Series ends with a whimper at local Cardinals bar

Exterior of Tavern on Little Fort
Exterior of Tavern on Little Fort, where Cardinals fans gathered for games vs. the Cubs. (Nick Zazulia/Medill)

By Nick Zazulia

The Cubs-Cardinals broadcast began Tuesday with only a few hardcore fans at North Center’s Cards haven, Tavern on Little Fort.

The number maxed out at maybe 20, about four or five times fewer than the number that gathered there for the first three games of the National League Division Series, according to co-owner Mike Jannusch. But none of those was a weekday game with a midafternoon start.

“We were packed Saturday and Sunday, and [Monday] was full,” Jannusch said. “The [3:37 p.m.] start time sucks.”

So did the result for the majority of the patrons. The Cubs defeated St. Louis 6-4 at Wrigley Field to clinch the series.

Jannusch used to manage Sedgewick’s, a Cardinals bar in Lincoln Park, before he opened the Tavern. He said his fandom is the reason both bars fly  Cardinals flags.

Exterior of Tavern on Little Fort
Exterior of Tavern on Little Fort, where Cardinals fans gathered for games vs. the Cubs. (Nick Zazulia/Medill)

A few misplaced Cubs fans showed up at the tavern on Tuesday. Kelly Tino walked in wearing a Cubs sweater and hat, not realizing it was enemy territory, even though she lives in the area.

“I just knew this bar and thought that we’d be able to get in,” Tino said. “I knew a lot of places would be packed.”

When a chorus of laughter greeted her entrance, she learned the bar’s nature.

“I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all!” Tino said with a laugh. “I came out for the spirit, and you don’t really get that at a Cardinals bar. Everybody seems pretty friendly, though.”

Attendees clearly cared about the outcome, but the demeanor in the bar was congenial and amused between rival fans. Some local Cardinals fans, such as Austin Zerkle, who grew up some two hours from St. Louis before moving to Chicago six years ago, sees that as returning the favor.

“Being a Cardinals fan around here, honestly, is pretty OK,” Zerkle said. “It’s a big city, so you can find places [for your team].”

Kevin Humphries, a St. Louis transplant, and AJ Darrell, whose Missouri family ties have pushed him to wear red, agreed.

“It’s nowhere near as bad as advertised, I don’t think,” Humphries said despite the well-chronicled animosity at times between fans of the two teams separated by 300 miles. “I go out in Wrigleyville in my Cards gear and never really have any problems.”

They disagreed in which teams they hope reach the World Series, now that the Cardinals and their MLB-leading 100 regular-season wins are out. While Humphries and Darrell are pulling for a New York Mets-Kansas City Royals matchup, Zerkle is falling back on Chicago.

“If the Cubs [have to] beat the Cardinals, I really [expletive] hope they win the World Series,” Zerkle said. “I really do.”

After the Cubs clinched the game with a Stephen Piscotty stikeout, the pair of Chicago fans present cheered and the Cardinals fans solemnly packed up their things. One guy yelled nonsensicalities, but also proclaimed, “I’m drunk.”

Video by Nick Zazulia/Medill

The happiest person in the place was Tom Coyle. He  works at another bar, which he declined to name, and which he assumed was packed with Cubs fans. He is one, as well, by the way. He watched the game at Tavern on Little Fort to avoid getting pulled into a work shift.

“It’s [expletive] great. It feels so good,” Coyle said. “The great thing is we don’t rely on one guy, one pitcher, something like that; everyone contributes. The Cardinals are the Goliath of the Cubs’ psyche. Now that they’ve beaten them, they can beat anyone.”

Jannusch is disappointed that the Cardinals lost, for both personal and business reasons, but expressed confidence that patrons will still turn out for the rest of the playoffs.

“For the wild-card game with the Pirates, we had a lot of Cubs fans,” he said. “I’m not going to take down the Cardinals flag and pretend we’re suddenly anything [different], but I’ve always tried to keep it friendly.”

Photo at top: Mid-way through the game, a few passionate fans trained their eyes on the broadcast at Tavern on Little Fort. (Nick Zazulia/Medill)