The Marlins stunning come-from-behind victory against the Cubbies at Wrigley last night will go down as one of the most memorable collapses in baseball history. If the Cubs—who blew a 3-0 lead with five outs left in the game, and eventually lost, 8-3—win tonight with Kerry Wood on the mound, Game 6 will be an ironic side note (much like the Zimmer incident, to a lesser extent, would be for the Yankees). But if they lose, this will simply be the latest chapter in the painful and sorrowful history of the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs fan that I've known the longest is my best friend's father. Sam Plummer, now in his late '60s, is straight-outta-the-Midwest even though he's lived in an around New York City for well over thirty years. He's the first person I knew who had that distinctively wry midwestern sensibility, and he was also the first grown up Cubs fan I ever knew.
Sam actually took his daughter Liz —my great pal—and me to our first Yankee game ever. It was in summer of 1978. (Reggie had the day off, what a shame.) But we didn't let it ruin our day, and Liz and I spent most of our time eating. At seven years old, the food was far more exciting than the game being played down below.
Sam is a classic Yankee-hater, but he won't necessarily bust your chops about it. He's no Red Sox fan. Hey, he married an Italian goil from Brooklyn who can imitate Gil MacDougald's batting stance and tell you all you need to know about Vic Raschi, Allie Reynolds, and Bobby Richardson. He can't be all bad, right? One thing I've always appreciated about Sam is that his dislike for the Yankees has never seemed personal. It's a fact of life. If you don't agree: Degust bus. He never put me down for being a Yankee fan.
As a kid I used to wonder, "Why is he so doubtful and distrustful? Why does he make it seem like it's impossible to win?" Then he would tell me about his history rooting for a team that never won. Not only that, they so rarely came close to winning, it wasn't even worth getting yourself worked up and sweaty when they did come close. What can you do with close other than suffer?
Fans at Wrigley were joyous for much of the game last night in Chicago, the fools. It was hard to deny them their pleasure either—you could see lots of older people, little, old ladies in baseball caps, as well as clusters of shirtless teenagers with painted chests—enjoying themselves like it was New Year's Eve times ten. Mark Prior, who has been the dominant pitcher of this post season, was rolling again. The game was getting late, and a 3-0 lead felt more than comfortable.
But I knew who didn't trust that lead, and those odds: Samuel Plummer. I know he wasn't surprised that the Cubs not only blew the lead, but also managed to get blown out in the process. The fan who prevented Alou from making the second out in the eighth inning plays the fall guy, but the truth is that the Cubs made plenty of mistakes. They cost themselves the game, not the poor schnook who is the living the Jackie Smith nightmare as "the sickest man in America."
My thoughts- First, the fan technically did nothing wrong. He didn’t lunge forward. The ball would have landed in the stands. So, the fan did have the right to the ball. Now for my real thought- DUDE! You’re a Cubs fan, it’s the playoffs. You need 5 outs to go to the World Series. Let your team’s left fielder make that catch.
I'm sure that Sam Plummer expects the Cubs to lose tonight. Not that he's rooting for it to happen, but his history and his reality says that it's the natural order of the universe that the Cubs will lose. Kerry Wood? Please. He's pitching just makes it worse when they lose, haven't you been paying attention?
I don't know if the Cubs will lose tonight, but I do know that the Marlins have displayed some kind of resolve. (It's that kind of resolve that the Red Sox need today if they want to extend their season too.) It's hard to not like the Cubs chances with Kerry Wood on the mound, but I suppose that all depends if you see the glass as being half full or half empty.
The traditionalist in me is pulling for the Cubs, but I admire the spirit of the Marlins as well. They are an energetic and likable team, and just about everybody is rooting against them. The networks and newspapers, the casual and serious fans all want the Cubs in the Serious. Florida is in a no-win situation in terms of public perception because even if they do win tonight, this will likely be remembered as the Cubs losing, not the Marlins winning. (If Florida wins the World Serious—as improbable as it seems—I don't think they'll care how history remembers them.)
But most of all I'm rooting for the Cubs to win just so it makes Sam Plummer's day. Even his week. It would be a nice surprise for him. Although knowing Sam, he won't get too damned excitable because they'd still have to win four more games in the Serious to make it anything worth talking about, let alone remembering.
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Meanwhile, the Red Sox have to win today to set up "Ultimate Yankees-Red Sox." It would be fitting if the Sox were able to pull another one out of their collective arse. The pitching match-up clearly favors the Yankees, and Boston is going to have to pull some magic out of a hat to shut the Yankees down. (Hopefully, the Yankee offense displays a little patience.)
It would also be fitting for the Yankees to end this hear and now. But if you are talking about the ultimate one-game, winner-take-all, how can you do much better than Pedro vs. the Rocket, Game Seven in Yankee Stadium?
I know it would be the perfect way for the Sox to beat the Yankees, and vice versa, especially after the events of Game 3.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that. But I won't be surprised if it does.