The Bartman Story…in three horrible parts (PART II)

THE BARTMAN STORY…in three parts

PART II: Game 6

October 14, 2003…and beyond…

Mo and Sammy had a memorable NLCS...though not always for the right reasons.
Mo and Sammy had a memorable NLCS...though not always for the right reasons.

It was back to Yogi’s for Game 6. Luke, a bit distraught at this point, did not wish to venture out in order to watch the Cubs advance to the World Series, and so I went to the bar by myself, quickly sniffing out some legit Cubs fans and settling down to watch.

Man, I remember it so well.

The Cubs scored first…once again, it was Lofton, the guy who, to this day, I feel was the key piece to the ’03 Cubs. He hit .327 for us during the regular season and just never stopped. After a leadoff single in the first, Lofton scored on a Sosa double. 1-zip Cubs on Lofton’s eighth run of the series. Amazing. And the chit-chat begins.

So where are you guys from?…Oh cool…A senior…Yeah, I’m glad to be nearly done with it all…

Prior gets Miguel Cabrera to fly out to center to end the top of the third. Still 1-zip Cubs. Prior through three innings: two singles, one walk, one strike out, four runners left on base, no runs scored.

…oh, that’s cool. How do you like that?…Understandably. Where did you say you were from again?

As Game 6 ticked away, all signs pointed to another Cubs celebration.
As the outs piled up in Game 6, all signs pointed to another Cubs celebration.

Sixth inning. Prior taking over. Powered by a pair of strikeouts, he retires Florida 1-2-3. Marlins still haven’t scored…and then it’s back-to-back singles for Sammy and Mo to start the bottom of the sixth. Aramis grounds into a double play (and yes, at this point, he was on First-Name as well), and then it’s rookie sensation and (sort-of) former Cub Dontrelle Willis in to relieve Carl Pavano. Willis gives up a wild pitch to Karros; Sammy scores from third. 2-zip Cubs.

I see. Interesting. One sec…Let’s focus here…YES! YES! YES! (And then, almost under my breath, afraid to say it too loud…) Holy crap! We’re nine outs away…

First up for Florida in the seventh: Mike Lowell. Game 1’s hero flies out to Alou. Eight outs away… Next up: Jeff Conine. The lone remaining member of Florida’s ’97 World Series team flies out to Lofton. Seven outs away!… And finally: the other Alex Gonzalez, and right on cue he flies out to Sosa in right. Three batters, three flyouts, left to center to right, Alou to Lofton to Sosa. Prior after seven: 26 batters faced, three hits (all singles), two walks, six strikeouts, no base runners allowed since Pierre’s single in the fifth, no runs…and oh, by the way…


Man, it was so exciting! Backup catcher Paul Bako singles to start the bottom of the seventh. At this point, I am standing up, my fingers gripping the back of my chair-like bar stool, and then off as I high-five my new Cubs friends, nearly holding their hands…Prior bunts Bako to second, Lofton K’s, and then it’s Grudzielanek singling in Bako, and now the Cubs lead 3-0. Climbing, climbing, building…

Sosa singles, but then Alou flies out to end the inning, leaving Sammy on first. And now we go to the eighth inning, six outs away. I can still feel it…

Before Mark Prior faced Luis Castillo in the 8th inning of Game 6, these were his numbers in the '03 playoffs: 3 starts, 2-0, in line for a third win, 23IP, 14H, 4R, 3ER, 9BB, 18K, 1.17ERA.
Before Mark Prior faced Luis Castillo in the 8th inning of Game 6, these were his numbers in the '03 playoffs: 3 starts, 2-0, in line for a third win, 23IP, 14H, 4R, 3ER, 9BB, 18K, 1.17ERA.

Mark Prior takes the mound to begin the eighth. He has been spectacular—no…brilliant—and now he is getting set to take us to the World Series. The World Series! I’m nearly jumping with every pitch now; I’ve taken my Santo jersey off due to sweating, and now it’s slung around my neck John Thompson-style, and I’m squeezing it and holding it to my face in Anticipation and constantly rubbing the stitches around the “C” on the chest for good luck. Mike Mordecai to start things off, and he flies out to left, to Alou, and there’s one out in the eighth. FIVE OUTS! FIVE MORE OUTS!

