CHICAGO -- Less than an hour after the Cubs had secured their first trip to the World Series since 1945, chairman Tom Ricketts, former pitcher Kerry Wood and Hall of Famer Billy Williams had a quiet moment in the clubhouse. They tapped their drinks together in a toast to a team that has a chance to do something that hasn't been done in more than 100 years.
The Cubs posted the best record in the Major Leagues this season, winning 103 games, and now need four more wins to claim their first World Series since 1908. Chicago earned the trip with a 5-0 win over Los Angeles at Wrigley Field on Saturday night to take the National League Championship Series, four games to two.
"We're the best team in the National League, we showed that, we won the pennant," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "It hasn't been done here in 71 years. You have to take a brief moment and reflect on that. We did do something special -- we're going to the World Series. People are going to watch a World Series in Wrigley Field.
Aroldis Chapman got the final out, getting Yasiel Puig to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, to spark a celebration around the world for Cubs fans who have been waiting to see the team play for a championship. Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks and Chapman faced the minimum for the win, combining on a two-hitter.
Cubs players rushed to the mound after the last out to celebrate, greeting teammates with hugs, smiles and a few tears. The standing-room-only crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field sang "Go Cubs Go" perfectly, and the throngs of people outside the ballpark joined in. Grown men cried, car horns honked, and the party was underway.
Next up? The American League champion Indians in Game 1 on Tuesday in Cleveland. It'll be an interesting matchup featuring a manager -- Terry Francona -- who the Cubs' front office knows well from their days together in Boston.
"He'll do everything he can to win that night's game," Hoyer said of Francona. "[Joe Maddon] manages the same way. Tito is aggressive and I thought he set the tone for the whole postseason in Game 1 against Boston. He went to [Andrew] Miller and he showed, 'That's how I'm going to manage.' You have to respect that. He's trying to win that night's game. Players respect that. I've said since the beginning, Joe manages a pure game like that, too. He's doing everything he can as far as pitching changes and aggressiveness. How do you not want to play for a manager like that?"
"Joe doesn't ever shy away from anything," said Ben Zobrist, who played for Maddon in Tampa Bay and is in his first season in Chicago. "He's fearless. When it comes to the expectations that have happened for a long time, he told us at the start of the year, we're the best team and we'll have a lot of expectations but we just need to play our game and we need to keep it simple, and do simple better, one of his other phrases. That's how we approached every game and focused on staying in the moment."
Hoyer and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein helped end the Red Sox's long drought in 2004, but the rebuilding process in Chicago was more extensive. In their first season in 2012, the Cubs went 61-101. They lost 96 games in '13, and 89 games in '14. Last year, the young Cubs surged to a 97-win season and reached the NLCS, only to be swept by the Mets.
"This is more special," Hoyer said, comparing the Cubs and Red Sox. "The hours from 7 [p.m.] to 10 [p.m.] were pretty tough for a bunch of years. To come in here and win and do this in year five with all these kids, it really is special. With anything in life, if something is difficult and you have some adversity, it is sweeter. We got swept last year in this round and I don't think anyone liked that taste in their mouth. To play like we did the last three games [against the Dodgers] was unbelievable."
The Cubs were the preseason favorites to win the World Series, and the players ignored all the hype.
"We're living the dream," Anthony Rizzo said. "This is what you dream of as a kid. I know it's cliché, but we're going to the World Series. This is what you dream of, and we're going to enjoy it as much as we can."
The players aren't surprised.
"I don't want to sound cocky, but we went into Spring Training with the goal of getting to the World Series," said Jon Lester, who was named co-Most Valuable Player along with Javier Baez. "We talked about it. But at the same time, we knew not to take anything for granted. We've got a bunch of grinders. We have goals. Now the next goal is to try to win."
Lester went 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two NLCS starts, while Baez, who began the season on the bench, batted .318 with five RBIs. They know, all the Cubs need is four more.
"Look, you just smile, soak it all in, let it take your breath away," Epstein said, "and then get back to work to get four more wins."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.