CHICAGO -- The oversized bottle of champagne was on ice in Terry Collins' office. Eventually, it made its way into the hands of chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, who hoisted it above his head to raucous cheers.
The Mets had beaten the Cubs, 8-3, in National League Championship Series Game 4. They were headed to the World Series. They were partying.
"I've been speechless about a lot of different things," starting pitcher Matt Harvey said. "This is definitely one of them."
From Wilpon, the champagne bottle made its way to the hands of pitcher Jon Niese, the architect of last week's beer-soaked slip-and-slide in the Dodger Stadium clubhouse. This time, Niese hoisted the bottle around the room, pouring it into the mouths of teammates, coaches, employees, anyone in his path.
Again, the Mets were celebrating. First it was in Great American Ball Park in September, when they clinched their first NL East title since 2006. Then it was at Dodger Stadium, where they upended the Dodgers in the NL Division Series to punch their ticket to the NLCS, which they wrapped up at Wrigley Field. There, in the cramped visiting clubhouse, they drank beer and smoked cigars before pouring back out onto the field, where hundreds of Mets fans were still in the stands waiting for them.
"Four more wins!" they chanted. "Four more wins!"
"Having gotten so close nine years ago, you understand how special this is," said third baseman David Wright, the only current Met who was on the team in 2006. "I think if you've never tasted this before, you maybe don't understand just what it takes to get to the World Series. That path and that road, I understand how difficult what this team has accomplished, how difficult that is. I have a greater understanding and a greater appreciation for this having narrowly missed it, and then having taken the steps back that we've taken and gone through, some of the bad and the ugly we've gone through. Now to experience this makes it worth it."
Manager Terry Collins called baseball "my life, my whole life," referring to this pennant as the apex of it. Outfielder Michael Cuddyer harkened back to last November, when he decided to sign with the Mets on the promise of their young pitching. Curtis Granderson went a year further back in history, talking about his own decision to join the Mets.
Those veterans spoke at the edges of the clubhouse. The center was chaos, a frothing mix of rookies and young players, wielding champagne bottles and beers.
They partied deep into the night, welcoming family members to join them. They enjoyed themselves before turning to the future.
Five off-days await for a Mets team with plenty of work to do, but for one night at least, some free time to spare.
"This isn't a team. This is a family," Wright said. "A lot of teams say that and don't mean it. This team means it. We've got guys that are genuinely the best of friends away from this field. We go out there and we play for one another, and I think that shows up. I think that's one of the main reasons why we're going to the World Series, because of the guys in this clubhouse, the character and what this team can do together."