CHICAGO — The great noise that sports always had in it but never could seem to unleash finally loosed itself at 11:48 p.m. Central time on Wednesday. It resounded down Addison to Clark, up Clark to Waveland, and across Waveland to the corner of Sheffield near the famous rooftops near the Harry Caray statue. It rang with untold joy, unmistakable traces of disbelief and unquestionable bouts of inebriation.
It was the sound of the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series for the first time in 108 years, and it poured from bars, from balconies, from windows and from the heaving, frenzied mass at Clark and Addison. It surrounded the empty gem Wrigley Field, whose adjacent party tent looked like a madhouse of hugs and sobs, then romped out through the nearby streets and onto the “L” train.
“We won the World Series,” fan after fan kept blurting, as if straining at realization.
For all its properties, the noise seemed to come freighted with something else, too. It seemed to carry the slight fatigue of a second crescendo, for this had been one diabolical night around Wrigley.
In the minutes packed around 10 p.m., droves came barging north up Sheffield, during the top of the eighth inning of World Series Game 7 in Cleveland. They had been watching in their various homes, now they sensed imminent victory and imminent bacchanal, and it seemed half the metropolis had agreed upon this course. Their team led 6-3 and stood six measly outs from something that hadn’t happened since an excellent athlete named Orval Overall pitched a three-hitter on October 14, 1908, in Game 5 of that non-televised World Series, so they streamed to the edge of Wrigley, turned left past the police barricades and formed a fine, bouncing mob near the main intersection.
There were three problems: Most of them couldn’t see anything, most of them couldn’t get Internet access to see anything because of the size of the crowd, and the Cubs were still unofficially cursed at that point.
When Rajai Davis’ dramatic two-run home run off Aroldis Chapman tied the game at 6, the news trickled only slowly and eerily through the crowd. Only scattered people seemed to realize what had happened, so the happy roar actually outlived the scary reality.
“Dammit!” came one voice.
“That’s messed up,” came another.
“———- nightmare,” came another.
Only after time did things go sort of muffled, with the potential for serious nausea. On a fence beside a yard where hundreds of people watched one television in a window, one man noticed the 6-6 score and said, “Double six, the devil.”
At the intersection of Sheffield and Waveland, behind center field and behind the Harry Caray statue, a man said of the unexpected difficulty, “It’s prophecy.” He was Jake Gazlay, 26, and he and his girlfriend, Dee Fritz, had scrambled the eight or so blocks from home in the eighth inning. They did not seem resigned, but as Cubs fans, they did seem keenly aware that it might not work out.
The throngs weathered a horridly tense ninth inning that had promised to be easier, and a strange tic kept happening all around the stadium. People watched different television feeds at different stages. At one point earlier in the night, a throng watching beside Wrigley Field had let out a cheer, having seen something, but something that seemed shy of a home run. Seconds later, the people in front of the Clark Street Sports shop got to see the same play on that feed, and realized it had been the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, hit by a pitch.
That happened in the fourth inning, when times were simpler.
Beneath Harry Caray, Cubs fans had placed green apples, redolent of the late broadcaster’s famous line, “As sure as God made green apples, someday the Cubs will make it to the World Series.” Next to Caray and the green apples, Joe Nunez, a Cubs fan for all his 47 years, who had flown all the way from Los Angeles just for this whole post-season, spoke.
“My heart is so heavy for the relatives that introduced me to the Cubs,” he said. He spoke of an uncle, and began to cry slightly. He told of being inside Wrigley Field for the National League-clinching game against Los Angeles, and he said, “I was bawling. People were like, ‘Are you okay, Sir?’”
Around back from Caray and Nunez was a brick wall on which fans have been scribbling in chalk the names of departed loved ones. A woman on a bicycle stopped at the placard in the sidewalk marked for Ron Santo, the late and beloved Cubs third baseman and broadcaster. She wrote, “Adele,” and drew a heart.
As the Cubs seemed to surge toward victory, Judy Freebus, who had just finished a shift as a nurse case manager in nearby Evanston, said she wrote that for her late mother, Adele, who died three years ago. “My Dad used to say, when Santo was on (television), ‘Your boyfriend is on now,’” she said. When the Cubs would lose, Adele would ameliorate it with, “The other team has mothers, too.” She said of her mother and her mother’s four sisters, “I wish they were here to see it live, but I know they’re watching.”
There would be more watching than anticipated, even a 17-minute rain delay, agony and cruelty. Then Ben Zobrist doubled in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning, and the crowd behind the Murphy’s Bleachers pub bounced, maybe even a bit reservedly, given all the fright. Then Miguel Montero singled in another run, and word started getting down the sidewalks that the score had gone to 8-6.
Soon, over on Sheffield, the chant went up: “Three more outs! Three more outs!” In the immovable crowd at Sheffield and Addison, the chant soon went, “Two more outs!” By 11:39, it went, “One more out.”
Then, if standing over by the Santo statue next to the stadium, you could see champagne fly up across the intersection. The people there had seen what the people across the street would see next, and what the people by the stadium would realize. Michael Martinez had grounded to Kris Bryant, who had thrown to Rizzo, until 308 miles to the west, the hesitation died and the noise lived.