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Cubs And White Sox Are In Playoffs With No Fans To Watch Them


After a strange, shortened season with no fans at ballparks, Major League Baseball playoffs are underway. And this year, there is something else unusual. Both Chicago teams are playing in the postseason. It's just the third time the Cubs and the White Sox reached the playoffs in the same year. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: If you were hanging around outside of Wrigley Field the day before a playoff game in a normal year, the neighborhood would be buzzing - trucks delivering food and beer to the ballpark, street vendors hawking souvenirs and hundreds of fans creating an electric atmosphere. But in 2020, not so much.

COLLEEN GETTINGS: It's obviously way quieter. It's definitely weird.

SCHAPER: With her mask on, 54-year-old Chicagoan Colleen Gettings is sitting with friends at a table spaced far apart from the others in the beer garden at Bernie's across the street from Wrigley, watching the Cubs play the crosstown rival White Sox over the final weekend of the season.

GETTINGS: It's definitely different. It's definitely weird. But the diehards are out, and we love the sport.

SCHAPER: It's only a few diehard fans that are in this place, which would normally be packed shoulder to shoulder. But 42-year-old Cubs fan Paul Schmitz doesn't mind.

PAUL SCHMITZ: This the first time we've seen a game together this year.

SCHAPER: Schmitz is watching with his friend Steve Nitz, who's a Sox fan.

STEVE NITZ: Yeah, I mean, it does suck not being able to go to games. But it's nice being able to just go in an outdoor area like this, and it's been really refreshing after, you know, four or five months of nothing.

SCHAPER: White Sox fans and Cubs fans rarely see eye-to-eye, but many here in Chicago are thrilled that both teams are in the playoffs. That's only happened twice before - in 2008 and way, way back in 1906, when the White Sox beat the Cubs in the World Series. In a normal season, lifelong Sox fan Stephen Davern would take his family to a few games, and he'd often watch others with friends at a bar. And while that is now possible on a limited basis, Davern is taking in the strangely wonderful season from his couch with a cold beer in his hand.

STEPHEN DAVERN: I can't think of a better distraction, especially in a town like Chicago that certainly is bruised from 2020 for a bunch of different reasons.

SCHAPER: Rivals for more than a century, Davern says having both the Cubs and the White Sox in the playoffs gives the entire city something to cheer about.

DAVERN: A family party should involve some kind of a disagreement about the Cubs and the Sox. And it's the greatest Chicago discussion. And I think it's accidentally uniting, in some ways, in a year like 2020, where everything is just so divisive.

SCHAPER: Of course, the dream matchup here is for the Cubs and the Sox to play each other in the World Series. As unlikely as that may be, the cruel joke of 2020 is that no matter who wins in the playoffs, the World Series will be in a neutral ballpark in Texas, and fans won't be there.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF FM-84'S "TEARS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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David Schaper
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.