The city took a long, deeply satisfying breath Thursday.
A night after a party 108 years in the making, tired Cubs fans returned to work, many adorned with the names of their newly crowned heroes: Zobrist, Bryant, Rizzo, Russell, among them.
And the city — every downtown building seemingly fluttering with Cubbie blue flags — prepared for what’s likely to be one of the biggest celebrations in its history, with a parade planned for Friday.
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The team slipped back into town before sunrise, arriving at O’Hare Airport on a charter flight from Cleveland. From there, a caravan of buses headed down the Kennedy Expressway, to Wrigley Field, where fans who probably hadn’t yet slept roared with delight upon their arrival.
Players took turns passing the hardware around on their way back from Cleveland. Numerous Cubs players could be seen on Twitter posing with the silver-and-gold trophy on the team plane, including Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler and John Lackey.
Catcher David Ross, who homered in the final game of his career, tweeted a picture of himself with the trophy: “Look what the boys got me for my retirement.”
Even after the team bus had arrived and the players had departed, fans lingered around the ballpark, taking pictures and drinking in the moment.
Drew Brennan arrived outside the park with his 15-month-old son, Conner, in tow shortly after 8 a.m., and swiftly handed off his camera phone to another fan in the small throng gathered beneath the sign at Clark and Addison. The Evanston native said Conner slept through most of Wednesday’s game.
“We couldn’t come out last night but I wanted him to see it,” Brennan said.
Though he won’t remember the game, wee Conner will never know the angst of backing a team burdened with more than a century of disappointment, Brennan said.
“It will be different for sure,” he said. “I can tell him for a long time that we never gave up hope. And I can tell him his dad had it a lot harder than he did.”
At City Hall, the decorations got a slight adjustment. National League Champion banners and white-and-blue “W” flags were still there, as was the countdown banner showing the team’s “Magic Number.” But on Thursday morning, that number had been updated.
It is now zero, where it can remain until next season.
Some who couldn’t make it to Wrigley Field Thursday morning still managed to snag some swag. Cubs fan Deb Haimes, 40, who lives in Old Town, hit the Dick’s Sporting Goods at 1538 N. Clybourn Ave. in Lincoln Park. The store opened right after the last out on Wednesday, then stayed open until 2:30 a.m. It reopened at 6 a.m. Early arrivals hoping to get one of those gray hats the team wore during its locker room celebration were out of luck. The store sold out of them in minutes Wednesday night, when the line to get in the store wrapped around the block.
One of those in line at the Lincoln Park store was Pierre Petrich, 57, of Northbrook. She first went to the Glenview Dick’s location but the line was out the door.
“My daughter’s in Ohio. She can’t wait to get her hands on this,” said Petrich, whose hands were filled with hats and shirts. “She’s being brutalized by the Indians fans out there, but she’s going strong and she’s wearing her Cubs gear.”
Petrich got about four hours sleep and was headed to work, but had to stop at the store first.
Why? “Because what if it’s gone?” she asked in mock horror.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was even more sleep-deprived, attending a morning news conference on about two hours of rest. He attended the game in Cleveland thanks to his father-in-law. Emanuel’s wife, Amy Rule, grew up in suburban Cleveland and her father is an Indians’ season-ticket holder.
“In about the 8th inning, I said, ‘I need some blood thinner, man. I can’t take this,” the mayor said Thursday.
Wearing a Cubs’ World Champions hat, the mayor said, “I put this under my pillow last night … and my middle one tried to steal it. My eyes just opened up and I said, ‘Get your hands off that. I got something else for you. This is my hat.'”
An obviously punchy and giddy Emanuel then talked about the Game 7 for the ages that saw the Cubs go out to an early lead, the Indians tie it on a dramatic home-run that forced extra innings and the Cubs win it all after a rain delay that helped them regain their focus.
“This last seven games was a metaphor of the entire season for the Chicago Cubs,” the mayor said. “Every time you thought the momentum has shifted, those players dug deeper. Got something inside themselves and came back and kept defying the odds. This is a team and this is a series for history and for a century and decades.”
That feeling of history moved others to visit the final resting places of their loved ones.
Alone and in pairs, a steady trickle of Cubs fans came crunching through the fallen leaves at Bohemian National Cemetery, to stand before the “Beyond the Vines” mausoleum, a burial vault built to look like the ivy-draped outfield walls of Wrigley Field. Most were just fans themselves, curious to see what displays had been offered to alert the dead that the Cubs’ long drought would not also last into eternity. A blue “W” flag had been posted in front of the black marble crypt, and a few markers had been adorned with ticket stubs, post cards and baseballs.
Angelica Velez kneeled with her 4-year-old son, Julian, as he stared at the marker for Velez’s grandmother, Anna Romero. Romero was a diehard Cubs fan who died in 2009 at age 83, and was one of the first people to have their remains interred in the brick wall, Velez said.
“She would have loved this,” Velez said, her eyes welling. “She was the biggest Cubs fan. I came here last week, when they made the (Series) to tell her. I told her they were going to win, and they did.”
At Graceland Cemetery, just a few blocks north of the ballpark, a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers lay at the foot of Cubs legend Ernie Banks’ headstone. Beside the flowers was a bright white baseball, with the inscription “It finally happened! Cubs win the World Series” scrawled in black marker. Staff at the cemetery said the marker had been drawing a steady stream of visitors leaving offerings to Mr. Cub each day before the World Series games, but Thursday’s traffic had been light.
“I guess they were just asking him for luck,” a clerk said.
Contributing: Associated Press