CHICAGO (CBS) — Playoff baseball is back at Wrigley Field, but because of COVID-19, fans are not.
As CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reported, it is yet another strange moment in a growing list of them this year.
The Cubs lost Game 1 of their playoff series 5-1 to the Miami Marlins. But win or lose, Cubs fans are not shy about pouring their love for the team onto the streets.
Yet, Clark and Addison streets and Waveland and Sheffield avenues were relatively empty Wednesday, just like the Friendly Confines that have anchored that iconic square block since 1914.
So fans have no choice but to get creative. They’re still awaiting balls that might fly out of the stadium toward Waveland Avenue.
“We’re ready to go,” said amateur ball hawk Christopher Sorley. “We’ve got our gloves, lawn chairs, ponchos, sweater, lunch here.”
And of course, they had face masks too. In every way, these are no ordinary playoffs.
“Sixty games, 30 home games, now the playoffs – just a weird and unbelievable season,” said Freddy Fagenholz, general manager of Murphy’s Bleachers at 3655 N. Sheffield Ave.
“There’s hardly anyone here. Normally there’s 50 to 100 people here for a playoff game,” said ball hawk Scott Doherty. “It’s like a ghost town.”
Those empty streets are good for keeping the virus spread down, but bad for local businesses such as Murphy’s.
“I’d say we’re down at least 80 percent,” Fagenholz said.
Murphy’s Bleachers is one of the many bars that sits near the stadium. Typically, those bars are packed during baseball season year after year, with fans brimming out into the streets with Cubs pride.
This year? Not so much.
“It’s been very quiet, unfortunately, due to the fact of no fans,” Fagenholz said.
But the diehards find a way, whether it’s grabbing a beer from the street or catching a bird’s eye view at a pretty price from one of the rooftop baseball clubs across from the ballpark.
“We’re going to go up to a rooftop here in a second and support our Cubs!” said Cubs fan Charles Watts. “It’s like 500 bucks, but it’s no different than any other year. In 2016, it was $450.”
For just a taste of normalcy, it was worth every cent for the fans who went.
“Rain or shine, bad seasons or good seasons, we’re here with the Cubs,” said Cubs fan Nathan Vogel. “You have to be loyal to be Cubs fans.”
The hope is that this same loyalty will be enough to allow Wrigleyville bars to hang on until next year.
“You don’t see anyone walking around. Parking lots are empty,” Fagenholz said. “It’s sad, but there’s nothing you can do until this thing goes away.”
It’s a time when social distancing requirements and capacity cuts have really hurt business.
Owners said merchandise has been the lifesaver. Most of the bars also offer deals on their websites.