While watching television from a bar in Dubuque, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2003, Annie Wimmer, center, and Ron Nauret, right, life-long Chicago Cubs fans, react to Cubs left fielder Moises Alou's run-in with a fan who grabbed for the ball on a foul fly apparently deflecting the ball away from Alou in the eighth inning against the Florida Marlins in Game 6 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The play was not ruled as fan interference. The Marlins won 8-3. (AP Photo/Telegraph Herald,Ben Plank)
Updated: October 14, 2013 10:31AM
A NIGHT TO FORGET
I saw ‘Mo’ [Moises Alou] going crazy, so I assumed he thought he could have caught the ball. Fans are fans, and they’re going to do what they do. Things might have turned out differently if we’d won that game and gone to the World Series, and I still thought we had a chance with Woody [Kerry Wood] going the next night. But who knows? Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be.”
I felt this would be the game that clinched it, and we would have Woody to pitch the first game of the World Series because [Mark] Prior was sailing along. Then the [Steve] Bartman play came up. A lot of people say Moises would have had that ball. Well, I’ve never been in Moises’ house, but I don’t believe there are any Gold Gloves on his mantel. I’ve seen him miss some easier plays than that. I don’t know if he would have made the play or not. ... Prior said he didn’t need anyone to come to the mound, but Larry Rothschild or Dusty Baker should have gone to the mound to put the moment in perspective and say, ‘Hey, there’s no problem here. Let’s concentrate, take a couple warmup pitches.’
I felt if there ever was a year the Cubs would get into the Series with a very good chance to win it, that would have been the year.
What happened in 2003 had nothing to do with what happened when they went 0-6 in their next two shots in the playoffs. Each situation isn’t related to the next.
Steve Bartman’s name will go down in the lore of the Cubs, but Steve Bartman had very little to do with stopping the Cubs from going to the World Series.
I went inside and got a drink and saw they were putting the plastic up, guys were setting their cameras up. I walked back out to the dugout and sat down, and it happened. I was sitting there going over the Yankees’ lineup in my head, thinking I was going to pitch Game 1 of the World Series.
We came off the field when the game was over thinking, ‘Did this really happen?’ And 15 minutes later I’m thinking, ‘Oh, heck, I’m pitching tomorrow!’ That was the last thing I thought of.
But I still felt confident going into the game. And after I hit the home run [in the second inning of Game 7] to tie it, the air and confidence that was let out of the stadium the night before, I thought it really energized us. We were back in it and here we go, we’re going to win it.
It was the loudest I ever heard this place [when he hit the homer]. And the most eerie part was at the end, it was so quiet. Sitting in the dugout, you could hear conversations and every word people were saying to each other.
In two hours, it went from the loudest I ever heard it to the quietest.
I had a great angle, and I know Moises had a play on it. And that’s why Moises reacted the way he did. Looking at the replay and being there, he was going to make the play.
We talk about it a lot. He told me the same thing, that he was going to make the play. But at the same time, the ball was in the stands. Any fan in Chicago that was sitting in Bartman’s seat was going to reach for the ball, too. That’s just a natural reaction.
It was going to be a different ballgame. It was one out in the eighth, nobody on. It was a huge play.
I never thought we were not going to make it to the World Series. We’re winning the series 3-1 with [Carlos] Zambrano going the next day and then Prior and Kerry Wood. You’re never going to think anybody’s going to beat those three guys in a row.
That’s why I had plane tickets for my wife and my family and friends to go to Chicago for the World Series. And I had to cancel those after that.
The Cubs haven’t won a postseason game since. It has been going the other way since then. And I don’t know why because the next year we had a real good team, in ’04.
The fans got a taste of the World Series. We made it past the first round. We were that close to being in the World Series. They got a little taste of what could have been.
People think there was this long period between the moment and when they scored those runs. It was five pitches. And then I was in the dugout.
I was, and most of the guys were, pretty unaware of what was going on down there.
It wasn’t until the next morning, when I saw the news coverage of what had transpired with the treatment of [Bartman] — the next day.
It was pretty black and white. It was the eighth pitch of the at-bat. Was it fan interference? Was Moises going to catch the ball? Yes.
The five other people that reached for the ball would have done the same thing. Ninety-five percent of us would have done the same thing.
I tell people all the time, I don’t know who was next to him, but he certainly was involved in the process of interfering with the conclusion of the play as much as Bartman was.
We all know that if we’d have made the next play after that, we probably would have won the game, too. That’s how you have to look at it. It’s unfortunate how it happened. It’s unfortunate the magnitude of the intense problem that created for that young man.
But as a pure baseball general manager, do I feel Moises would have caught the ball? Yes.
I think from that time on, our expectations of winning and trying to win, it became the raising of the bar of our fans, too. ‘Why not us?’ Why can’t we win here?’ Which was good. That’s how we wanted it. Then when it doesn’t go well, you take what comes with it.
Being there that night and seeing what I saw, I knew a symbol was being produced in front of Cubs fans’ faces. It wasn’t that Bartman interfered with the ball — anybody could have done that — it was that he interfered with what had seemed to be a smooth transition of fate, from failure to success. Until that moment, it seemed the Cubs had clear sailing to the World Series.
Nor was it really Bartman himself. It was the idea of Bartman. The bookmark. The pause button. Bartman himself did nothing lots of other people wouldn’t have done, though in his Cub-like, clueless and shocked face could be read the depths of hapless sporting futility.
Humans live deeply within the realm of symbolism. A back cat is a symbol. So, for Cubs Nation, is a goat. And like it or not, Steve Bartman is a symbol. Symbols don’t undo themselves. They have to be undone by history.
All Bartman or the Cubs need is a World Series championship. That’s all. That’s it.