CHICAGO (CBS) — A bit weary from a 4 1/2-hour Game 7, thanks to extra innings and a rain delay, the Chicago Cubs are back home as World Series champions, resting up for a big celebration with their fans.
About 200 airline employees were in the hangar to greet the Cubs after they landed at O’Hare International Airport early Thursday morning, giving the players a standing ovation as they got off the plane from Cleveland.
Chicago Fire Department trucks also saluted the Cubs’ buses with a spray of water from their hoses before the team left O’Hare.
Mark Grote, the pregame and postgame host for the Cubs on 670 The Score, was on the plane with the Cubs and got to ride on one of the team buses to Wrigley Field. He said the flight and ride home were a “surreal” experience after such an exhausting game.
“We cruised down the Kennedy, people were giving their approval, honking,” Grote said. “So it was just kind of a cool ride; very calm, though, I’ve got to say the players were, because it was such a draining game. They’re exhausted. They’re looking forward to appreciating this, but right now it’s just surreal for everybody, I think.”
Game 7 took 4 ½ hours, after the Cubs and Indians needed extra innings and then had to sit through a 17-minute rain delay before the Cubs pulled out an 8-7 win for their first World Series championship since 1908.
Given all they’d just gone through, it shouldn’t be surprising the trip home was relatively subdued.
“Most of it is just kind of them shaking their heads and giving out hugs to everybody, and just sort of being so happy for the fans,” Grote said. “They know how much this means to everybody. It’s a different world for them. It’s a different angle that they have, but for them they get how much this means, and they’ve seen the love from day one of the season. You go to all the road trips, and there are people just flooding this team like rock stars, and now it’s just going to get bigger and bigger.”
The players quickly rounded up their kids and went home after arriving at Wrigley Field around 6:10 a.m.
Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said the party coming back home was “incredible, but it was exhausting.”
“You know, this month, it seems somebody asked me about something we did while we were in L.A., and it feels like three years ago, and it was only 10 days ago,” he said. “So everybody’s happy, elated but pretty tired.”
Kenney praised Cubs fans for sticking with the team through the first few years of the team’s rebuild before their meteoric rise to the top. After the Cubs hired executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to run the baseball operation following the 2011 season, the Cubs had three losing seasons as they developed the talented prospects who eventually became the core of the 2016 world champions.
“The plan wasn’t one that a lot of people would sign on for,” Kenney said. “We explained it to them. It was going to be some pain in the early stages, and they showed up. They filled that ballpark on days when we weren’t playing great baseball, and they believed in the plan, and they got the payoff today, so really a testament to the fans.”
With the vast majority of the Cubs’ roster under team control next year and beyond, they’re in great position to make a run at a few more World Series trophies.