The Cubs still had Kerry Wood throwing Game 7.
That’s easy to forget in all the anxiety about the 2003 NLCS. But 10 years later, Wood shares his memories in “5 Outs…,” the documentary that airs Tuesday on Comcast SportsNet and looks back on a team that captured the city’s imagination.
Wood heard Wrigley Field rocking after blasting a Mark Redman pitch, making up for the three runs he handed the Florida Marlins in the top of the first inning.
The Game 7 joy was short-lived. Wood went on to surrender seven runs to the Marlins, who stunned the Cubs when it looked like they were ticketed for their first World Series since 1945.
“The best sound I’ve ever heard was the two-run homer to tie it in that stadium," Wood said. “The worst sound I've ever heard in baseball — period — was how quiet that stadium was (after a 9-6 loss). I could hear the Marlins guys talking and celebrating.
“It was eerily quiet, and sitting in the dugout and listening to those guys jump around and celebrate like that was the worst moment.”
The Bad Feelings
It started in Game 6 for Wood, as it did for most Cubs players and fans. Wood said he can't even recall the first six innings of the game as the Cubs built a 3-0 lead that seemed insurmountable with 22-year-old Mark Prior cruising on the mound. The buzz started to build around the stadium, and the clubhouse guys were already preparing for a 95-year celebration.
“I remember going into the clubhouse and grabbing a drink and they were actually putting the plastic up inside," Wood said. “(Eric) Karros had his video camera already going. I actually saw Juan Cruz run by me and set his video camera up, too, and I was just thinking to myself 'Umm, that's a little bit fast...let's just relax.'
"I was OK with Karros' camera, because he had been filming for the last two months. But seeing Juan Cruz, for whatever reason, I just thought to myself like 'All right, we better hope we don't have to rip this stuff down real fast' and never thinking in a million years it would actually happen."
Five outs away from the World Series and the Cubs blew their three-run lead.
Before the Bartman play, before Alex Gonzalez booted a routine double play, before the Marlins pulled off an epic eight-run rally, Wood and the Cubs were already preparing for the New York Yankees.
"I was going over the lineup. I was starting Game 1 of the World Series," he said. "I was sitting on the bench, watching the game...It happened real quick.
"It was dead silent in the stadium. I was sitting there and then it hit me — I'm starting Game 7 tomorrow. I got Game 7."
The Early Flight
It wasn't just Wood who had a bad feeling. Before Game 7, Moises Alou and Aramis Ramirez booked flights to head home to the Dominican Republic, worried the postseason would come to an end for the Cubs.
“It's disappointing,” Wood said. “I mean, I don't think it was a shot at me. I just think it was...I don't know. I won't say low character because Mo has tremendous character, but they obviously felt something and wanted to make sure they got home quickly."
Here was another weird sign during that playoff run: Wood had all kinds of trouble leading up to his decisive Game 5 in Atlanta, where he beat the Braves 5-1, throwing eight dominant innings.
First, his back locked up the night before the start, causing him to sleep on the floor of his hotel room with his feet in the air. His back improved the next day, but he realized he had forgotten to pack his glove and was forced to start against the Braves with Prior's glove.
"It wasn't like I was frantic at all. I just needed a glove," said Wood, who was 26 at the time. "Maybe when I was younger, I may have freaked out about the superstition with losing my glove, but I guess I just didn't have time for that."
MJ Pays a Visit
Forgive Wood if his mind was elsewhere before Game 5 at Turner Field, where Bulls legend Michael Jordan popped into the visiting clubhouse.
That iconic meeting really helped put everything in perspective for Wood, a Texas kid pitching for a club and a fan base that was nearing almost a century without a championship.
"I knew it was bigger than I thought it was when I saw Michael Jordan in the clubhouse," Wood said. "That was my sign that something big was happening."
Wood called Ron Santo, the team's radio analyst and longtime Cubs icon, after Game 5 and remembers hearing Santo crying over the phone.
"That's when I realized how long it's been and what it meant to the people of Chicago," Wood said. "That and seeing Jordan in the clubhouse kind of put it all in perspective for me.
"Looking back on it, we had a lot of people popping in and out towards the end of the season. You could feel that something special was going to happen and I think everyone else felt the same way."
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