Chicago Cubs: One fan recalls the story of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS

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Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /

Fate intervenes

I immediately regret putting myself through this. As soon as we hit the eighth, I get nervous – nauseous almost. It’s awful. Why did I decide to do this again?

The broadcast team opens the eighth by reminding the world 95 years ago to the day, the Chicago Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers in the 1908 World Series, winning their second-straight title. And, tonight, the team will earn its berth back in the Fall Classic.

How poetic.

A flyout to left accounts for the first out. Five outs to go.

Prior has eclipsed the 100-pitch mark. Every time a ball drifts out of play down the left-field line, I hold my breath. But, alas, they’re just foul balls – for now. Pierre leads things off with a one-out double down the line. He’s literally the last guy you want in scoring position.

Then, it happens.

The Cubs’ veteran outfielder tracks a ball down the left-field line, drifting toward the stands. He seems to have it timed well as he makes a leap against the padded side wall. Fans along the railing reach for the ball, and Alou fails to make the grab.

It’s an inconsequential play. There’s no guarantee Alou even makes the grab, but that’s not how it’s perceived by fans or the commentators.

“Again in the air, down the left field line,” broadcaster Thom Brennaman said. “Alou … reaching into the stands … and couldn’t get it and is livid with a fan.”

It no longer mattered that Prior was twirling a three-hit shutout and was on the brink of leading the Chicago Cubs to the Fall Classic. The right-hander promptly walked Castilo and ball four got past Bako, allowing Pierre to move to third.

At this point, I’m fairly panicked. It feels all wrong now. Everything was so smooth, so easy leading up to this inning. Now, five outs from eternal glory, the wheels have come off. And then, it all burst into flame.

Rodriguez lines a base hit to left, scoring Pierre and cutting the Chicago lead to 3-1. The next batter, Cabrera, hits a ground ball to shortstop Alex Gonzalez, the best-fielder at his position during the regular season. The ball gets on him quickly; a double play isn’t going to happen.

The ball hits off the palm of his glove, rolling away and loading the bases for the Marlins.

You can hear a pin drop in Wrigley Field, except down the left-field line, where fans have started chanting, “Asshole, asshole,” in the direction of Steve Bartman, who sits alone as if he has an infectious disease.

The killing blow

Future Cubs’ All-Star Derrek Lee breaks the Cubs’ spirits entirely with a game-tying double, ending Prior’s night. I’m speechless. I’ve seen the game time and time again, but the sheer magnitude of the collapse is tremendous. Dusty Baker turns to hard-throwing right-hander Kyle Farnsworth to put out the fire and keep the team’s hopes of clinching the pennant alive.

He fails to do so.

After intentionally walking Mike Lowell, Farnsworth serves up a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jeff Conine to give the Marlins the lead, 4-3. Sosa, who makes the catch in right, entirely misses the cutoff man, allowing a runner to advance to second on the play.

A second intentional walk to load the bases brings up Mike Mordecai, who, to be fair, isn’t a memorable big leaguer. A career .244 hitter, he stands in against Farnsworth, one of the most intimidating relievers in the game.

One more out and the Cubs can stop the bleeding. Just one. That’s all we need.

Too bad.

Mordecai lines a ball off the wall in left-center, clearing the bases and blowing things wide open, 7-3. Arguably the biggest collapse in Chicago Cubs’ history is in full-swing and over a decade later, I’m rendered speechless.