Scott and I trooped down to Wrigleyville. The atmosphere was festive. Everyone who had come was ready for the celebration – winning game 6 and moving onto the world series. We walked down Sheffield, Waveland, Addison and Clark St. Every street, every sidewalk, and every bar was jam-packed. Saw xNew York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the Chicago chief of Police. We found Chen’s on Clark St. wasn’t overly full and had a good TV view.
The restaurant crowd was lively. With each passing out it got louder – inside and out. But one fan in the eighth inning changed all that.
Wednesday night’s seventh game of the National League Championship Series will decide who goes to the World Series, and that is not all. It also will decide whether the eighth inning of Game 6 will be remembered in Chicago Cubs history for only 24 hours as a delay … or forever as The Inning.
In a sudden eighth-inning turnaround, the Florida Marlins took advantage of left fielder Moises Alou’s run-in with a fan on a foul fly and an error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez to score eight runs in an 8-3 victory, forcing the NL championship series to a decisive Game 7.
People, who minutes earlier were dancing and singing the praises of the Cubs, suddenly turned their wrath on the fan who grabbed for the fly ball just as Alou attempted to catch it. Obscene chants echoed from inside the stadium and from the surrounding streets, where thousands gathered to celebrate what they hoped would be the Cubs’ first trip to the World Series since 1945.
Ballpark guards escorted the man, who was wearing a Cubs hat, from his seat along the low outfield wall and into a security office as the game ended. He covered his face with a sweater as he walked past fans who pelted him with cups of beer and shouted obscenities. Some chanted “kill him.”
Jim Cuthbert, 33, said he was sitting about 15 to 20 rows behind the fan and was kicked out after approaching to berate him.
“My wife was hanging on to my arm. I was going nuts. That idiot. We were five outs away,” Cuthbert said.
Fans outside the ballpark at first couldn’t believe what they were hearing on radios or watching on portable televisions.
The meddling fan was a 26-year-old man sitting at Seat 116, Row Nine. He was escorted away by security with his face covered after the irate crowd began pelting him with cups of beer and threats of violence. Some of the fans chanted “kill him!”
From the St. Pete Times:
First a fan – a fan wearing a Cubs hat! – reached out to catch Luis Castillo’s foul ball, denying leftfielder Alou the chance to record the second out of the pivotal eighth inning. There was no fan interference call because umpire Mike Everitt felt the ball was in the stands.
“No doubt in my mind I was going to catch it,” Alou said. “It was something that happened out of our control.”
Castillo instead walked, with Juan Pierre moving to third on a wild pitch. Mark Prior got ahead of Ivan Rodriguez 0-and-2 but gave up a run-scoring single.
Then the Cubs were vexed again. Surehanded shortstop Alex Gonzalez booted Miguel Cabrera’s grounder, a fairly routine play that should have led to at least one out but instead loaded the bases.
“When that happened you could see the opening,” McKeon said.
Derrek Lee, who was 3-for-25 in the series, ripped a double to make it 3-3, chasing Prior. After an intentional walk, Jeff Conine’s sacrifice fly put them ahead 4-3, and a bases-loaded double by Mike Mordecai (Mike Mordecai!) pretty much spoiled the night. Pierre’s single made it 8-3 and over.
“It has nothing to do with the curse,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “It has to do with the fan interference and the very uncharacteristic error by Gonzo, because he doesn’t miss anything. And then they just started hitting. It has nothing to do with the curse. It has to do with their bats.”
Shortly thereafter fans started heading home. They couldn’t bear to continue watching.
Game Seven is tomorrow tonight.