CHICAGO — An estimated five million Cubs fans — nearly twice Chicago's population — crowded the city's streets and gathered Friday in Grant Park to salute their World Series champions.
The Cubs faithful started staking out the best spots hours before the break of dawn to see the Cubs. The early wakeup call was a small sacrifice for a fanbase that waited 108 years to see the team formerly known as the "Loveable Losers" make it all the way.
Office workers lined up along Chicago's Magnificent Mile and Chicago Public Schools students — who coincidentally had a scheduled day off Friday — marked the Cubs ending their drought. The parade also drew Cubs faithful from around the country.
Don Borzak, 84, who attended the Cubs'
"I never thought this day would come," said Borzak, who staked out a prime spot on the parade route near
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein thanked the fans for waiting patiently through five consecutive years in which the franchise finished in the National League Central cellar as his operations team rebuilt the organization.
"We put you through a lot over the last five years, " Epstein said. "Let's be honest, for a while there we forgot the 'not' in, 'Try not to suck.'"
The moment was also powerful for young fans, such as 17-year-old Shannon Davison, whose diehard parents warned her about a life of suffering that Cubs fans were fated to endure.
In southwest suburban Romeoville — White Sox country — she and her family marked the win with fireworks and champagne in the company of Cubs fan neighbors.
Davison, a high school senior, ditched class on Friday to celebrate.
"I know as a younger Cubs fan I'm spoiled to see this day so soon, " she said. "But it is amazing."
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in his years at the helm he was asked frequently by elderly fans to bring home a title before they die.
He joked that he would inevitably offer the rejoinder: "How good is your health?"
Ricketts ended his remarks with a new trivia question for Cubs Nation: "How many years has it been since the Cubs won a World Series? The answer is zero years!"
Along the parade route and at the rally, a sea of blue-clad fans waved "W" flags and homemade signs that pronounced what they hope will become this once cursed franchise's new moniker: "Loveable Winners."
World Series MVP Ben Zobrist said he prayed he'd get signed by the Cubs last off season after winning a title with the Kansas City Royals.
"This is a team full of MVPs and we are in a city of MVPs," said Zobrist, who grew up about two hours from Chicago in Eureka, Ill.
The moment marks the end of what has been a month-long party for Cubs Nation.
"I haven't slept in two days," said Kevin Serlin, 27, who arrived at the rally site more than six hours before the Cubs were set to arrive. "It's been more exciting than I could have imagined."
For Candy Aceves and her family, their late grandmother was at the front of their mind.
The Mexico-born Anita Villabos, who died nearly 15 years ago, was a passionate fan who taught her family to stay until the end of every game no matter the score, be devoted to her Cubs and never give up hope of winning a World Series.
"Our grandmother nurtured a true love for the Cubs," Aceves said. "She would have loved this day."