Last Friday, as an estimated five million people converged along a lengthy, winding parade route and gathered in Grant Park to celebrate the Cubs winning their first World Series in 108 years, some of the team’s West Side fans were dealing with the delirium as they went about their normal routines.
Larry Lewis, 37, stood outside of a barbershop on Madison Street as he waited to get his hair cut. He was wearing a t-shirt that announced the Cubs as World Series Champions. His eyes showed fatigue.
“I work at eight o’clock in the morning,” Lewis said. “I was outside at 3 a.m. The game was intense. To get that close and then wonder, like, are you even going to make it? But [when they won], we went all the way to Forest Park, then downtown and then to Wrigleyville.”
Lewis said his mother and grandparents were big Cubs fans, a trait they passed on to Lewis and his sister.
“As a kid, [going to Cubs games] was my mom’s favorite thing,” he said. “She grew up on Austin and Lake, so they would take the train to the park. Back then, you could see the game from the train [platform], right there on Addison.”
For some Austin fans, the Cubs’ 10th-inning 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday transcended baseball, invoking memories of close relatives who died while waiting for “next year.”
James LeFlaire, 26, said he’s been a Cubs fan since he was a kid, when his grandfather turned him onto the team.
“We would go to the games when Sammy Sosa was playing in the early 2000s,” LeFlaire said. “When Sosa hit the ball, you knew when it was a home run. That was the best thing ever — being at the ballpark with him. He was a diehard fan.”
LeFlaire said his grandfather, Darryl Jackson, died at the end of 2003, when the Cubs went to the National League Championship Series and Steve Bartman became infamous for apparently interfering with a foul ball during a critical moment in the eighth-inning of game six. The Cubs went on to lose both games to the eventual champions, the Florida Marlins.
“He saw them in the playoffs [in 2003] and he died at the end of that year,” LeFlaire said of his late grandfather. “When they won [on Wednesday], though, the first person thought about was my grandpa. He was the first person who came to my mind. I knew he was upstairs in heaven with wings coming out a Cubs jersey, going crazy. On my life.”
Richard Driver, 52, said his father also passed in 2003. He and his father, Driver said, would watch Cubs games together all the time.
“I was hoping for a championship before he passed,” the Austin native said. “But I know he’s watching down now, smiling. I watched the game at my brother-in-law’s on the South Side. It was incredible. I just got down and was like, ‘Man, pops, did you see it? Did you see it?'”
For most Cubs fans who were interviewed, that the team would ultimately prevail in a World Series was never in doubt. They just didn’t think it would happen so soon. Some, however, seemed confident that this would be the magical season.
“I’ve been waiting on this for a long time and it finally came,” said Alonzo Spearman, 38. “I thought they’d pull it off this year, since they were consistent and they wanted to win.
For Sam Gause — who was decked out in full Cubs gear — a win for the Cubs is a win for Chicago.
“I was born and raised in Chicago,” said the 42-year-old barber. “I’m a fan of Chicago sports teams — the Cubs and the Sox. I’m not the type of fan who has to choose one side. Baseball is baseball to me. A good team is a good team. When the White Sox won [the World Series in 2005], I had their gear on.”
Gause isn’t the only West Side resident who shares that sentiment.
“The city needed this,” said LeFlaire. “We needed something big. It’s f—ed up right now. We needed something good to come out of Chicago. If you ask me, that win has brought down the murder rate already. We needed that, because the city is crying right now.”