CHICAGO – Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber was followed by cameras and cellphones. A couple of pitchers from the Cleveland Indians played hacky sack in the outfield. The giant videoboard in left field flashed "World Series."
So, no, nothing like the last Fall Classic at Wrigley Field.
The World Series returns to one of baseball's iconic ballparks on Friday when the Cubs and Indians face off in Game 3 after splitting the first two nights in chilly Cleveland. It's the first World Series game at Clark and Addison since Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg helped the Detroit Tigers to a 9-3 victory in Game 7 on Oct. 10, 1945 .
When Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks throws the first pitch, the expectation is, well, even more bedlam than usual. The Cubs, seeking their first championship in 108 years, played in front of packed, frenzied crowds for much of the season, and even the Indians are looking forward to the scene.
"Tomorrow's going to be unbelievable," Cleveland slugger Mike Napoli said. "I watched when they clinched to go to the World Series and how crazy it was and seeing the fans in the streets where they had to have police escorts. You could just see the crowd just part ways.
"So it's going to be fun. It's something that I wanted to be a part of, and thought that it would be an unbelievable World Series."
Wrigley Field will also be host to Games 4 and 5 this weekend.
The last time
When the Cubs last were in a World Series, more than 30 percent of the dwelling units in this country did not yet have flush toilets, and even more than that lacked private bathtubs or showers.
Chicagoans were more likely beneficiaries of modern conveniences than their rural brethren. But more than 13 percent of the homes in this city lacked hot and cold running water.
And the last time the Cubs could claim to be National League champions, a 2016 dollar enjoyed the buying power of between 7 and 8 cents.
The 1945 World Series was so long ago that Wrigley Field wasn't the only ballpark without lights for night baseball. Briggs Stadium, home of the Tigers, also was equipped only for day games. Ditto for Boston's Braves Field and Fenway Park and New York's Yankee Stadium.
The first World Series on broadcast TV was two years away.
It also wasn't until 1947 that Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball. Branch Rickey of the then-Brooklyn Dodgers signed Robinson to a minor league contract with the Montreal Royals less than two weeks after the end of the Cubs-Tigers showdown in '45.
With the call …
Pat Hughes, the radio voice of the Cubs, will have the honor of calling the first World Series game played at Wrigley Field in 71 years. He expects the electricity in the venerable ballpark to send chills down his spine, even after all these years in the business.
"In the regular season, it's crazy [at Wrigley] if there's a pennant race going on or a big series," Hughes said. "So, you can imagine what it will be like now. Just ratchet that up a few notches and that's what you've got."
Hughes spent a lot of time in recent days thinking of late broadcast partner Ron Santo, the beloved former player who bled Cubs blue, through and through. Santo's mood would famously soar on-air when the team was playing well, and his despair would spiral just as deep during the tough times, which came far too often until he passed away in December 2010.
What would Santo have made of all of this?
"I worked with him 15 years," said Hughes, who now shares the booth with former Twins player Ron Coomer. "He would have been unbelievably happy and emotional. He would have been screaming, laughing and crying, all within two or three minutes of the pennant-winning play. He loved the Cubs so much.
"I think of Ernie Banks, too. He was always so optimistic in the face of all the failure. So, I think of Ronnie and Ernie, and I think of Harry Caray, and all the broadcasters who came before me.
"But, mainly, I've thought about the fans. It's always hard to quantify how much the fans mean to the team winning."
A front-row seat
One of the fans who has a ticket for Friday night is 97-year-old Everett Schlegel.
In the fall of 1945, World War II had just ended and Schlegel had returned home from the Army only days earlier when he wandered over to Wrigley Field in his uniform to see about getting World Series tickets. The ticket clerk refused his money and gave him seats to both Game 6 and Game 7, according to the Elgin (Ill.) Courier-News.
As he watched his hometown team lose that series, Schlegel couldn't have known it would take another seven decades before there would be a second chance.
The story of how a young soldier fresh out of the service scored World Series tickets is a family favorite. And now, with the Cubs back in contention, Schlegel's family wanted to get him to a game again.
So, his granddaughter, Helen Schlegel, did what would have been unimaginable 71 years ago. She asked the internet for help.
"My Grandpa is 97 years old. He served in Pearl Harbor and is the BIGGEST Cubs fan I know," she wrote on a GoFundMe page. "He had the opportunity to go see the Cubs in 1945 World Series Game 7 and still has the original ticket stubs. He has been waiting since that heartbreaking day, to see the Cubs in World Series. Please help my Grandpa witness the Cubs in the World Series again."
The page went up Sunday, and by Monday local media were all over the story of the World War II veteran who served on a nearby base in Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attacks and who waited a lifetime for another Cubs World Series. Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of strangers, the online campaign reached, and then surpassed, its $10,000 goal within days.
But then Marcus Lemonis of the CNBC reality show "The Profit" offered Schlegel his two front-row tickets to Game 3.
Because they no longer need the $12,000 raised to purchase tickets, the family is planning to donate all of it to the Purple Heart Foundation.
Since the Cubs dropped the 1945 World Series, the population of the United States has grown from nearly 140 million people to almost 325 million.
The Earth has traveled more than 41 billion miles.
That's a whole lot of "wait till next year."
In the end, Wrigley Field is really about the relationship between Cubs fans and the team. It's a bond few other professional sports franchises enjoy, and the players feel like they're all part of one big extended family.
"It's pretty evident if you go out that they feel a connection," catcher David Ross said. "I've gone out and had people without asking coming up and hugging me, putting their arm around me.
"They feel part of this group, and it makes me laugh sometimes after they walk away. Who walks up to strangers and hugs people without permission?"
Cubs fans do.
That's just the Wrigley Way.