, do it again, catch the ball, throw the ball.”

He did those things well enough to get promoted again after the 2000 season. Two years later, he was the player to be named later in a deal with the Indians that sent pitcher Steve Finley to the Cardinals. The Indians called him up quickly, and Crisp has been one of those pesty, combative veterans who knows how to win. That’s one of the reasons the Indians traded to get him back.

Crisp, 36, is not the player he once was. But as the Cubs found out Friday, he can still get the job done in the clutch.

With the loss, the Cubs’ march to rewrite history is stuck on eight wins down, three to go. They cannot win the World Series in Chicago. They’ll have to go back to Cleveland to do that, and to make that happen, they have to win at least one of the two games remaining at Wrigley.

Meanwhile, the Indians are only two wins away from rewriting their own sad history, which records the last World Series championship in Cleveland being won in 1948.

“Two wins away,” Crisp said. “It’s better than three.”