10/15/2003 7:07 PM ET
Marlins, Cubs fans show support
CHICAGO -- It is time to stop talking about The Fan and start talking about Kerry Wood vs. Mark Redman. Wednesday night decides whether the Chicago Cubs go to their first World Series since 1945, or whether the Florida Marlins complete one of the most spectacular comebacks in National League Championship Series history.
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Conversation around Chicago businesses and Wrigley Field has been dominated by the subject of the fan who, innocently or not, prevented Moises Alou from catching what would have been the second out in the eighth inning of Game 6 -- precipitating an eight-run Florida inning that looms large in Cubs history.
Wednesday night the identity of that fan, revealed by one Chicago newspaper, does not seem nearly so important as the identity of the fans who are in attendance. These are mostly Cub fans who have yearned their entire lives to be part of a World Series. And the first thing you noticed outside Wrigley before the game was an increase in Marlin fans, trying to shed an identity was fair-weather folks.
"I learned to be a diehard fan from my grandfather," said Martin Driscoll of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a season-ticket holder since the Marlins' inception in 1993. "I grew up in Chicago and he was a police officer right here on Addison [Street], and I knew about that love for the Cubs. I was at Games 1 and 2 here, then all three in Florida, and I admit I let [Game] 6 go because I was too nervous. So I flew up here this morning, and all I can say is, these guys [Marlins] never quit. They never surrender."
Driscoll will be in the front row, and another pair of Marlin fans, Jay Shapiro and Marc Diaz of Miami, made a Cub-fan-like pilgrimage of their own. "We did not think there would be a Game 7. We conceded in the seventh inning last night," Shapiro said. "The bar we were at [in South Florida] suddenly was energized, and at 2 a.m. we were on the Internet to find air, hotel and game tickets. We found four seats for $950 on eBay in Section 211, and now we get to see winner-take-all."
They brought some Florida sunshine with them. It has been a postcard day at Wrigley, and a dry one in contrast to Tuesday's Game 6. The wind was the same during batting practice, though, blowing hard from the left-field pole to the right-field pole. Wednesday night's forecast here calls for 53 degrees at the first pitch, with 22-mph gusts that will diminish during the game. The coldest thing will be champagne -- for someone.
Greg Cooper of Griffith, Ind., drove over in hopes of seeing the Cubs do the celebrating and Wood doing what Mark Prior could not. "The Cubs are going to win," Cooper said, matter-of-factly. "It's just their year. Game 6 was one obstacle they have to overcome, and I don't think it will faze them."
When asked about The Fan, Cooper said, "He'd better change his name. That's a typical bad thing that could blow up in your face when you are a Cub. That couldn't happen to any other baseball team. But we will overcome it."
Many fans outside the main gates simply looked up in awe at the big, red marquee, trying to appreciate what they were able to read:
CUBS VS. MARLINS
GAME 7 NLCS
That never has been displayed here before.
Across the street, WGN 720-AM was doing its usual live broadcast as fans gathered around the stage. You could hear the psychic named "Pam" who was talking over the radio: "We're going to put out all the negative energy, and bring positive energy into the Cubs' locker room. This is an auspicious time for the Cubs."
The Game 7 lineups will remain basically the same. Because Redman is a left-hander, Eric Karros will start at first for the Cubs instead of Randall Simon and bat sixth, and Damian Miller will catch instead of Paul Bako and bat eighth.
Since the best-of-seven format was introduced in 1985, this is now the sixth series to go all seven games. The last one was in 1996, when Atlanta came back from a 3-1 deficit to win a World Series berth. The Marlins are trying to take the same approach.
Another thing on Florida's side: Only once in NLCS history has a team held a 3-1 advantage only to lose Games 5 and 6 (as these Cubs have) and win the pivotal seventh game. That was Atlanta in 1992, when they rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth and won the NL pennant.
The Cubs will continue their tradition of having a former franchise great throw out the first pitch. It was Andy Pafko in Game 2, Ryne Sandberg in Game 6 and it will be Fergie Jenkins Wednesday night. Chicago native Richard Marx will perform the national anthem, and "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" will be led by Chicago native and musician Billy Corgan.
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.