CHICAGO (CBSNewYork/CBS Chicago/AP) — Chicago Cubs players enjoyed their victory lap on Friday, waving to tens of thousands of elated fans crowded along miles of city streets during a parade honoring the first Cubs team to win a World Series title in 108 years.
The parade led the champions from Wrigley Field five miles south to Grant Park, where a massive rally extended the glory of the Cubs’ historic win.
Over the past 31 years, the city of Chicago has celebrated the Bears winning a Super Bowl, the Bulls winning six NBA titles, the White Sox winning their first World Series in 88 years and the Blackhawks winning six Stanley Cups. But all of those parties paled in comparison to the Cubs rally, CBS Chicago reported.
City officials estimated the crowd at 5 million people for the parade and rally, far beyond the victory celebrations in recent years for the White Sox and Blackhawks.
Hutchinson Field at Grant Park, which also hosted two of the three Blackhawks’ rallies, was filled to capacity, a sea of Cubbie blue, even before the first wave of trolleys and double-decker buses began carrying Cubs players, coaches, staff, and families from Wrigley Field to downtown.
Dutchie Caray, the widow of legendary Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, said he “would be in heaven” to see so many Cubs fans celebrating a World Series title.
“He would be so elated,” she said.
Kicking off the rally in Grant Park, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said the guys who won the title will forever be known as more than just players.
“They are going to be Chicago baseball legends,” he said.
Cubs president Theo Epstein thanked Cubs fans for their decades of patience and support, especially in the first few years when he was running the team, as the team focused on developing young prospects, while sacrificing wins at the major league level.
“We’ve asked a lot of you, and we put you through a lot over the last five years — 101 losses, trading players you’ve come to know and love for guys you’ve never heard of, trading 40 percent of the rotation three years in a row, asking you guys to follow the draft and follow the minor leagues,” Epstein said. “Let’s be honest, for a while there, we forgot the ‘not’ in ‘Try not to suck,’ but you stayed with us.
Humble as ever, manager Joe Maddon credited the players and his coaching staff for doing the bulk of the work on game days and praised the team’s scouts for helping build the “finished product” fans saw on the field.
“I stand in the corner of the dugout and try not to screw it up the best as I possibly can,” he said.
Hall of Fame Cubs second basemen Ryne Sandberg was among several Cubs alumni who joined the parade. He said the World Series run was a “pretty incredible ride,” especially after falling behind the Indians, 3-1.
“This team had its back against the wall,” he said. “Favorite coming in, but they came through when they had to, and they did it by sticking together, and their character, and they enjoyed playing the game of baseball. They had fun. I think that was the biggest thing. They were able to stay loose in those moments and have bounce-back games, which it took for them to get to this point,” he said.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo brought the ball that secured the final out in Game 7 on Wednesday and presented it to Ricketts on-stage. Rizzo had put the ball in his back pocket upon recording that final out.
Dexter Fowler, Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber and David Ross also spoke to the crowd. Rizzo got choked up talking about Ross and the leadership he brought to the team. Ross is retiring now.
Lifelong fan Daniel Flores, 40, said he Facetimed the moment with his sister who wasn’t near a TV. He said between cheering and breaking down in tears, he must have “woken up the apartment building.”
Earlier, throngs of young and old blue-clad fans roared as the motorcade of open-roofed buses carrying the players cruised along Lake Shore Drive. The mood was jubilant, bolstered by an unseasonably warm and sunny November day and clear blue skies.
Vendors hawked pennants and shirts, and selfie-taking teens tried to capture the crowds. Many just beamed.
Retiree Jarvis Moffett, 60, arrived at the lakefront park hours ahead of the rally just to take in the atmosphere.
“I’m an old-school Cubs fan,” he said, gesturing to the sky and crowds. “This is what you live for. It doesn’t get any better.”
Miriam Santiago, 51, said she carried holy water, her rosary and a bright green lucky baseball with her during the playoffs. On Friday, she brought a goat mask with dynamite in its mouth and let other fans pose for photos wearing it outside Wrigley Field. She said she believes her lucky charms helped reverse the curse.
A victory party is new territory for long-suffering fans of the Cubs, who hadn’t won a World Series title in 108 years before their Game 7, extra-inning thriller Wednesday night in Cleveland. The last time the Cubs even reached the Fall Classic was in 1945.
Steve Angelo carried his 4-year-old son, Nicholas, on his shoulders. The pair wore matching jerseys for first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
“The more and more they win now, at his earlier age, the more and more excitement there is,” Angelo said.
Atop the double-decker buses, some Cubs players posed together for photographs, while others held their children and sat with their families. Center fielder Dexter Fowler had a cigar as the team headed toward the rally that some fans have called the “celebration of a century.”
Fans packed morning commuter trains, causing delays despite increased service and capacity, to get downtown and find a viewing spot before the festivities began.
Laurie Winter woke up at 4 a.m. so she and her 2-year-old son, Cooper, could come in from the suburb of South Elgin and be among the fans outside Wrigley Field to see the players.
“I think everyone is excited about where this team is going,” Winter said. “We can’t wait to see them come out and get crazy.”
Also Friday, the city dyed the Chicago River a bright shade of blue to match the Cubs’ colors, repurposing a decades-long tradition of dying the river green on St. Patrick’s Day.
Friday was already a scheduled day off for Chicago Public Schools and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner declared Friday as “World Champion Chicago Cubs Day” statewide.
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