CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross posed for a selfie Friday in front of a multitude of roaring fans in the city’s Grant Park during a rally honoring the club’s first World Series title in 108 years.
Ross and the other players sang “Go Cubs Go” from the stage along with the blissed-out crowd. “It happened, baby. It happened!” proclaimed infielder Anthony Rizzo to adoring cheers.
Team manager Joe Maddon — wearing a stocking cap, sunglasses and a jersey over a “We didn’t suck” T-shirt — looked out over a sea of blue.
“Welcome to Cubstock 2016!” Maddon said. “This is an incredible moment for all of us. Never have I experienced anything like Wrigley Field on a nightly basis. … I want to congratulate you fans also. Thank you for being so patient.”
A victory party is new territory for long-suffering fans of the Cubs, who hadn’t won a World Series title in more than a century before their Game 7, extra-inning thriller Wednesday night in Cleveland. The last time the Cubs even reached the Fall Classic was in 1945.
Miriam Santiago, 51, said she carried holy water, her rosary and a bright green lucky baseball with her during the playoffs. On Friday, she brought a goat mask with dynamite in its mouth and let other fans pose for photos wearing it outside Wrigley Field. She said she believes her lucky charms helped reverse the Curse of the Billy Goat, the story of a Chicago tavern owner who supposedly put a hex on the Cubs after the team refused to let his pet goat into Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series.
Earlier in the day, throngs of young and old blue-clad fans roared as the motorcade of open-roofed buses carrying the players cruised along Lake Shore Drive. The mood was jubilant, bolstered by an unseasonably warm and sunny November day and clear blue skies.
Vendors hawked pennants and shirts, and selfie-taking teens tried to capture the crowds. Many just beamed.
Retiree Jarvis Moffett, 60, arrived at the lakefront park hours ahead of the rally just to take in the atmosphere.
“I’m an old-school Cubs fan,” he said, gesturing to the sky and crowds. “This is what you live for. It doesn’t get any better.”
Steve Angelo carried his 4-year-old son, Nicholas, on his shoulders. The pair wore matching jerseys for first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
“The more and more they win now, at his earlier age, the more and more excitement there is,” Angelo said.
Atop the double-decker buses, some Cubs players posed together for photographs, while others held their children and sat with their families. Center fielder Dexter Fowler had a cigar as the team headed toward the rally that some fans have called the “celebration of a century.”
Fans packed morning commuter trains, causing delays despite increased service and capacity, to get downtown and find a viewing spot before the festivities began.
Laurie Winter woke up at 4 a.m. so she and her 2-year-old son, Cooper, could come in from the suburb of South Elgin and be among the fans outside Wrigley Field to see the players.
“I think everyone is excited about where this team is going,” Winter said. “We can’t wait to see them come out and get crazy.”
The parade wound through downtown and ended roughly 7 miles south in Grant Park, where the rally started in the early afternoon. The city also dyed the Chicago River a bright shade of blue to match the Cubs’ colors, repurposing a decades-long tradition of dying the river green on St. Patrick’s Day.
It’s unclear how many people will attend Friday’s parade and rally. The city estimates that 2 million people attended similar events in 2015, after the Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years — but generations of Cubs fans have far more pent-up celebrating to do.
Friday was already a scheduled day off for Chicago Public Schools and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner declared Friday as “World Champion Chicago Cubs Day” statewide.