‘Cubstock 2016’ puts cap on baseball crown; revelers jump from downtown bridge, lightposts – Chicago Tribune
A massive crowd turned out for a parade and rally — dubbed “Cubstock 2016” by manager Joe Maddon — that finally rewarded the loyalty of the team’s long-suffering fans. It was a party 108 years in the making, a three-hour bash in which players choked back tears and repeatedly paid tribute to a fan base that no longer has to wait until next year.
“We’ve asked a lot of you and put you through a lot,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “Let’s be honest, for a while there, we forgot the ‘not’ in try not to suck.”
The city that works apparently took a collective day off as city officials estimated about 5 million people attended the World Series celebration. For that number to be accurate, it would mean a crowd nearly twice the city’s population took part, and that it dwarfed the estimates for the 2005 White Sox party and 2015 Blackhawks parade.
It was just the third parade in Cubs history. Though they did not have a procession after winning the 1908 World Series, there were parades after the team won National League pennants in 1932 and 1938.
“I have had so many emotions,” Allie Kutrubis said of the Cubs victory celebration. “Most of the time it doesn’t feel real. It feels like I’m being punked.”
The rally, at Grant Park, marked the team’s first public appearance since defeating Cleveland on Wednesday to win the World Series, not including left fielder Ben Zobrist‘s impromptu autograph session Thursday outside his North Side home. A native of downstate Eureka and the series’ most valuable player, Zobrist told the crowd that the team pushed through the postseason’s tougher moments for the city’s sake.
“This team answered the bell,” he said. “This ballclub pulled through for all of you.”
The celebration was pushed back about 50 minutes as some players were late arriving at Wrigley Field because of the snarled traffic near the ballpark. The crowd accepted the delay with relatively good cheer, a byproduct, no doubt, of already having to wait more than a century for a championship.
“People from all corners of the city are coming together for something good,” longtime fan Marie Leaner said. “It’s been a long time coming, and I don’t mean just 108 years either.”
When the rally finally began, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who caught the final out in Game 7, gave the game ball to team owner Tom Ricketts in what has become somewhat of a Chicago tradition. Former White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko made the same gift to owner Jerry Reinsdorf at the team’s 2005 celebration.
“He sacrificed everything to make this happen for this city,” Rizzo said of Ricketts. “It only seems right to hand it over to him.”
Rizzo also struggled to control his emotions when he introduced catcher David Ross, who plans to retire. He credited Ross with teaching him “how to become a real winner” and said he was grateful the catcher was “going out a champion forever.”
Indeed, Ross came out to the day’s loudest applause and promptly took a picture of the crowd.
“How about a selfie?” he asked. “Everybody, hands up!”
The rally ended with country singer and Illinois native Brett Eldredge leading the crowd in a joyful version of “Go Cubs Go” in what was arguably the happiest sing-along in Grant Park history. Ross, Rizzo, and center fielder Dexter Fowler served as enthusiastic backup singers, while pitcher Travis Wood ripped off his sleeveless camouflage shirt and sang bare-chested for the crowd.
“You are like extended family to me,” Fowler told the crowd. “I’ll love you all forever.”
Along the 6-mile parade route, people lined rooftops and stood a dozen deep on sidewalks to catch a glimpse of the team, which traveled from Wrigley Field to Grant Park atop double-decker buses. The crowds chanted “Let’s go Cubs!” and waved to the players as the city bid farewell to the longest drought in professional baseball and the team’s reputation as lovable losers.
En route to the park, the team buses crossed over the Chicago River, which was dyed blue in tribute to the historic championship.
“This is the biggest sports event in Chicago,” said Jim Murphy, of Glenview. “This is the one we’ve been waiting on.”
Fans packed public transit before dawn in an effort to make their way downtown for the celebration. Metra trains faced delays as they tried to accommodate suburban passengers on what the commuter rail service said was one its busiest days in history.
The Grant Park gates opened at 8:30 a.m., with a tide of blue rolling into the rally site. Fans who waited for hours ran toward the staging area just south of Balbo Drive, where radio highlights from the Cubs’ historic championship run played over the public address system.
But Peter Torres, 28, and Colin Hines, 27, both from Elk Grove Village, devised a plan to skip the crowds and secure themselves a spot in the front row. The two woke up at 4:30 a.m. and caught the first train they could to the Loop.
Their sleep deprivation ultimately paid off as they walked into Grant Park before the barricades were set up and found themselves chatting with media members beforehand. Like countless other fans, the friends couldn’t afford the steep ticket prices during the Cubs’ postseason run and they saw the free rally as their only chance to witness history.
“This is the next best thing than going to the World Series,” Torres said. “I don’t have the money for that.”
Though police reported no major incidents, the downtown crowds occasionally teetered on the edge of chaos as people struggled to move on packed sidewalks. At one point, fans pulled down a fence to get through to Columbus Drive on Congress Parkway. Police did not try to stop them.