10/15/2003 3:13 AM ET
Fan might become part of history
CHICAGO -- There's one Cubs fan in the Chicago area who likely will not have any desire to attend the most important Cubs game in 58 years.
By Amy Sternig / MLB.com
With the Cubs and ace Mark Prior holding a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday, a fan sitting in the front row of the left-field box seats unwittingly thrust himself squarely into the long-suffering history of the storied Cubs franchise as the Marlins rallied for eight runs and an 8-3 victory to force a decisive Game 7.
As a foul ball off the bat of Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo sailed down the left-field line, the fan -- as fans often do and as others around him also did -- reached up to snag a souvenir. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Cubs fans across the country and especially the fan in question, he made contact with the ball just inches from the glove of left fielder Moises Alou, who appeared poised to catch the ball for the second out of the inning.
"I was there, I was in the middle of the play and I saw everything that happened," Alou said. "I got there and I kept my eyes on the ball, and all I felt was a hand under my glove and a hand right under the ball."
After losing the joust with the fan, Alou slammed his glove to the ground in frustration and shared a few choice words with the man. Cubs fans in every area of the stadium also were outraged and voiced their displeasure with lewd chants.
"I kind of feel bad for the guy. Every fan in every ballpark, the first reaction they have is they want a souvenir. They don't think about the outcome of the game or what could happen. Unfortunately, it happened. Hopefully, he won't have to regret it for the rest of his life."
-- Moises Alou
Several Cubs called for fan interference, but after the game, Rich Rieker, the umpire supervisor, explained the fan did not interfere with the play because the ball was technically in the stands.
"The fielder goes in at his own risk," Rieker said. "In this case, the fan did not reach out."
Castillo, given new life, drew a walk with Juan Pierre, who had doubled to start the inning, advancing to third when ball four got away from catcher Paul Bako. The end result of the incident was the Marlins had runners on first and third with one out, rather than having two outs, with only a man on second -- a totally different ballgame.
"I really had a hard time for the next five minutes after the play happened because ... I mean, come on, you cannot give them any chance to get back in the game," Alou said. "The Marlins are a very good team."
Four hits, two intentional walks, two pitching changes, a sacrifice fly and one big error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez later, and the Cubs were down 8-3 and once again had their hopes dashed for their first World Series berth since 1945.
For his part, the man stayed in his seat for another inning, despite taking a large amount of verbal abuse. Several fans were ejected for trying to have a go at the man. For his protection, security guards escorted the man to the holding area during the ninth inning. Cubs security chief Mike Hill refused to give out any details about him, but did say the team gave him a new coat and led him out a different exit after the game so no one could recognize him.
"He was scared to death more than anything," Hill said. "He just wanted to get out of here."
Afterward, Prior was philosophical and classy in his response: "We didn't lose the game because a fan jumped in (Alou's) way," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the people here in that situation would have done the same thing. You can't blame him. Hopefully, most people understand that. We didn't lose the ballgame because of that."
But not all fans saw it that way, and for a team that hasn't won a World Series in nearly a century, the angst was palpable. As the man in question was being removed from the area, the group of security guards and club personnel around him bore the brunt of that passion. Full beer cups were tossed, garbage was thrown at the moving pack and some pushing and shoving ensued.
Jim Cuthbert, a Cubs fan in attendance, was ejected from the game in the eighth inning after trying to confront the fan as he sat in his seat. Cuthbert said he took issue with the man taking away the out and, in his mind, causing the Cubs to lose.
"I said, 'What the (heck) is wrong with you, man? What were you thinking?'" Cuthbert said outside the stadium after his ejection.
First baseman Randall Simon hopes Cubs fans will put the incident behind them and get ready to root the team on as they play the all-important Game 7 on Wednesday.
"Don't do anything wrong, because it's going to hurt us, and I hope they don't want to hurt us," Simon said, in the hopes Cubs fans would leave the man alone. "If something happens to that kid, it's going to hurt us as a team. I am going to be praying tonight for nothing to happen to that kid."
Alou, who said there is no doubt in his mind that he would have caught that ball, nevertheless hopes the incident doesn't scar the fan for life.
"I kind of feel bad for the guy," Alou said. "Every fan in every ballpark, the first reaction they have is they want a souvenir. They don't think about the outcome of the game or what could happen. Unfortunately, it happened.
"The guy saw a shot at having a baseball, and he went for it. Hopefully, he won't have to regret it for the rest of his life."
Amy Sternig is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.