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Excitement builds in Cubs' run for pennant
CHICAGO -- Here's how excited Chicago Cubs fans are these days: They were lined up outside Wrigley Field at 5 a.m. Friday hoping to get their hands on tickets for a game later in the day with, of all teams, the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.
Not to sit and watch the game, but to stand.
That's what happens when the Cubs put themselves in position to do something that happens less often than Jennifer Lopez ties the knot: win their division.
"Many are jumping on the bandwagon," said Steve Yunker, a longtime fan who wore his own feelings on his sleeve in the form of a sweat shirt that read, "Baseball in Wrigley Field in October: It Could Happen."
Unfortunately, Friday's anticipation was all for naught because the game was rained out.
Fans with tickets to the game will not be able to exchange them for tickets to today's doubleheader, or Sunday's game because they are sold out, according to a Cubs spokesman. They will be able to get a refund or exchange their tickets to attend a game next season.
The Cubs, who haven't won their division since 1989, the National League pennant since 1945 and the World Series since 1908, enter today's doubleheader a half-game ahead of the Houston Astros for first place in the National League Central.
The Astros slipped out of a first-place tie with a 12-5 loss Friday to the Brewers.
"I've never been up here when it meant anything," said Craig Meyer, who drove nearly 100 miles to the game with his buddies from Minonk in central Illinois. "We missed the homecoming football game to come up and watch this baby, and high school football is big where we come from."
Nearby taverns, which were filling up at 11 in the morning, were enjoying the frenzy outside the stadium along with souvenir salesmen and ticket sellers in doorways, street corners and on the sidewalks.
"A happy heart spends a little more," said Michael Sanders, a souvenir salesman stocking his stand just outside the stadium.
On this overcast and windy day, those happy hearts couldn't give Mark Savidge money quickly enough for the tickets he was selling on the street half a block from Wrigley.
"They'll go for as much as $300 today," he said, speculating that the price tag could climb as high as $650 apiece on Saturday and Sunday if the Cubs should win Friday.
That's a far cry from late last season, when Savidge and others were trying to sell tickets for a team that finished 30 games out of first place. "We couldn't give them away," he said.
The excitement even caught Cubs manager Dusty Baker by surprise. "When I came into the parking lot this morning, I didn't have any clue this many people would be out there -- news reporters and people we haven't seen all year long," he said.
If Baker was hoping the fans would give the team a lift, many fans weren't quite ready to believe the team could avoid letting them down.
"For 41 years I've been disappointed," said Yunker, 41, of Algonquin.
"I'm used to being disappointed," said Bill Grimpe, a Chicago man who called in sick for work to make it to the game. "She tells me they're gonna do it," he said of his girlfriend, Kristin Jolly. "She hasn't felt the heartache I have."