CHICAGO (AP) – November blazed like dazzling springtime in Chicago during a massive parade and rally Friday to honor the Cubs’ first World Series title in 108 years and fulfill more than a century of pent-up dreams.
A new generation of Cubs fans – riding in strollers or on their parents’ shoulders – joined their elders to cheer the baseball champions. For the youngest, the day would be their first bright memory of following a club once known as “lovable losers.”
Their parents marveled at how their children will know the confident, young team as winners.
“It’s a whole new Cubs world,” said Dean Anderson, 51, of Chicago, who brought his 10-year-old son, Chase, to see the players’ motorcade as it rolled out from Wrigley Field at the start of the parade route. The “lovable loser thing” – and all the accompanying lore embroidered by long-suffering fan loyalty – may be lost to the newest fans, Anderson said, but “we’ve had enough of that.”
A crowd estimated by city officials at 5 million lined Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive to cheer the motorcade of open-roofed buses carrying the players along a 7-mile parade route from Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ north side ballpark, to sprawling Grant Park. The city’s crowd count included everyone who lined the route plus the throngs at the rally. Friday was already a scheduled day off for Chicago Public Schools.
Revelers crawled up trees and streetlight poles to get a better view along the route. Others sat atop shoulders to watch the team buses shimmering under a spray of red and blue confetti.
Steve Angelo of Chicago carried his 4-year-old son, Nicholas, who held a “World Champs” sign.
“For him, the more and more they win now, at his earlier age, the more and more excitement there is,” Angelo said. “There’s parades, and people talk about it more on the radio and TV. It’s going to be a lot more exciting now.”
During the jubilant festivities at the park, 39-year-old retiring Cubs catcher David Ross posed for a selfie in front of a multitude of roaring fans.
Ross and the other players put their arms around each other and sang “Go Cubs Go” from the stage along with the blissed-out crowd.
“It happened, baby. It happened!” proclaimed 27-year-old first baseman Anthony Rizzo to adoring cheers.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon, wearing a stocking cap, sunglasses and a jersey over a “We did not suck” T-shirt, looked out over a sea of blue.
“Welcome to Cubstock 2016!” Maddon said. “This is an incredible moment for all of us. Never have I experienced anything like Wrigley Field on a nightly basis. … I want to congratulate you fans also. Thank you for being so patient.”
A victory party is new territory for stoical fans of the Cubs, whose last World Series title – before Wednesday night’s Game 7, extra-inning victory in Cleveland – came in 1908. The last time the Cubs even reached the Fall Classic was in 1945.
Superstitions die hard. Miriam Santiago, 51, said she carried holy water, her rosary and a bright green lucky baseball with her during the playoffs. On Friday, the Chicago woman brought a goat mask with dynamite in its mouth and let other fans pose for photos wearing it outside the ballpark. Her lucky charms helped reverse the Curse of the Billy Goat, she said, referring to the story of a Chicago tavern owner who supposedly put a hex on the team after his pet goat was turned away from Wrigley during the 1945 World Series.
For days, Cubs mania has spread throughout the city and state. The cast of the Chicago production of Hamilton led a sold-out audience in singing “Go Cubs Go” during the Thursday night curtain call. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner declared Friday as “World Champion Chicago Cubs Day” statewide. The city dyed the Chicago River a bright shade of blue to match the Cubs’ colors, repurposing a decades-long tradition of dyeing the river green on St. Patrick’s Day.
Far from being sad about bidding their team farewell for the year, fans looked forward to the future.
Outfielder Kyle Schwarber, 23, took the microphone Friday and put it into words for the fans: “I love you guys. We’re world champs. Let’s do it again next year.”
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.