Fans still in frenzy as Cubs head to NL championship

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

CHICAGO -- On a gorgeous October Monday, Chicago Cubs fans gathered outside Wrigley Field to do a couple of things virtually unheard of in their lifetime.

They took pictures of the message on the old park's marquee: "Cubs Win!" And they picked up tickets to the National League Championship Series -- the one featuring the Cubs, the franchise with a nearly unmatched record of futility.

"Man," said Rob Nebel, taking it all in as he held a bag full of Cubs T-shirts. "Man, this is so cool."

That was a long wait

The victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the playoffs was the first time the Cubs had won a postseason series since 1908. It sent the Cubs into the National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins -- and started the phones ringing at Eric Soderholm's Front Row Ticket Service.

"I retired four years ago but I came back in for this event," said Soderholm, a former White Sox third basemen.

He said tickets for today's first game -- a sellout, like all the others -- were starting at $350 and going up to about $1,000. Face value ranges from $35 to $80.

"The second game, with Mark Prior pitching, is about $400," Soderholm said.

"I think if they go to the World Series, especially if it's the Yankees or Boston, then you've got to throw everything out the window," Soderholm said.

Soderholm said he thinks Cubs fans looking to buy tickets from a broker got a break when the Marlins beat the San Francisco Giants in their series. That gave the Cubs home-field advantage in the series, and meant brokers had to move tickets for the first game quickly -- instead of letting the market establish itself over the days leading up to Game Three.

Tickets already gone

Marlins officials said they had no idea whether to expect Cubs fans to invade their ballpark the way they did Atlanta's Turner Field, but seats at Pro Player Stadium were all sold by late Sunday night.

Randy Noren of Lisle, a Chicago suburb, said he got his tickets to Game 2 through a combination of savvy use of the Internet and sheer persistence.

Standing outside the "will call" window at Wrigley Field with a broad smile, Noren said he expected the Cubs to advance to the league championship but never thought he would get tickets to see it.

"I've been a fan since the Dave Kingman era," Noren said, referring to a Cubs' slugger of the 1970s.

As fans nearby posed for photos in front of a statue of the late Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, vendor Michael Sanders said it was wonderful to see playoff baseball at Wrigley Field.

"This is like a monument to baseball. This is the Mecca of baseball," Sanders said.

He gave credit to manager Dusty Baker for turning around the team's fortunes.

Across town, at City Hall, Chicago's highest-ranking White Sox fan also praised Baker.

"Dusty Baker's done it," Mayor Richard Daley said. "I think everyone is excited about where the Cubs have gone."

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