MacPhail: 2003 NLCS changed course of Chicago Cubs

Games 6 and 7 of the 2003 National League championship series will stay with Chicago Cubs fans forever.

Up three games to one and playing at home, the Cubs were five outs from going to their first World Series since 1945.

But it wasn't to be. The Florida Marlins erased a 3-0 deficit in Game 6 and went on to win 8-3 before wrapping up the pennant the next night by beating the Cubs 9-6.

It can safely be argued those games changed the course of Cubs history.

“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” said Andy MacPhail, the Cubs president at the time and currently president of the Philadelphia Phillies. “That's just the nature of our game. We are quick to spot the things that didn't go well for us. We're a little slower on sometimes counting our good fortune.

“There's no question that had we gotten to the World Series it would have been a chapter that we all could — all of us in the organization, the players, the coaches, the manager, the front office, ownership — have taken some pride in. But not to be.”

Of course, Cubs fans ruefully remember the key happening in Game 6, when Cubs left fielder Moises Alou leapt and reached into the stands near the foul line attempting to catch a flyball off the bat of Luis Castillo with one out in the eighth.

A fan, Steve Bartman, reached for the ball and may have prevented Alou from making the catch and the Cubs staving off the disaster that followed.

That disaster was self-created. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez made an error on a tailor-made double-play ball, and Mark Prior could not retire another batter after he got the first out of the inning. For some reason, manager Dusty Baker never went out to settle Prior after the foul-ball play.

MacPhail is aware that ESPN produced a “30 for 30” documentary film: Catching Hell, inside the Bartman debacle.

“I refused to watch it. I've just tried to put it out of my mind,” MacPhail said. “I certainly don't blame the kid (Bartman). He did what anybody else would have done on instinct.

“Unfortunately, you can't help but see the replay. Too bad we didn't have replay (review of plays), because I think if we had the replay system, they would have called that ball an out.

“You can't look back. You've got to move on.”

As for changing the course of history, maybe MacPhail would have stayed on past 2006. Maybe Baker would have lasted a few more years in Chicago, as well. And maybe the Tribune Co. would not have sold the team at the end of the decade.

But as MacPhail said, you've got to move on.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.