By Maddie Lee
Video by Mike Bacos
When the final strike smacked in Miguel Montero’s glove, Cubs fans at the Wrigleyville bar thrust their arms into the air, emptying the cans in their hands, showering everyone in the back room with beer.
The Cubs had just beaten the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 Tuesday to win the National League Division Series. It was the first time the Cubs had clinched a playoff series at Wrigley Field.
A block away from the ballpark, patrons at Sluggers World Class Sports Bar screamed and high-fived. Strangers embraced. “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled echoed through the two stories of the bar, and everyone sang along.
“It means everything, man,” said Cubs fan Darwin Cruz, who recently returned to Chicago after six years away from home, much of it overseas in the Air Force.
While some 40,000 fans watched in Wrigley Field, paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars for seats, Sluggers had no cover charge for Cubs fans of all legal drinking ages.
“It’s like your biggest neighborhood tavern,” said owner Zach Strauss. He runs Sluggers with his brothers and his father.
The sun was shining as the game began, but inside the dim bar, the greatest sources of light were the televisions. Numerous TVs on both levels of the bar played the game.
During the first few innings, people stood talking in groups, mainly congregating around the main bar, pausing conversation to celebrate a Cardinals out or a Cubs home run. As the game progressed, the crowd grew and the chatter turned into yelling at or encouraging the players on the screens.
Lamar Johnson, front-door security at Sluggers, said the atmosphere at the bar throughout the series had been “electric.”
“It’s abuzz with joy and happiness,” he said, “and tomfoolery as well.”
By the top of the seventh inning, with the Cubs up 5-4, elbow room became a luxury. Pockets of empty space formed in front of the TVs, and all eyes were on the game. The noise rose as each pitcher went into his windup. A fan who found stomping his feet wasn’t loud enough banged his stool on the floor instead.
Hope was building for a fan base that hasn’t seen its team in the NLCS since 2003. One guy turned to his friend and asked, “Why not us? Why not now?”
When the Cubs scored in the bottom of the seventh, “Go Cubs Go,” played over the speakers and the whole bar yelled along. With each strikeout, hundreds of fists pumped and whistles pierced the air. When the Cubs won, the building vibrated with the eruption of cheers.
Within 10 minutes of the end of the game, half of the people who had watched the game in Sluggers had spilled out into the streets. Clark Street was filled with fans coming converging from Wrigley Field and the bars. Some sported their Arrieta and Bryant jerseys. Some wrapped themselves in “W” flags.
Lifelong Cubs fan Michael Moore flaunted a “Next Year is Here” T-shirt.
“It’s 2015,” he said, “and it’s time for the Cubs.”
With two playoff rounds down, and two to go for the Cubs to win their first World Series title since 1908, Sluggers kept the music going, themed to the occasion with a Bon Jovi classic:
“Woah, we’re halfway there. Woah, livin’ on a prayer.”