Ten years later it’s not the two dramatic games but rather the stark contrast in the atmosphere that most strikes Ozzie Guillen.
Games 6 and 7 of the 2003 National League Championship Series gave Guillen a unique view from the third-base coaches’ box to experience both ends of the spectrum.
Whether it was the electricity and taunts provided by the Wrigley Field faithful or their downtrodden nature after a stunning reversal, Guillen witnessed Chicago at its best and worst in October 2003.
Shortly after the Florida Marlins closed out the series with three straight victories to advance to the World Series, Guillen recalls how a carnival-like atmosphere morphed into a much more somber setting.
The future White Sox manager had to convince the manager of the team’s hotel bar, which only hours earlier was bustling with Cubs fans, to reopen so the Marlins could commemorate their shocking feat with a few adult beverages. Guillen recalls much of the scene in “5 Outs…,” a documentary premiering Tuesday on Comcast SportsNet that details the infamous end of the 2003 NLCS.
“Now we drinking, we celebrating, people going different ways,” Guillen said. “We got to stay a day off in Chicago. I get up at 7 o’clock and start walking on Michigan Avenue and we have breakfast at a pancake house. People was like ‘Wow.’ People was still shaking they heads. I look at the headlines, you know the very ugly ones. People crying in the papers. I enjoy it of course. I don’t enjoy it because I beat the Cubs. I enjoy it because I went to the World Series as a player, now I went to World Series as a coach.”
Those same sad faces were filled with delight only two days earlier when the series returned to Wrigley with the Cubs ahead 3-2 and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood scheduled to pitch the final two games. Nor did the “crazy” mood --- though jilted after the shocking turn of events in Game 6 --- relent when Wood blasted a three-run home run to tie the score in Game 7. Guillen, who spent 13 seasons on the South Side, remembers a particularly playful rivalry amongst himself and Cubs fans.
“People were all over me like ‘Aww, you gonna get it and stuff’ from the beginning,” Guillen said. “It was more like Cubs (fans) against Ozzie than against the Marlins.”
But an attitude that persevered for two solid days had disappeared shortly after Ugueth Urbrina closed out a 9-6 series-clinching victory with a scoreless ninth inning. Guillen remembers when he greeted his family outside the park after the Marlins had denied the Cubs their first World Series appearance in 58 years.
“I never seen so many long faces and disappointed faces and sad faces in my entire life,” Guillen said.
As for what had transpired on the field, Guillen has a different take.
He doesn’t see Steve Bartman as anything other than a scapegoat by Cubs fans. In Guillen’s mind there is no Curse of the Billy Goat or Babe Ruth, it’s all justification for poorly played baseball. Alex Gonzalez’s error and the Marlins’ bats had just as much impact. He views Bartman as a slight to just how good were the Marlins, who went on to defeat the New York Yankees in six games in the World Series.
“How about saying the Marlins beat them?” Guillen said. “Our ballclub was loaded with good players. They don’t have names, but they was loaded. ... That’s taking advantage of people’s errors. That’s what the Marlins did. We don’t make any errors. They did. I feel bad for (Bartman). People think I’m crazy.”
While Guillen said he didn’t derive anything extra from beating the Cubs, he knows he may have embellished that fact a tad. After all, he did spend 13 seasons on the South Side where his team always played second fiddle to the lovable Cubbies no matter what the standings looked like. Two years later, Guillen helped lead the White Sox to the city’s and the franchise’s first World Series title in 88 years, something that wouldn’t have been possible without the Marlins.
“I’m a White Sox fan,” Guillen said. “I know how people feel. The Cubs were going to the World Series before the White Sox. A lot of people were telling me ‘Please don’t let this happen.’ I said I can’t control that, but it was fun. … I don’t want to say it was a pleasure but I think to me it was very important. I’m a Sox fan and I know how much it means to the city.”
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