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Chicago cheers on Jackie Robinson West Little League team in international championship game

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CHICAGO — 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.

Win or lose, neighborhoods from in and around Chicago embraced the Jackie Robinson West All Stars as their own.

The Chicago team, made up of all black players, made its first appearance in 31 years in the Little League World Series. Its good fortunes has been an inspiration for many in a part of Chicago that has grappled with poverty and gang violence.

The sense of unity fostered by the team even applied, in part, to political rivals.

Both Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican gubernatorial challenger Bruce Rauner joined hundreds of people in a South Side community center gym to watch the Jackie Robinson West All Stars.

PHOTO: With all the celebration going on, Kristal Davis of Chicago, cheers while her son, Ryan, sleeps while watching the Little League World Series baseball game that was broadcast at the Salvation Army Kroc Community Center, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, in Chicago. The Jackie Robinson West All Stars defeated a Las Vegas team in the U.S. final in Pennsylvania, and will face South Korea in the championship game Sunday. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Kevin Tanaka) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT, NO SALES
With all the celebration going on, Kristal Davis of Chicago, cheers while her son, Ryan, sleeps while watching the Little League World Series baseball game that was broadcast at the Salvation Army Kroc Community Center, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, in Chicago. The Jackie Robinson West All Stars defeated a Las Vegas team in the U.S. final in Pennsylvania, and will face South Korea in the championship game Sunday. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Kevin Tanaka) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT, NO SALES

"It's all about bringing the city together," Rauner told a reporter.

Rauner sat in a front row, bobbing his head at one point as a green alligator mascot led the crowd in a chant to thumping music. At separate times during breaks in the action, both he and Quinn — who are locked in a tight race — got up and danced.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is a Democrat, was also in attendance. Emanuel stood with his arms folded, rocking in apparent nervousness as the game went on.

The several hundred supporters in attendance, watching on a large-screen TV, stood and roared at every hit or out by the Chicagoans and groaned at any South Korean success. Many waved signs that read, "Let's Go!"

Watch parties happened across the city to support the team, which is based on the city's far South Side. There also was one on State Street outside the city's iconic Chicago Theatre.


Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm .

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Beverly Harris and others react when Jackie Robinson West gave up a go-ahead two-run home run to Nevada as they watched the game at the Salvation Army Kroc Community Center, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, in Chicago. The Jackie Robinson West All Stars defeated the Las Vegas team in the U.S. final in Pennsylvania, and will face South Korea in the championship game Sunday. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Kevin Tanaka) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT, NO SALES
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