Chicago’s Little League team fell short of winning a world title Sunday, but many of the more than 1,000 fans at two city public watch parties still walked away smiling.
“They might not have won the World Series but they’re still champions in my book,” said Anthony Turner, 39, of Streeterville who had brought a chair and two friends to a blocked-off State Street, where hundreds gathered to watch the game downtown on a giant screen outside the Chicago Theatre.
All told, the all-black Jackie Robinson West All Stars went further in the Little League World Series than any Chicago team has in more than four decades. Their 8-4 loss to South Korea on Sunday doesn’t erase their standing as the U.S. champion, a distinction they earned in a 7-5 win over Nevada.
That pride resonated among the hundreds who watched the game in the gym of the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, near the team’s home neighborhoods on the South and Southwest sides.
There, Michael Kelley, who played in the 1970s for Jackie Robinson West, said even with the loss “they’ve accomplished so much and gone so far. … We’re going to be proud of them and celebrate them.”
Indeed, city officials on Sunday elaborated on plans for a parade scheduled for Wednesday to honor the team’s homecoming. While no start time was released, officials said in a release that the parade will begin on the South Side and end in Millennium Park. The regularly scheduled fireworks at Navy Pier that Wednesday night will also be dedicated to the team, the city announced, as were fireworks scheduled for Sunday night.
Many at the State Street viewing party echoed the sentiments of so many Chicagoans the past couple of weeks, expressing pride in the boys’ successes and creation of positive news, with homicides and gang violence seemingly always in the background.
“It’s positive for the city of Chicago to show you that our children are not all bad,” said Rita Lloyd, from the South Side, in a seat front and center on State Street with her son and daughter-in-law, flinging balloons in the team’s colors, yellow and blue. As the game neared the end and the outcome became clear, Lloyd said “We’ve already won. Those boys are winners.”
At the South Side party, the team saw high-profile support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn — and his November challenger in the race for governor, Bruce Rauner. President Barack Obama tweeted Sunday night what he called a “shout out” to the team. “You made your city and country proud,” the tweet from the president’s official Twitter account said.
The team’s success seemed to touch fans from across the city, with some downtown bars playing the Little League World Series games with the sound up this week.
Donna DeRosa, 67, who lives in the South Loop, said she was going to go to the Museum of Science and Industry on Sunday until she realized the watch party downtown was happening.
“Everybody across all socioeconomic lines are out here today cheering on their team and that’s what Chicago’s about — all heart,” said DeRosa, shortly after the game ended. “Look how far these kids got.”
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