Pierre doubles to left. He’s a slippery one. Still, one out, Cubs up 3-0, top of the eighth, Game 6 of the NLCS, eventual-Cy Young winner—(assuming he doesn’t win it this year…he is incredible!)—Mark Prior on the mound. I’m applauding, I’m jumping, and the entirety of Yogi’s is watching, but I’m not at all concerned with them, focusing instead on my karmic connection with Cubs fans around the country…and Chicago…always Chicago…

Up walks Luis Castillo. Pierre at second. One out. At this point, I couldn’t even follow the pitches. I had no idea what the count was on Castillo…all I knew was that each additional pitch meant that we were that much closer to an out, and each additional out meant that we were that much closer to the World Series…

Castillo swings, fighting off a Prior pitch, and the ball floats into the stands…that’s out of play

And now Alou approaches fast/ and now he leaps so high/ and now the air is shattered by the hands of some poor guy…

WHAT THE #%$@&!!!???


It was so confusing. And of course, Alou made it worse. When he slammed his glove to the ground in disgust, it was the signal to the rest of us that Things Were Bad. And so we began yelling and shrieking and looking around in a panic. If we were in the stands, we began pointing at the headphone-wearing fan, who sat silently, possibly just as confused and panicked as we were, though maybe for different reasons. And if we were watching on television, we were pointing as well, waiting for the announcers to tell us that, perhaps, just perhaps, fan interference would be called. But wasn’t Alou’s glove over the wall? Ya know, in fan territory? Hold on, they’re showing it again. Yeah, it was. So that’s not interference, right? And plus, he’s a Cubs fan. They won’t call anything, right? Right?

Nobody knew.

Castillo walked on a wild-pitch. Pierre took third. First and third, one out…we’re still up 3-0, right? I mean, they haven’t even scored. We’re fine…right?

Pudge singled. Pierre scored. It’s just one. Still 3-1. Relax.

And then Cabrera bounced to short…YES! That’ll do it…No! No! No! Gonzalez booted it!…please let this be over…if I close my eyes, maybe it will be over…

We know now that Alex Gonzalez, The Farns, and Dusty were responsible for the Game 6 meltdown. But at the time...
We know now that Alex Gonzalez, The Farns, and Dusty were responsible for the Game 6 meltdown. But at the time...

If we had been watching with Clear Heads, perhaps we would have turned and blamed Gonzalez for the whole thing. After all, it was still just three to one. Months later, we would hold him almost entirely responsible, but not yet.

Still confused by the Unidentified Fan—(and to think, he was actually “unidentified for that first 24 hours)—we shook ourselves, trying to understand what was happening, and we looked at the fan, who was now being pelted with beer and napkins…and now he’s being led out of the park by security…what’s happening to us?…and then, with the bases loaded from the Gonzalez error, Derrek Lee rips a back-breaking double to left field, the ball dropping in front of the still-flustered Alou. Two runs score, tie game. Just a tie game. Cubs still have two more chances

And now Dusty is going out to get Prior, who looks spooked, and now it’s Farnsworth, and one after another, the runs come pouring in. Second and third, Lowell intentionally walked, Conine sacrifies to score Cabrera. 4-3 Marlins. Todd Hollandsworth pinch-hitting with the runners again at second and third, and again it’s an intentional walk to load the bases and set up the force…please don’t hit it to Gonzalez again…and now it’s Mordecai…aw crap. They’ve batted around…and Mordecai doubles to clear the bases…7-3 Marlins…and Mordecai is standing alone on second base, elated, and now there is no doubt, and Remlinger comes in for the Farns, and Pierre singles to score Mordecai, and Remlinger gets Castillo to pop out to second, and the Cubs go six up-six down the rest of the way, and now it’s on to Game 7…

One of the Cubs fans I’ve been watching with turns to me, with purpose.

“We’re driving up tomorrow. We’re going. We’ve got tickets. You can come if you want.”

“No, I’ll stay here.”

I remember that even in my complete state of shock, I still thought that the Cubs would win Game 7. This was just a setback. I knew it. I remember really appreciating the offer, but feeling like driving in for Game 7 was a desperate move…and who needs desperation? We aren’t desperate! We’ve got Woody tomorrow! This is a setback.

And so it was on to Game 7.
And so it was on to Game 7.

Had I known how things would turn out, would that have changed my answer? I don’t know. But at the time, missing class to drive up to Chicago in an effort to coax the Cubs into the World Series seemed like too bold a move. The team was fine. We would win tomorrow…

PART III…our final hope slips away…forever?


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