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Randy Harvey

It Just Seems Like End of the World

October 16, 2003|Randy Harvey

CHICAGO — W.P. Kinsella, author of the book that inspired the movie, "Field of Dreams," also wrote a short story about the Chicago Cubs going into the final game of the season needing one victory to win the National League pennant. The team they were dueling was the Dodgers. That's how we were supposed to know it was fiction.

But there was a catch. If the Cubs won, the world would end.

If you had taken a poll on Michigan Avenue on Wednesday, most Cub fans probably would have made that deal. Or at least they would have had to think about it.

The Cubs were going into that night's game at Wrigley Field, Game 7 of the National League championship series, needing one victory against the Florida Marlins to win the pennant.

So I guess we, those of us who aren't Cub fans, should be thankful that the Marlins won, 9-6.

They saved the world.

*

On the other hand, they ruined the World Series.

That assumes that Armageddon could have been put on hold until we found out whether the Cubs could beat the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees. In either case, it would have been a dream Series.

One would have matched the long-suffering Red Sox, who haven't won the World Series since 1918, against the longer suffering Cubs, who haven't won the World Series since 1908.

The other would have matched baseball's most successful team, a team that has won 26 world championships, against a team that has won two in 127 years. The only person who wouldn't have wanted to see them in the World Series was Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York senator from Chicago who would have had to declare her allegiance.

With all due respect to the Marlins, no one wants to see them play the Red Sox or Yankees.

The Marlins know it.

"I was watching CNN today and they were talking about the Cubs, before other things going on in the world," Marlin centerfielder Juan Pierre said this week. "You feel like everybody is against you....

"I would say 97% of the world probably wants to see the Cubs, probably wants to see the Cubs and the Red Sox in it. It's one of those things where you can't get mad at people because it's the history of the Cubs and things like that."

Because of the Cubs' history, specifically local tavern owner Bill Sianis' curse because he couldn't get his pet goat inside Wrigley Field the last time they played in the World Series 58 years ago, this will be remembered as another series they lost. It's hard to argue considering how they lost Game 6 on Tuesday night.

However, Cub Manager Dusty Baker was not just being magnanimous when he gave the Marlins credit. When they rallied from down 5-3 Wednesday night, it was the sixth time in seven playoff wins this season against the Cubs and San Francisco Giants they've come from behind.

"We didn't lose the pennant," he said. "The Marlins won it.

"We tried to put them away, but they wouldn't go away.... When I talked to some of the Giants, the first thing they told me was don't underestimate them."

Catcher Pudge Rodriguez doubled in the tying run in the fifth inning. Proving that the Texas Rangers should have given a little less to one Rodriguez so that they could give a little more to the other, Rodriguez has had hits in all 11 Marlin playoff games this season and driven in runs in nine of them. He was voted the MVP of the series.

Marlin Manager Jack McKeon said the award could just as easily have gone to pitcher Josh Beckett or outfielder Miguel Cabrera.

Beckett pitched a two-hit shutout to win Game 5 and, on three days' rest, pitched four innings in relief, allowing one hit and one run, in Game 7. Cabrera drove in four runs Wednesday, three on a first-inning home run. Beckett is 23, Cabrera 20.

"I think with youth, there's a bit of stupidity, and sometimes the youth can be stupid enough to pull [off] something like this," Beckett said last week.

*

They were stupid enough to believe McKeon when he introduced himself to them.

"I told them that, guys, if you want to work hard, pay the price and dedicate yourself doing all the little things necessary to winning, we'll be able to play in October," he said.

That was May 11, his first day on the job after replacing Jeff Torborg. The team's record was 16-22.

They believed him then. They believed him when he told him they weren't done yet when they fell behind, 3-1, to the Cubs. They believed him when he told them they could win the last two games at Wrigley Field even though they were facing the best one-two pitching punch in the National League, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Only once in two seasons had Prior and Wood both lost when they had pitched in back-to-back games.

No one was less likely than McKeon to be in the World Series. At 72, he is the third-oldest manager in major league history behind Connie Mack and Casey Stengel. On May 10, he was living on a farm in Elon, N.C., chauffeuring his grandchildren.

"That's a lot of work," he said.

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