Windy City World Series? Holy cow! (cont.)
On the North Side, around Wrigley Field, the sense of a postseason appearance is palpable. Signs proclaiming, "It's Gonna Happen," the more aggressive version of "You Gotta Believe," are stuck in windows and storefronts around the neighborhood. Business in the bars and restaurants and souvenir shops around the stadium is hopping. Wrigley runs at near full-capacity every game, and the rooftop bleachers on the buildings across Sheffield and Waveland that peer into the stadium are always packed.
Every Cubs fan from Lincoln Park to Lincoln, Neb., is thinking, almost against their better judgment, about the World Series and the 100-year title drought. They might even allow themselves to think about playing the White Sox, too.
"It would just be chaos. Just the three games we have [at Wrigley] in the regular season [in interleague play] are nuts. There's just so much hatred there," says Dan Kurtzman, manager of The Cubby Bear, the venerable sports bar across the street from the stadium. "It would be a fun time in the city, that's for sure. It'd be great for [business]. But it'd be a little dangerous."
The scene around U.S. Cellular Field is not nearly as lively. Sitting next to the world's noisiest interstate, surrounded mostly by parking lots, "the Cell" is best reached by the city's Red Line train. There are 13 stops between Sox-35th on the South Side and Addison (the stop for Wrigley Field) on the North Side. In a lot of ways, it seems like 1,300.
Aside from a few tailgaters in parking lots playing Cornhole (or Bags or Baggo or a bunch of other names) or those willing to take a walk to a bar or two that are blocks away, fans who come to the Cell don't do their drinking and eating outside of the stadium. Instead, they'll walk past fluttering banners and signs proclaiming the team's 2005 championship straight into the Cell, where more than 30,000 a game see the black-and-white clad Sox play.
"This city has been a North Side town, so when the Cubs do really well, the city is electric. But this team is pretty good, too," says Steve Stone, the Sox broadcaster. Stone is the only man to play for both Chicago teams and be a broadcaster for both. "What will happen will be -- I know this seems hard to believe -- but because of the magnitude of the 100-year drought, it's going to be much crazier than the Subway Series was in New York (in 2000). They had won. They were teams that had won."
The tension between the two sides of Chicago is undeniable. Around Wrigley, t-shirts can be had for $10 or $12 that replace the word "Sox" on an old logo with the term "Sux." Around the Cell, things are no kinder. "No Such Thing as Curses ... Just Win," reads one favorite Sox-centric tee. Another, with the familiar red-script lettering of a major soft-drink company, reads "Choke. The Official Drink of Cubs Baseball."
When a rivalry of this magnitude is combined with the fact that the Cubs haven't even been to a World Series since 1945, what you have is a town reeling with anticipation. Some have called Chicago the center of the baseball universe this year. A Sox-Cubs World Series would be its black hole, pulling everything in Chicago around it into its dark power.
"It's gonna shut down, and we're gonna need some major security," Cubs closer Kerry Wood says of the possibilities. "It's been a great year for Chicago baseball. It's been a great summer."
The only thing that could be bigger, and more dangerous, than a Second City World Series -- North vs. South, brother vs. brother, a city divided -- would be a Chicago Series in which the Cubs, after so many tortuous years, finally win their title. It's a scenario that even an avowed dreamer like Santo finds hard to imagine sometimes.
"Usually after a World Series, there's a parade and then there's a celebration, and it lasts, I would say, in the vicinity of maybe two weeks, three weeks, whatever," Santo says. "This would go on for a year. Maybe longer."
In this Chicago summer, it seems easier than ever to believe.