October 14, 2003

Let’s step back in time to October 14, 2003.  Game 6 of the National League Championship Series had the Cubs playing the Marlins.

The Cubs led the series, three games to two, and had a 3-0 lead going into the eighth inning.  Mark Prior was on the mound, five outs from clinching the Cubs’ first National League pennant since 1945.  Juan Pierre was standing on second base with one out in the eighth and Luis Castillo at the plate.

Sound familiar? 

Castillo fouled a ball into the left field stands.  Cubs left fielder Moises Alou watched as a fan, later revealed to be one Steve Bartman, caught the foul ball.  Alou, in a classic display of sportsmanship, slammed his glove on the ground and shouted at Bartman.

The Cubs lobbied for fan interference, but the officials refused to grant it, based on the fact that the ball was caught outside of the field of play.

Alou, who I will very politely say was never the most gifted fielder in the world, had apparently sprouted Go Go Gadget Arms before the game, and had suddenly become able to catch a ball already out of his reach and heading even farther into the stands.

Castillo ended up walking.  Ball four was a wild pitch, which allowed Pierre to advance to third.  Prior hung an 0-2 curveball that Ivan Rodriguez turned into an RBI single.  3-1 Cubs.  Miguel Cabrera, in a rare magnanimous gesture, then hit an easy double-play ball to shortstop Alex S. Gonzalez.  6-4-3.  Game over.  Cubs win the pennant, Cubs win the pennant.

Steve Bartman.jpgOnly that’s not what happened, as we all know.  Instead, Gonzalez booted the ball, loading the bases full of Marlins.  Florida went on to put a total of eight runs on the board in the eighth, one of them earned.  As the inning progressed and the Marlins continued to score, Cubs fans – being the classy human beings that they always are – turned on Bartman, who did what any one of them would have done, given the chance, by catching a foul ball that was out of the reach of the home team’s inept left fielder.

By the end of the game, ballpark security had to escort Bartman out of Wrigley Field.  It wasn’t over, though.  While the Cubs went on to completely fumble Game 7, losing 9-6 in the friendly confines, Bartman’s life story unfolded in the public eye.  He was shunned.  He was issued death threats. This lifelong Cubs fan became the embodiment of every other Cubs fans’ frustrations, and they took every opportunity to tear him apart.

And Moises Alou was content to stand by and let this kid take the blame, or so it seemed.  Five years later, he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “You know what the funny thing is? I wouldn’t have caught it, anyway.”  He then quickly reneged, saying he didn’t remember saying that.

Why am I drudging all of this back up?  Aside from an opportunity to take a swipe at Cubs fans, I bring it up because Moises Alou, the Gold Glover in his own mind, was recently quoted as saying that this year’s World Baseball Classic would likely be his “last rodeo.”

He will be 42 years old this year, and though he continues to perform at a high level, the aches and pains – and, I like to think, his conscience – are catching up to him.

There’s no doubt that Alou was a terrific hitter.  For three years in Houston, he hit .331/.403/.585 with 95 home runs, two All-Star Game appearances, a Silver Slugger, and a third-place MVP finish.  But his reaction to “the Bartman incident” has always soured him in y opinion.

So, Moises, with the news that you may be retiring from the game, I’d like to wish you good riddance.

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7 comments

  1. Jane Heller

    Another controversial game for the history books. I know this isn’t the most popular position to take, but I actually like it when weird things happen on the field. It makes the game that much more entertaining and unpredictable.

    http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

  2. roundrock15

    I dunno, I think there can be plenty of compelling reasons on the field to make it entertaining and unpredictable without these types of situations where a human being is villified by the fans of the very team he’s rooted for his whole life. The truth is, 99% of those fans – had they been in Bartman’s circumstances – would have done the exact same thing he did. But when they needed a “goat” (though they already have a literal one), they turned on him. Shameless, shameless Cubs fans…

    But we already knew that.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  3. roundrock15

    I have quite a few friends who are Cubs fans, so I want to point out that I know I’m generalizing. Some Cubs fans are great… they’re respectful, knowledgeable, and love their team. But the overwhelming majority, in my experience, have been homers and blowhards, unaware of the baseball world outside of the friendly confines, disrespectful, and very simply annoying.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  4. renaudtn

    Man do I remember this game… This poor guy got roughed up. His life took a turn for the worse. I hate it for him. A somewhat similar play took place last year in….MMP. A flyball (homerun) was hit in right field and Pence jumped on the wall to get it. An Astros fan caught the ball and somewhat ‘interfered’ (although the ball was out of the field play). Pence showed some sign of frustration but acknowledged after the game that he couldn’t be mad at the fan for catching the ball, because it was part of the game and what any fan would do; certainly a ‘classier’ attitude.

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