Moises Alou will never escape that moment. The images will live forever, Alou smacking his glove, screaming and glaring back at the fan wearing a Cubs hat, turtleneck and headphones.
Even after a big-league career that lasted parts of 17 seasons, highlighted by 332 home runs, six All-Star selections and a World Series ring with the 1997 Florida Marlins.
Even with a last name that signifies baseball royalty.
Even while on the fast track as an executive, turning Leones del Escogido into a winter-ball power, winning Caribbean Series championships and assembling the Dominican Republic team that won the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
People still want to talk about Game 6 and the 2003 NLCS and what happened to the Cubs that night at Wrigley Field.
“I’m sick and tired of that question,” Alou said. “I swear, man, every day in the Dominican, in the States, everywhere I go, every day – I’m serious – every day somebody asks me about that Bartman situation.”
Ten years later, Alou understood what was coming when he did a sit-down interview for the “5 Outs…” documentary that premiered Tuesday night on Comcast SportsNet. He had a sixth sense about Game 7 and a relentless Marlins team that could play loose, not feeling the weight of all that history.
“I didn’t really like our chances after what happened,” Alou recalled. “I had a gut feeling or a weird feeling about (it). They kept coming back.
“I even remember telling Aramis (Ramirez) after that game: ‘We should book a flight just in case we lose tomorrow.’ And we did. And we left the next morning.”
Ramirez put it this way: “If we lose, it wasn’t going to be fun to be in Chicago.”
The laid-back Ramirez and outfielder Kenny Lofton had given the clubhouse a midseason shot of adrenaline after general manager Jim Hendry swung a July 23 deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dropped into the middle of a pennant race, Ramirez remembered his wife – pregnant at the time with their first child – being comfortable in Pittsburgh and not wanting to leave that summer.
Ramirez always took an it’s-just-business attitude toward all the craziness at Wrigley Field, shrugging off the media storms he knew would eventually pass. That calm approach must have helped him hit three home runs during that NLCS and grow into a foundation piece at third base for teams that won back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008.
["5 Outs...": Complete coverage]
“Me and Moises are pretty close,” Ramirez said. “He told me he had a reservation just in case we lost. We always did that. We’d go home right after – the first flight out.
“We’re ballplayers and we know anything can happen. There’s nothing guaranteed.”
The Cubs had built a 3-1 series lead and lined up their young stud pitchers to start the final three games* (if necessary) and form the core of a contender for years to come. Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood would surely turn block parties on Waveland and Sheffield into an annual October thing, right?
The Marlins had a potential Hall of Fame catcher in Ivan Rodriguez and a lineup revolving around future MVP Miguel Cabrera and rock-solid, in-their-prime veterans like Derrek Lee and Mike Lowell.
But Steve Bartman found himself in the crosshairs, even before Twitter and Deadspin exploded. It wasn’t Prior or shortstop Alex Gonzalez (E6) or the bullpen running on fumes in an eight-run, eighth-inning meltdown. Alou leaped at the left-field wall and Bartman felt the heat after lunging for that foul ball on Oct. 14, 2003.
“I do feel bad for him and I said it that day: It wasn’t his fault,” Alou said before referencing a 2008 Associated Press story. “Even though somebody came up with some bullcrap that they made up in an elevator that I wasn’t going to catch that ball.
“That’s not true. I had that ball. But I don’t think that’s the reason we lost. I mean, it had a lot to do with it. But we had a chance to turn a double play the next play and we didn’t. We just couldn’t stop them.”
Hendry doesn’t blame Bartman and doesn’t fault Alou and Ramirez – two players he became close with over the years – for booking flights home to the Dominican after Game 6.
“Honestly, I’ve heard that over the years,” Hendry said. “I never checked on it. I wouldn’t think that was necessarily an admission that they were going to lose. I think probably – if the truth be known – people do that every year in every clubhouse.
“It doesn’t mean they’re not going to show up and play. We were ahead going into the (fifth) inning in Game 7. We’d have never got close to that series without those guys. They were about as good (as any) clutch hitters you could have at the time for the Cubs.
“They showed up and played pretty good the next night. It wasn’t like they took the day off. So I never put any stock in that.”
In Game 7, Alou homered off Mark Redman, the Marlins pitcher who watched the Bartman play the night before and kept yelling: “Let’s make this guy famous!”
In an alternate universe, maybe that two-run shot would have erased Bartman and made Alou the hero. But the Cubs don’t have a clear-history button at Wrigley Field.
“During that year, I dreamt about having a parade on Michigan Avenue after we won the World Series,” Alou said. “That’s how good we thought we were. And I’m still sad that it didn’t happen, because every day somebody asks me about that Bartman play, about us not making it to the World Series.
“It would have been 10 years of me being quiet in the Dominican – without being asked that question so many times.”