'Cubstock 2016' puts cap on baseball crown; revelers jump from downtown bridge, lightposts Tony Briscoe, Dan Hinkel, and Genevieve Bookwalter from The Chicago Tribune, November 4, 2016
A historic – and still somewhat surreal – 36 hours wrapped up Friday at Grant Park, as Chicago celebrated the Cubs' World Series win with a celebration that turned the city into a sea – and a river – of Cubbie blue.
Dubbed "Cubstock 2016" by team manager Joe Maddon, the parade and rally featured emotionally charged speeches from players and multiple tributes to a fan base that no longer has to wait for 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 awhile 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 nearly twice the city's population took part, and that it dwarfed the estimates for the 2005 White Sox party and 2015 Blackhawks parade.
The celebration marked the team's first public appearance since defeating Cleveland to win the World Series Wednesday, not including left fielder Ben Zobrist's impromptu autograph session Thursday outside his Wrigleyville home. A native of downstate Eureka and the series' MVP, Zobrist told the crowd that team pushed through the postseason's tougher moments for the city's sake.
"This team answered the bell," he said. "This ball club pulled through for all of you."
The celebration was pushed back about 50 minutes as some of the players were late arriving at Wrigley Field because of the snarled traffic near the ballpark. The crowd accepted the delay with relatively good cheer, an unintended benefit, no doubt, of having to wait 108 years 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 team owner Jerry Reinsdorf at the 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 as 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 the crowd.
"How about a selfie?" he asked. "Everybody, hand's up!"
The rally ended with country singer Brett Eldredge leading the crowd in a raucous version of "Go Cubs go!," in what was perhaps the happiest sing-along in North Side history. Ross, Rizzo and centerfielder 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 stood a dozen deep 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!" as the club rolled down the streets and the players waved their arms to stoke the already wild enthusiasm.
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 predicted will be the busiest day in its 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, 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, were able to bypass the rush 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 dedication ultimately paid off as they walked into Grant Park before the barricades were set up and found themselves chatting with media members beforehand.
"This is the next best thing than going to the World Series," Torres said. "I don't have the money for that."
"We're not in that tax bracket," Hines joked.
Police were not letting people through on Monroe Street, making Jackson Street so crowded as to be impassable. At one point, pulled down a fence to get through to Columbus on Congress. Police near Michigan Avenue did not try to stop them.
Things were tense for a moment when the crowd became packed at Jackson and Michigan Avenue and the crowd struggled to move. A woman climbed high on a pole outside the Art Institute and fell back into the arms of people below. A teenage boy, seemingly intoxicated, lost control of his legs and fell to the sidewalk, where several of his friends were already sitting.
Some spectators jumped off a downtown bridge and into the river after the team rolled past. Police said no one was injured in the stunt.
"I don't think they care," Berwyn resident Gabriel Mendez said of the crowd's more daring antics. "Cubs won, they have nothing to worry about."
The city had issued a warning against drinking on the public way, though some players could be seen drinking beer and Epstein joked that he intended to go back on the bender he began two days ago.
The city opened few paths to the parade route to fans - some frustrated - who came downtown early. People eventually started trickling through at Congress Expressway, some pushing aside fences as police looked on without serious concern. Teenagers, who composed much of the crowd, climbed signposts and decorative concrete walls. Selfie sticks were popular accessories, and the air carried the tang of marijuana smoke.
A few fans stopped at Balbo Drive to watch though a fence as hulking Clydesdales clomped off Budweiser trucks toward the parade route.
Dave Forgue, 56, of Wheeling, was biding his time a few dozen yards from the bottleneck at Congress. He had no plausible way to get to the people he was trying to meet near the parade route, but Forgue — in Cubs gear from head to toe — was philosophical.
"We'll just ... see what happens," he said in good humor.
Fans started staking their spots near Wrigley Field before sunrise, draping "W" flags over the route's metal barricades and waiting patiently for the team to pass. Families and young people dominated the crowd, in large part because of a previously scheduled day off for Chicago Public Schools.
A police officer waved a massive "W" banner in the middle of the street, while the crowd chanted "Let's Go, Cubbies." Other officers complied with requests to take pictures of families who lined the route.
Michelle Carr and her two sons, Ryan and Connor, decorated their cheering section along Addison near Broadway with streamers in Cubs colors. Her husband had set up chairs at 5 a.m., and she and her sons arrived at 6:45 a.m. with blankets, snacks and an iPad to keep busy.
"This is better than the crowds in Grant Park," she said. "We've got a nice front row seat."
City Hall had been planning to hold a parade Monday if the Cubs won Game 7, but the team asked to move it up to Friday, a City Hall source said. Baseball general managers will gather Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., for four days of meetings. And many of the players have offseason homes in other cities and in countries in Latin America, and would prefer not to wait around until next week before getting out of town.