Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed -- Emily Dickinson
CLEVELAND -- Joe Starzynski finally saw his beloved Cubs succeed in the wee hours of Thursday morning, and as the players came out of the sweetest champagne celebration to wave to their loyal and traveling fans, he just shook his head and said, "It's the weight of the world."
Just like that, it was gone. The wait was over, the 108-year drought, done.
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"We've been told that we're losers, that we have the goat, and we're cursed and all the stuff," said Starzynski of Woodstock, Ill. "That's all over. We're winners now. We want to be winners all the time and we're the most loyal fans in the world. We come out every time and get beat up, and here we are now, we're winners. Is it not worth all the pain and heartache and struggle? It's the best."
Starzynski was among a group of eight who trekked east to Progressive Field, part of a show of force that meant close to 50-50 Cubs and Indians fans for Game 7 of the 112th World Series. Fittingly, it was an all-time classic, an 8-7, 10-inning, thrilling Cubs victory, complete with a brief rain delay and key plays galore.
"All the generations that were waiting for this," Starzynski said. "Dads and their grandpas, and all the people who came and watched the game. What better way for me. I've been watching and I played all those baseball games and coached my sons, and I got to bring them here to watch a World Series Game 7 and we won."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the fans in the post-clincher interview: "It's really great for our entire Cub-dom to get beyond that moment and continue to move forward."
Lloyd Hall, 87, was happy to do that. He counted it sweetest.
"It's fantastic. I hoped I would live this long to see it," Hall said. "This is my first game at a World Series. I've been a diehard Cub fan 80 years. Unbelievable."
His daughter, Jill Johnson, drove him from the Muncie, Ind., area starting at noon once they found out they had tickets. It has been a blur, but they, like so many others, were unbound. She was "trying to get him to go for some drinks, but he's a retired pastor."
He preached a lot about "patience." His favorite Cubs have been Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Billy Herman and Gabby Hartnett. He listened to Harry Caray on the radio.
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"I've been ridiculed and laughed at and mocked," Hall said.
Brad Prendergast, an attorney from Falls Church, Va., drove up to Cleveland before the game when his former college roommate told him he had an extra ticket.
"What a game, what a season!" Prendergast said. "I'm hoarse. ... I felt good with the Cubs' 2-3-4 hitters to start the 10th. [Kyle] Schwarber came through again -- so odd that the DH was a key reason the Cubs of the NL broke their drought. In retrospect, I guess it worked out that the NL lost the All-Star Game!"
Cubs fans wept openly inside the ballpark, and they road the roller coaster across downtown as well.
The entire East 4th Street was packed with people between different bars. By the ninth inning, you couldn't move because there were so many people. Then it started raining, and it cleared out a good bit. Back at Wrigley, pandemonium broke out.
In the field boxes at Progressive Field, Jordan Kirshenbaum of Chicago and Jon Hoffenberg of Atlanta were part of a group of 12 family and friends who just looked on in disbelief at the wild scene unfolding out on the field.
"Greatest day of my life," Kirshenbaum said. He said the Rajai Davis home run and the Indians run in the bottom of the 10th was "like absolute torture," but after Anthony Rizzo squeezed the final out, the release of pent-up frustration came out like a volcanic eruption.
"It's like a billion pound gorilla off of our backs. But we did it. And hopefully we win four or five more."
Out in the Left Field District, Brent Coan of Chicago was buying yearbooks from a stand to take as a keepsake for the sweetest moment. He was there with his wife, son and daughter, and with others in spirit.
"One hundred and eight years, I don't know if I appreciate it any more than the next guy who has waited longer than I have, but it was a ton of fun," Coan said. "This was a roller coaster. I didn't know if my heart was going to take it. I need to go for a stress test after that. A great team went down tonight. Somebody's gotta win, somebody's gotta lose."
Asked what it was like to wait this long, he smiled and saw all the celebrating Cub fans around him.
"Hard. We finally got ours," he said. "I guess it's just sweeter that way."