’Next year’ is here! Cubs fans elated after World Series win
CHICAGO — Cubs fans woke up Thursday — if they slept at all the night before — to the realization that next year is finally here.
Hours after the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years with a 8-7, 10-inning Game 7 victory in Cleveland, fans who swarmed the streets late Wednesday got another treat as they welcomed home a caravan of team buses at Wrigley Field. They erupted in cheers again when first baseman Anthony Rizzo held up the championship trophy.
The celebrating went on for hours and hours in the streets of Wrigleyville , in the shadows of statues of Cubs greats Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and legendary announcer Harry Caray — none of whom ever experienced even getting to the World Series in their long Hall-of-Fame careers.
The long-awaited party didn’t come easy, of course: Fans of a certain age were certain the eighth inning home run that tied the game for the Indians was going to turn into another chapter in the Cubs’ long story of heartbreak, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory yet again. Instead, they found themselves singing the Steve Goodman’s “Go Cubs Go” long into the pre-dawn hours as “Fly the W” flags flapped across the city.
“When they tied it up it felt like it was over, they (the Cubs) had lost,” said Mike Dillon, a banking executive who drove to a tavern just outside Wrigley to be among other fans. “I couldn’t believe they won and even going home I had to turn on the news channels to make sure it actually happened.”
Fans swarmed to the brick outer walls of Wrigley to write in chalk their names, their congratulations and the names of relatives who died without ever having seen the Cubs win it all.
“I get choked up just thinking about it,” said Lashawn Bennett, a 57-year-old resident of suburban South Holland who was diagnosed with throat cancer last year and was at Wrigley on Thursday morning. He borrowed a piece of chalk to write his name on the wall. “It’s just a piece of history I never thought I would actually realize.”
The championship ends the emptiness and bitterness of years past when the Cubs found spectacular and sometimes downright strange ways to add to the longest championship drought in North American professional sports and spur yet another round of “wait ‘til next year” from its legions of fans.
Comedian and long-time Cubs fan Bob Newhart, who grew up in the Chicago area, celebrated by alluding to the curse allegedly placed on the team during the 1945 World Series by the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern after he was told his pet goat wasn’t welcome at Wrigley.
“The billy goat is dead!! As I’ve said, from the beginning, I’m getting too old for this!” the 87-year-old actor tweeted .
Every Cubs fan knows those stories of defeat, starting with the 1969 team loaded with Hall of Famers that amassed a 9 1/2-game lead in mid-August before they started losing game after game in such numbers that the Miracle Mets not only caught them but ended up winning the National League East by eight games.
Then came 1984. After taking the first two games of the National League Championship Series against the Padres at Wrigley, the Cubs needed just one win in San Diego to advance to the World Series. They were swept in three games on the West Coast.
There were other playoff losses but none as painful as in 2003 when ifan Steve Bartman deflected a ball that seemed destined for Moises Alou’s glove with the Cubs just five outs from reaching the World Series. Fans watched in horror as the Cubs fell apart, and few who left the park that night believed the team would win Game 7 the next night. They didn’t.
But that was all in the past as Cubs fans throughout Chicago and beyond celebrated a title 108 years in the making.
“People always said if the Cubs win the World Series it would be like hell freezing over,” said Liz Wolfe, a 36-year-old physical therapist. “I’m still in shock. This is the most exciting thing in my life.”
Cubs fans said it was somehow fitting that Game 7 against the Indians included a blown 5-1 lead and extra innings.
“Never in my life have I ever felt every emotion possible, from joy to sadness, heartache,” said Robert Holt, a fan since he was a boy.
Mike Delmanowski, who flew to Chicago just to be close to Wrigley and surround himself with fellow Cubs fans , put it more succinctly.
“This was torture,” he said, then added: “I would not have missed it for anything.”
Nearby was Craig Likhite, who drove to Chicago with his wife from nearby Evanston because they wanted to see history made as close to the 102-year-old ballpark as possible.
“To finally see this in my lifetime with my son here with us, it means everything,” he said.
“This game with all the ups and downs showed him exactly what it is to be a Cubs fan,” the 50-year-old Likhite said. “My dad passed away this year. He would have loved this.”
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