Marlins defeat Cubs
4 games to 3
|Game||Date||Winning Team||Losing Team|
|1||Oct. 7||FLA 9||CHC 8|
|2||Oct. 8||CHC 12||FLA 3|
|3||Oct. 10||CHC 5||FLA 4|
|4||Oct. 11||CHC 8||FLA 3|
|5||Oct. 12||FLA 4||CHC 0|
|6||Oct. 14||FLA 8||CHC 3|
|7||Oct. 15||FLA 9||CHC 6|
Managers: McKeon, Jack, FL; Baker, Dusty, CHC
MVP: Rodriguez, Ivan
NLDS: Florida over San Francisco (3 games to 1); Chicago over Atlanta (3 games to 2)
Five more outs and Rush Street would have been out of control. Five more outs and Dusty Baker would have been the first manager to take different teams to the Fall Classic in consecutive years.
Five more outs and the Cubs would have been in the World Series with a chance to end a 95-year drought. Five more outs and they might have stopped saying, "Wait'll next year."
It was that close at Wrigley Field on the night of Oct. 14, 2003, but the Marlins ultimately won the 2003 NLCS in seven games on their way to a second World Series title as the NL Wild Card -- as if to cruelly remind Cub fans how "easy" it is to snag a World Series championship. What's the big deal?
The Cubs were on a roll, and a breakthrough seemed plausible. Their fan caravans were taking over opposing ballparks. Chicago had beaten the vaunted Braves in five to reach the NLCS, and they had returned from the three middle games at Florida holding a 3-2 series lead.
Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, Chicago's formidable young 1-2 punch in the rotation, were lined up to start the final two games in order, as needed. It was all set up perfectly for the Cubs.
Thousands of fans were packed outside Wrigley, waiting to go wild. The Cubs had a 3-0 lead with one out in the top of the eighth, and Prior was working on a three-hitter. Juan Pierre doubled, and Luis Castillo then lofted the eighth pitch of his at-bat toward the left-field line.
As Cubs left fielder Moises Alou reached his glove up toward the wall in foul ground to make the catch, multiple fans reached for the ball as well. One of those fans -- Steve Bartman -- made contact on the ball with his hands, and it bounced into the stands. Alou immediately showed his displeasure, throwing down his glove in disbelief; baseball decorum says you don't interfere with your own team's fielders.
Maybe what happened next was not Bartman's fault. He was not the only fan who tried to catch the foul ball, and Prior had failed to retire Castillo in the course of eight pitches. But what happened next still required a police escort out of the ballpark for Bartman, as the Cubs crashed badly to Earth.
Prior promptly walked Castillo on a wild pitch. NLCS MVP Ivan Rodriguez singled to left on an 0-2 pitch, scoring Pierre and moving Castillo to second, breaking up the shutout. Miguel Cabrera then hit a tailor-made double-play grounder to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who booted it instead. That loaded the bases, and Derrek Lee doubled to tie the score at 3-3. Again, not Bartman's fault.
Prior was replaced with Kyle Farnsworth, and it only got worse. After 12 Marlin batters came to the plate that inning, Florida had scored eight runs and were on their way to a decisive Game 7. The Cubs still had Wood on the hill for that one, but they never recovered from what had just happened. They managed to blow a 5-3 lead in Game 7, and a Ugueth Urbina save clinched a pennant for Florida. For stunned Cubs fans, it was "Wait'll next year" again.