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.
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.
Only 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.