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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

World Series 2016: Overflow crowd in Wrigleyville

Wrigley Field hosted its first World Series game

Wrigley Field hosted its first World Series game since 1945 on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Photo Credit: AP / Chris Carlson

CHICAGO

Murphy’s Bleachers, the famous Wrigley watering hole tucked tight behind the ballpark’s centerfield gate, already was beyond capacity five hours before the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks was scheduled to throw the first pitch in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night.

But that didn’t deter the hundreds more who were hoping to get in and formed a line that stretched halfway down Sheffield Avenue. Just to watch the game. On television.

It was a hopeless endeavor, much like the Cubs’ previous efforts to win a World Series title, something they’re trying to do now for the first time since 1908. But with Wrigley Field hosting a Fall Classic for the first time since 1945 on Friday night — the Cubs lost to the Indians, 1-0 — thousands felt as if they just had to be somewhere in the ancient stadium’s shadow.

This was a pilgrimage, and for those who didn’t have the patience to wait out Murphy’s, there was room at the famous Cubby Bear, diagonally across from Wrigley’s oversized red marquee board, at the corner of Addison and Clark.

The Cubby Bear bouncer said that when the bar opened at 11 a.m., people had been sitting outside for hours — just for the privilege of paying the $100 cover charge. To be let through the door. And watch the Cubs play the Indians in Game 3. On television.

“This is like Times Square on New Year’s Eve,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters.

From a Wrigleyville perspective, absolutely. We’re pretty sure the neighborhood was meant to contain crowds of this size, and how would anyone know? Wrigley Field itself was built in 1914. The Cubs won the 1908 World Series, a best-of-nine affair, at the West Side Grounds, where the University of Illinois Medical Center is now located.

That was long before any Billy Goat curses or black cats or Bartman. And making money off those Cubs hexes was a profitable business, with a half-dozen entrepreneurs selling freshly printed “Goat-Buster” T-shirts on the Waveland Avenue sidewalk alone. All four of the streets that bordered Wrigley were sealed off early and the bars swelled since noon, making any transportation in the area nearly impossible.

“The fact that people are flying in just to be at a bar — not even be at the ballpark — that is pretty impressive,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Game 3. “It should be absolutely a blast here.”

We’d argue that might be contingent on a Cubs win, as we’ve seen how nervous these Wrigley crowds can get.

The Cubs have a lot at stake here, three wins away from a title that would transform their team’s identity from lovable losers to baseball’s Tiffany franchise, flush with cash, young talent and newly minted championship rings.

Fans used to flock to Wrigley for beer, Chicago dogs and another Cubs loss. But that chill vibe was erased from the neighborhood during the summer, and this October has been a month-long mission to create a very different legacy.

“Just driving down Clark today, pulling up to Wrigley, and I’m looking at the flags, and everyone milling around,” Maddon said. “I’m thinking to myself — 1945. I’m thinking it should pretty much look the same even back then, which is kind of a cool thought, minus the light towers.”

The Indians have their own ghosts to demolish, but from the start of this World Series, they’ve played more of a supporting role in this screenplay. In yesterday’s crazy atmosphere around Wrigley, however, that had its advantages.

“I came to the ballpark around 11 with my jacket, shoes and my swimming trunks,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “With all the people out there, I didn’t sign one autograph. Probably thought I was coming to get the garbage or something.”

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