By Chris Emma

By Chris Emma–

CHICAGO (CBS) — More than anything, they just want to say thanks.

The faithful fans haunted by ghosts of the past are still in disbelief that it finally happened — the Cubs won the World Series. They waited years, decades and generations for some to experience that magical night last November when their own finally hoisted the trophy, and now they’re eternally grateful.

Joe Maddon was greeted Sunday night in his building’s elevator by overjoyed neighbors, then again Monday morning in his parking garage on the day of the home opener. Theo Epstein has experienced the same in his Lakeview neighborhood. Kyle Hendricks no longer blends into the crowd; he’s recognized everywhere as a hero in the Cubs’ championship run. Their lives will never be the same.

They don’t want autographs or pictures — just the opportunity to say thanks and share their own stories. Maddon marveled at this, still amazed at the outpouring. They tell the tale of where they were the night of Game 7, when the Cubs overcame an Indians rally, outlasted the 17-minute rain delay and triumphed for the first time since 1908, then they reflect on the loved ones they wish could’ve been there.

This organization once known for its futile past has a new day as a champion. For those fans, scars of those many years are now gone, healed by that previously improbable feat.

Their stories have come in the hundreds, a remarkable reward for the reigning champs.

“Gosh, that’s such a lucky position to be in,” Epstein said with a smile.

Monday night brought the latest night of the never-ending celebration. The Cubs raised the banner for their championship and fittingly did so from the bleachers among their loyal fans. They ran through a tunnel, up the ramp and joined the bleacher bums.

Together, the champions and their fans raised the flag. The Cubs did it not for themselves but as one with their following — the strangers who have approached them each day since that November night and said thank you, thank you, thank you.

“They say all glory is fleeting, and it is,” Epstein said. “But the flag will fly forever.”

Added Maddon: “It’s being part of something bigger than you.”

On Monday, Wrigleyville enjoyed the first day of the beginning of a new baseball life. The Cubs are champions, a feat to be cherished forever. And now they’re also the best team in baseball and a budding dynasty striving for greatness.

The Cubs could win again and again in the next decade. They’re built to be champions beyond their special 2016 season. History has been rewritten, and the Cubs are finally known as a winner.

Emerging from the bleachers to the field, Anthony Rizzo held the Commissioner’s Trophy high as the Cubs followed his lead. The fans roared with their latest salute of gratitude for their champions.

As fans behind home plate cheered away, Maddon was scrambling as he removed from the moment. He looked around asking anyone in sight, When is first pitch? Does anyone know?

Maddon and his Cubs are ready to win it all again.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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