With a mix of euphoria, relief and disbelief, long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans are setting their sights on the team's first World Series in 71 years — and some are remembering departed loved ones who stuck with the club once known as "lovable losers."
First lady Michelle Obama joined the chorus Sunday morning, congratulating her hometown Cubs a day after the team defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago's Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.
The Chicago native tweeted: "Way to go Cubs!!" She then recalled her father, saying: "My Dad is the reason I'm a true Cubs fans. He'd be so proud!"
Lifelong fan Marilyn Hnatusko wiped away tears after the win Saturday night, recalling other longtime Cubs fans.
"I thought of all my relatives who didn't see this, my dear Uncle John, and now I can't quite believe it happened," she said.
Overjoyed fans streamed out of Wrigley Field and into the streets Saturday night after the Cubs earned their first trip to the World Series since 1945.
Many people donned Cubbie blue and held "W'' flags to celebrate the win. Two people climbed a traffic pole, with one man shimmying all the way to the end. Police said he was later arrested, as were a couple of fans who lit fireworks.
But the majority of the crowd celebrated the victory peacefully. Many took selfies in front of the stadium and hugged one another. Some also broke out in song, while others shook up beer bottles and sprayed the crowd.
Police, including about a dozen officers on horseback, kept a close eye on the crowd — and some officers gave high-fives to fans as they walked by.
"I can't even describe what I'm feeling," said 49-year-old Brian Dusza, who also was at Wrigley Field for Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS when a fan's interference with a foul ball added to the sense of a hovering curse.
Among the few thousand fans who stayed in their seats an hour after the game ended was Ed Koenig of Darien. His eyes welled up as he talked about his father, who died in May.
"I haven't been to a game this season without him and when my friend won a lottery for these tickets, I thought 'how am I going to go without my dad?'" Koenig said.
But his friend convinced him to go.
"I have his watch on," Koenig said, showing off the watch on his wrist. "I thought I was going without my dad, but I'm with him."
Steve Zucker, who's been coming to games since the 1940s, said before the game that if the Cubs won, he would go to his father's grave and leave a Cubs hat and T-shirt.
"My dad died playing cards, listening to the game on a little transistor radio, so I may bring that, too," Zucker said. "Before this year, I never thought I would see this."
Cubs All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said the fans deserved to see this team make the World Series.
"These fans have been amazing since the time I got here," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this."
Chicago faces the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.