'This neighborhood ... rocking all night!'
On the South Side, lifelong fans revel on their home turf
CHICAGO -- They started lining up on the sidewalk, in the rain, during the sixth inning, happy enough to get a look at one of the small televisions inside Jimbo's Lounge on the South Side.
Every single person standing in the rain knew he had absolutely no shot at getting in the door -- two guys named Chucky and Joey made sure of that. But the doorstep of the center of the Chicago White Sox universe was good enough on the biggest night the Second City's second franchise has seen in 88 years.
"They just showed everybody in the world!" 42-year-old native South Sider John Wagner screamed on Wednesday night, just seconds after the White Sox swept away the Astros for their first World Series title since 1917. "This neighborhood is going to be rocking all night! We're just getting started!"
Marylou Nunamaker drove more than an hour from her home near the Illinois-Wisconsin border to the neighborhood in which she grew up.
"I just wanted to be here," she said. "This is the place. We don't stay home and watch things. We go out and live."
They lived large on Wednesday night at this tiny bar, which stands across a parking lot from U.S. Cellular Field and used to stand in the shadow of Comiskey Park. The regulars like Wagner crowded near the back of the bar. The bandwagon jumpers packed the front.
Joey Levato and his cousin, Chucky, did a Herculean job of keeping the crowd under control. The bar's namesake, a 60-something former softball star named Jimbo -- duh -- stayed out of sight for much of the night, either too exhausted or too nervous to watch with his patrons.
"It's a long time coming, and well-deserved," said Valerie Morales, who works in the Cook County Jail but wisely requested Thursday off. She moved out to Brookfield a few years ago but returned to her old neighborhood for Game 4.
"You don't ever really move away from here," she said. "Everybody is all about family and friends, and the White Sox are part of that. They played their hearts out all year long and they deserve this. Ozzie Guillen deserves this."
Nunamaker watched most of the game in silence, but she still stood out, wearing white socks pulled high over her black pants, plus a Sox jersey and cap. Before Jimbo's, she had stopped to visit her 91-year-old father, John Palmisano, in the nursing home.
After the win she said, "Dad is going to be so happy!"
Who was not happy on this night? Back downtown, bar owner Jim Rittenberg struggled to balance his business and his emotions. On one hand, a prolonged World Series would have been great for business at Mother Hubbard's. On the other hand, a Sox sweep was so sweet.
When he was 16, Rittenberg attended Games 1 and 2 of the 1959 World Series at Comiskey. Tickets were $6, and Rittenberg had no idea his Sox would not make it back to the Series for 46 years.
"I remember Game 1, and the White Sox winning, 11-0," he said. "I thought, 'This is it!' I mean, they had the best pitching staff in the world. That was a great team.
"Then, when they went to division play, it was like, 'Here we go!' But this year, it was really out of the blue. I picked the Cubs to finish second and the Sox to finish third. The Sox traded away Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez, and I thought we were heading into a few rebuilding years."
Instead, they won it all. Rittenberg grew up in the west-side neighborhood of Garfield Park and has owned Sox season tickets since 1971 or 1972. He's not sure of the exact date, but he's sure it was "before Harry," as in the late Chicago broadcasting legend Harry Caray.
"I thought about going to Houston, but I'd rather be here celebrating than down there," said Rittenberg. "If you're in Houston, you're just that jerk Sox fan."
In some parts of Chicago, you could say the same thing.
"But I'll tell you what," Rittenberg said. "You think the Sox-Cubs rivalry was big before? It's going to be insane now, just wait. The Sox have always been the punching bags, but not anymore."
Yankees fans don't exactly love the Mets, and Dodgers fans were not sobbing the night the Angels were bounced by Chicago in the American League Championship Series, but the divide between two teams in one city may be deeper in Chicago.
Rittenberg doesn't get it, arguing that he grew up a Cubs and White Sox fan and still pulls for both clubs. The door man at Mother Hubbard's, 32-year-old Toby Parsons, doesn't quite get it either.
"It's beyond strange," said the transplanted New Yorker. "I don't know how to explain it. For the most part, Cubs fans have stayed away lately. When they do stop in, they usually root for the Astros."
Now the White Sox fans have had their day.
"They've come out of the woodwork," Rittenberg said. "Most of them are bandwagon jumpers, but that's all right. There's plenty of room."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.