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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Cubs joy spreads across Wrigleyville and throughout Boystown
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2015-10-14

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The Cubs craziness that has flooded out of Wrigley Field in October—thanks to the local rarity that is playoff baseball, with a team that captured the National League Division Championship at home on Tuesday night—has flooded Wrigleyville and certainly flowed onto Halsted Street and the Boystown neighborhood.

The North End and D.S. Tequila Co., have been overflowing with Cubs fans, cheering every pitch as Chicago needed only four games to win the best-of-five series against their archrival, the St. Louis Cardinals, and advance to the National League Championship Series, which will start on the road on Saturday, Oct. 17.

"It's such a great time for the Chicago Cubs franchise," said Jack Neilsen. "Watching this team of youngsters has been nothing short of amazing. I look forward to seeing what they do next. I hope everything is left on the field and they will be World Series-bound."

But first, the Cubs must win the National League pennant, and either the New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers stand in their way. The Mets travel to Los Angeles for game five in that series on Thursday—and the Cubs will face that winner.

"This is one of the most exciting times in Chicago," said Matt McGary. "Seeing the excitement and exuberance of the fans and team is something special. Watching them play the game reminds me of when I was a kid playing sports. I played for the game and the excitement it provided. These Cubs don't seem like they are being paid to play, rather, they are playing because they love the game."

McGary tried to get tickets to the Tuesday night Cardinals-clinching game, but it didn't materialize. Instead, he watched every pitch, hit and run at Roadhouse 66 along North Clark Street.

"The reaction of everyone [after the win] was like having sex for the first time in a while: joy, excitement, satisfaction and relief all in one," said McGary, who tagged outfielder Jorge Soler as his favorite Cub.

"[Soler] has all of the essential player attributes you look for: strong arm, great bat, can run the bases well and [is] a solid defender ... not to mention, he is very, very easy on the eyes."

Kurt Dahl is a Cubs jersey-wearing regular, not just during the playoffs. He reflected on the Cubs success from a personal standpoint. "I wish my dad was here to witness this, but I am sure he and [late Cubs player/announcer] Ron Santo celebrated with an Old Style beer.

"It was a great series [against St. Louis] and fun to watch these young guys … but oh so stressful."

Dahl will, unfortunately, be in Ireland for the Federation of Gay Games annual meeting during the NLCS, "but we have our Cubs' clothing with us and hopefully can find a way to watch the games."

Dahl's favorite Cub is Kris Bryant—as he is for many others, too.

"As part of the Wrigleyville community, we are thrilled with the Cubs success," said David Ernesto Munar. "It is so exciting that they won their division and we look forward to them winning the league championship next. Alderman [Tom] Tunney and the Chicago Police Department have done a great job managing parking, traffic and crowd-control, and we are grateful to them for that. It's been a win-win all around, go Cubs."

David S. Hackett, who watched the Cardinals-cling game at Replay Andersonville, added, "My favorite part of the whole experience so far is that everyone is embracing the team and celebrating each and every victory as we continue our path to winning the National League [pennant] and ultimately and a World Series victory. Gay, straight, Black or white … [the] Cubs make everyone unite."

And the Cubs success certainly is not just a guy thing.

Melissa Nelson, who plays football for the Chicago Force, is admittedly a baseball diehard—and Kyle Schwarber is her favorite of the current club.

"Holy cow, [the] season the Cubs have had so far is simply amazing," she said. "In the beginning, the thought of the season [was it was] only a rebuilding-year. [But it instead has become] one of the best seasons in the history of the Cubs, which is unreal.

"I've been waiting for this moment, for the moment to be able to celebrate their success [it] is truly unbelievable. The emotions I get before the games are like I'm going to go play the game myself. The adrenaline is pumping and emotions are high."

Nelson watched the final Cubs-Cardinals game at Crosstown Pub & Grill in Naperville with friends. "I've not yet been able to experience the feeling of watching in Wrigleyville, but you better believe I will be there when the Cubs make it to the World Series."

Cameron Turner was among the 40,000-plus fans packed into Wrigley Field for the history-making win over the Cardinals. He said the energy inside the stadium was "amazing" and the game itself was a "nail-biter."

"You could feel the tension in the stadium with every pitch," Turner said. "When Schwarber hit the [home run] to make it 6-4, everyone was a little more relaxed, but still uneasy all at the same time."

When the final out was recorded, "it was pandemonium in [Wrigley] for a while and that carried out [onto] the streets of Wrigleyville," Turner said. "My favorite part of the game was seeing Javier Baez, perhaps my favorite player on the team, hit a huge home run the day after struggling a bit on defense. The Cubs have so much depth and anybody can be a hero on any given day."

After eventually leaving Wrigley Field, Turner and friends hung out near Sheffield and Waveland Avenue. "Strangers were high-fiving and cheering with each other and there were cameras and reporters everywhere," Turner said.

