Don’t think that everyone in Chicago is inconsolable tonight. There are a few select groups of people for whom this stunning loss comes as a pleasant delight: the Florida Marlins, White Sox fans and sportswriters.
And there’s another group of Fox Sports executives in some Manhattan skyscraper living it up tonight, elated that they’ll get to see a game seven.
To actually discuss what happened seems foolish, but all we have left are words.
After the game, Dusty Baker repeated the conversation he had with Moises Alou after the eighth inning and what may become known in Cubs’ lore as The Catch That Almost Was But Then Wasn’t Because of a Guy in the Stands and Then All Hell Broke Loose, though I’m sure the sportswriters will come up with something catchier. They always do.
I quote from memory, “Mo told me he timed his jump perfectly and the ball was about to enter his glove, and all of a sudden it was gone.”
“Just like the game,” Karen said.
Yeah. Just like the game.
The Marlins didn’t trot out in the eighth in their 1984 Padres uniforms, but the Cubs might as well have dusted off their Mitchell & Ness throwbacks for this one.
It all happened so fast. Gonzalez’s error was costly, sure. And maybe Baker should have had Farnsworth up and warming just in case. But who thought it could go so wrong so quickly? And when Farnsworth and Remlinger came in, they both gave up hits. Perhaps it wouldn’t have made a difference. Perhaps not.
About that fan. It’s hard to tell whether he actually interfered with the ball in play. Let’s assume for the moment that he didn’t. Judging from the looks of the man, he’s a Cubs fan through and through.
He’s got the Cubs hat on and the headphones on, listening to it all unfold on the radio. He’s got a good seat in the front row down the left field line. He must know somebody. He must have given up a chunk of change. He must be a season-ticketholder. He must care. He’s there for this game.
And here are his Cubbies — our Cubbies — five outs away. Prior’s got a man on but it’s not too much of a concern. He’s already stranded six Marlins on base and he’s the stud. The man wins games. A fly ball comes his way and, boy, wouldn’t you like to catch a foul ball from the game when the Cubs won their first pennant in 58 years?
So you react the way you were taught to react when a fly ball’s coming at you — the way your brother or your father or your neighbor or your Little League coach taught you. And you try to catch it. That’s all.
And suddenly, the game is gone.
I wanted this one badly. For so many reasons. Tomorrow will be a much tougher matchup for the Cubs. Redman is the kind of crafty lefthanded pitcher who gives them nightmares, and he pitched very effectively in game three. Wood is Wood — he’s been great lately, but you never know how quickly he’ll adjust if his stuff isn’t awesome. He’s not unbeatable.
I guess Prior isn’t either.
It’s only by coming so close to the pennant tonight that I now realize how much I want the Cubs to win it — now. I think these Cubs will perennial contenders in the NL Central for years. But it’s one thing to be a contender, and quite another to be at the precipice. Who knows when it will happen again?
“Just wait,” they say. Until next year?!
No, no, no. …
All right, I’ll wait.