Even in loss, Chicago celebrates Little Leaguers

CHICAGO (AP) – Chicago cheered on the hottest sports team in town on Sunday and, for the day at least, it wasn’t a team called the Bears, White Sox, Cubs, Bulls or Blackhawks.

The buzz in the nation’s third-largest city was for a group of 11- and 12-year-old boys from Chicago’s South Side who took on South Korea in the Little League World Series championship game.

And it didn’t matter all that much to supporters that the Jackie Robinson West All Stars ended up losing 8-4.

Far from falling quiet with the final out, several hundred supporters who gathered for a TV watch party in a South Side community center gym jumped to their feet, roared and clapped – as if the team had won.

“They showed what heart they have. The city could not be prouder of them,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who attended the party, said of the young players who sought to mount a comeback rally in the last inning.

Watch parties were held across Chicago to support the team, which is based on the city’s far South Side, including one on State Street outside the iconic Chicago Theatre.

Neighborhoods from in and around Chicago embraced the Little Leaguers, who defeated a Las Vegas team 7-5 Saturday to become U.S. champions, as their own.

“I have never seen the community come together like this,” said Eldridge Dockery, 44, who lives in the South Side’s Morgan Park neighborhood. “We’re usually behind our walls or gates – but this team brought us out, talking and celebrating together.”

The team’s journey has been an inspiration for many in a part of Chicago that has grappled with poverty and gang violence.