Austin Baidas also attended the Cardinals-clinching game. In fact, the Lake View resident also attended the Monday night home game ( game three of the series ) and the National League Wildcard game—in Pittsburgh.

"It's been a fun time, nonstop excitement," Baidas said. "The Pittsburgh game was one of the most fun games I have ever been to, but then to come back here [and go to] these two games against St. Louis, it's been an incredible ride."

Baidas said there was, though, one minor drawback about attending the deciding game against St. Louis: "you didn't want to leave your seat to go to the bathroom—because you thought you might miss something."

This afternoon interview with Baidas, on the day-after the Cubs ousted St. Louis, was interrupted by the sound of circling helicopters from local TV stations. Yep, that's another factor for a winning team.

"The Cubs are good for the whole city, and everyone has really rallied around this team," Baidas said.

Baidas celebrated before, during and after the Cardinals win with team owner Laura Ricketts, and others.

"She's such a nice person and has done so much for the community; I'm so happy for her," Baidas said. "She's a fan, just like everyone else, who was nervous before the game, and thrilled and excited after."

The Cubs' joy has, no doubt, hit hard on White Sox fans—and Cardinals' fans, too, such as Brad Trowbridge, a St. Louis supporter, who said the loss was "a disappointment, but not shocking."

"The most annoying part is the fair weather [Cubs] fans," Trowbridge said. "I asked someone at work wearing her Cubs jersey to name the Cubs infielders. She couldn't name one. Another friend referred to Jake Arrieta as Jake 'Aria. And yet another 'fan' thought teams used the same starting pitcher each game like a quarterback in football.

"As a Lakeview resident, I hope the Cubs are eliminated quickly. Wrigley Field and the neighborhood aren't designed to handle this kind of thing. Wrigley is not easily accessible by car like stadiums in other cities. Traffic is a nightmare, [and having about] 40,000 drunks turned loose in our neighborhood after games … Last night I saw people fighting in the streets, property damage like tree limbs torn down and fences kicked in, and fans literally passed out on the sidewalk."

Andrew Sobotka added that Wrigleyville, as a resident, has become "a nightmare."

"The swarms of drunk people, the seemingly frequent presence of gangbangers looking to rob drunk people, all lead to trouble in the neighborhood," he said. "On my walk to work [Oct. 9, the day after the Cubs defeated Pittsburgh], I saw dozens of beer cans, a ton of smashed bottles."

Businesses in Boystown, though, love the Cubs craziness. The Cubs certainly have helped drive sales at D.S. Tequila Co., The North End and Sidetrack, among other area establishments that have been showing the games.

"People love watching the Blackhawks here, and we have always tried to push baseball as well. Now they are coming out in full support of a team whose home field is right up the street. [Business is] great," said Pete Augusta, marketing and guest relations for DS, as well as Minibar, mEAT Restaurant and Dive Bar—all located in Boystown.

"We are far busier when [the Cubs] have an away game because people want to watch in a social and celebratory atmosphere."

At D.S., Cubs fans have enjoyed a special Cubs margarita: the Electric Blue Margarita is made with house tequila, blue Curacao, lime juice, orange juice and a blueberry red bull floater.

Jacob Neminarz, the CEO and founder of Sugar Hills Bakery, also has jumped on the creative Cubs bandwagon. He shared a photo on Facebook with fresh-baked cookies—blue base with the red and white Cubs "C" logo.

Sidetrack general manager Brad Balof said the energy in the neighborhood "is so positive," thanks to the Cubs.

Sidetrack's large glass bar was filled by the series-deciding strikeout in the ninth inning, Balof said. "At that point, the celebration went over the top and everyone was ecstatic."

The final game against the Cardinals was the only programming Tuesday afternoon at Sidetrack, and it aired in both the glass and side bar area.

"For the next series, we will definitely be showing the game somewhere in the bar, with locations changing based on time and date," Balof said. "Once they make it to the World Series, we will show games in as many rooms as we can accommodate."

Sidetrack co-owner Art Johnston attended game three of the Cubs-Cardinals series, along with his longtime partner, Jose "Pepe" Pena.

"It was a remarkable experience going to that playoff game, especially getting to see so many from our community also attending," Johnston said. "I've never heard that many people singing together; it was so loud."

The Cubs success also is helping to further eliminate the separation between Boystown and Wrigleyville, which years ago felt like "there was an iron curtain" between the two communities, Johnston said. National same-sex marriage also has helped ease tension between the two Lake View areas, he said.

"People in our community can feel as much a part of Chicago and this joy [with the Cubs] as others," said Johnston, who tagged Soler as his favorite player on the team. "It's been a treat to see, especially this [season], the number of folks going to Cubs games who go to Halsted Street [bars] before and after games; that's new over the last five or six years."

So what if the Cubs win the World Series?

Johnston laughed. "The celebration will be unequaled in our community … it's difficult to even imagine what [Wrigleyville and Boystown] will be like. But that will be another important marker for the city, and [the gay] community."


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