Monday, October 14th, 2013

NLCS 2003 Game 6: 10 Years Later

Our wedding was less than two weeks away, and the Chicago Cubs were five outs away from clinching their first National League pennant since 1945. I was on the verge of seeing a World Series come to Wrigley Field during my lifetime.

Susan was never a Cubs fan, and still a baseball neophyte, but she understood the gravity of the moment. She knew the 1984 San Diego Padres permanently scarred my soul. The 1989 San Francisco Giants and the 1998 Atlanta Braves did too, but to a lesser degree. I'll confess to driving Susan crazy that evening. I counted down the outs all the way from 27.

Entering Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, the Cubs held a three-games-to-two series lead over the Florida Marlins. A win that evening would wrap up the pennant. Even if the Cubs were to lose, Game 7 was scheduled for the following night at Wrigley Field. If Mark Prior couldn't win tonight, Kerry Wood certainly would the next day.

Play ball.

27-26-25.

The Cubs grabbed an early lead and scored a single run in the bottom of the first inning. I'm sure I cheered and clapped too loudly.

12-11-10.

During the bottom of the sixth, the Cubs tacked on another run to grab a 2-0 lead. I'll be honest, I was probably pacing around the living room.

Nine-eight-seven.

The Cubs couldn't put any crooked numbers on the scoreboard, but they did add one more in the bottom of the seventh. After seven innings, the Cubs lead the Marlins 3-0.

When the eighth inning started, the Cubs did not have a commanding lead by any means, but time was running out. Starting pitcher Mark Prior was still on the mound and was nearing the 100-pitch mark. No one was warming up in the bullpen. Mike Mordecai popped out to Moises Alou in left field.

Five outs left.

Juan Pierre doubled then advanced to third on a wild pitch to Luis Castillo. Then a foul ball was hit into the seats down the third base line. Steve Bartman felt the wrath of angry fans. Moises Alou slammed his glove down and stomped around fuming. Mark Prior pointed at the fan. Fox cameras locked upon the unfortunate soul whose life would change forever.

Alex Gonzalez, the Cubs shortstop, would make an error on a routine grounder. A total of eight Marlins would cross the plate that inning. That's all the Marlins would need to force a Game 7. The Cubs failed to score in the bottom of the eighth and ninth.

Susan decided I probably needed to be alone at that moment.

Did Bartman interfere with the play? Yes. I think most fans will agree. There's still debate whether or not Alou could have actually caught that ball. But that foul ball didn't cause Alex Gonzalez to boot the play at shortstop. That didn't make Dusty Baker leave Mark Prior on the mound too long. That didn't cause Mark Prior to go soft in the head and effectively ruin his career. And it certainly didn't cause the Cubs to lose Game 7 the following night by a score of 9-6.




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