Cub Nation Gets New Villain

A howling mob demanded answers, a name to go with the face.

Instead, haunted members of Cub Nation should ask themselves a few questions.

What kind of kid grows up rooting for a team whose motto is, "Wait 'til next year?"

What kid learns about curses by the time he's old enough to walk and hears testimonials about suffering from grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors and friends and then decides, "That's for me?"

Very likely the kid who was parked in Seat 116, Row 9 on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

A Cubs fan.

One of their own.

That kid was ushered from his seat in the bottom of the eighth after lending a helping hand in what turned out to be an 8-3 win by the Florida Marlins to force Game 7 Wednesday night.

With one out and the Cubs leading 3-0 Tuesday night, the Marlins' Luis Castillo (search) lifted a foul down the left-field line just past the bullpen. The Cubs' Moises Alou (search) raced over, timed his jump perfectly and opened his glove. But the ball hit the heel of the kid's hand and caromed a few seats over.

In the Florida dugout, Game 7 pitcher Mark Redman (search) turned to first baseman Derek Lee (search) and said, "Let's make this kid famous."

They did, but only because of an equally ham-handed attempt by Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez (search) on a grounder that could have turned into an inning-ending double play. Before his teammates regained their composure, Florida exploded for eight runs and the only suspense left was whether the kid would get out of Wrigley alive.

He's 26 and had a Cubs hat on, but a view from close-up yielded no further clues. A sweater covered his face as he was escorted by security guards on a brief perp walk from his seat to a security office behind the left-field stands.

Cubs security guards gave him a different jacket and took him out a side exit. "He was scared to death more than anything," said detail chief Mike Hill. "He just wanted to get out of here."

Judging by the abuse hurled at him throughout the inning and the short walk afterward, no one in this town has been so universally reviled since legend has it that Mrs. O'Leary didn't notice her cow kicking over the lamp that ignited the Great Chicago Fire — and that was almost 150 years ago.

"Hopefully," said left-fielder Alou, "he won't have to regret it for the rest of his life."

Political columnist George Will once wrote that "Cubs fans are 90 percent scar tissue." Suddenly, that number sounds low.

"We spent $1,400 for these tickets," Karen Kucharski said. Decked out in Cubs hat and satin jacket, she'd sat three rows above the kid. "Now," Kucharski added, "we're going to have to sell one of our kids to get back here tomorrow night."

Her husband, standing nearby, just nodded. There was no way to be sure they were kidding.

Either way, she handed him a sign that read "Cubtoberfest" and turned toward the exit, then stopped to point out where drops of champagne had splattered the banner.

"These came from the celebration in Atlanta," she said. "We flew down there. That's why we had to come tonight, to add a few more drops. That's why we got to come back.

"Just five more outs," she added wistfully, letting the rest of the sentence evaporate into a chilly night.

One thing the Cub Nation (search) never lacks for is villains. For the past half-century, Public Enemy No. 1 has been a goat whose owner, William Sianis, bought two box seats and tried to bring the animal into Wrigley to watch Game 4 of the 1945 World Series. Turned away, Sianis dashed off a telegram to then-Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley warning the Cubs would lose the series — they were ahead 2-1 in games, but wound up losing to the Tigers in seven — and never get into another.

A half-hour after Tuesday night's game, several thousand stunned fans remained in their seats. Down the left-field line, in the corner where the kid tried to make his fateful grab, an usher stood in front of Seat 116 while a hundred or so more fans milled around in an ugly mood.

One of them went behind Seat 116 and placed a sign across the back. It read: "2003 Cubs. Cursebusters. We ain't afraid of no goats."

So whatever else the kid did, credit him at least with this much: He got the goat off the hook.