CHICAGO – Chicago Cubs (search) supporters showed up for a night-long party at Wrigley Field (search) on Tuesday, only to have their raucous celebration snuffed by a stunning late-inning rally that left them cursing one fellow fan.
In a stunning eighth-inning turnaround, the Florida Marlins (search) took advantage of left fielder Moises Alou's run-in with a fan on a foul fly and an error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez to score eight runs in an 8-3 victory Tuesday night, forcing the NL championship series to a Game 7.
People who minutes earlier had been dancing and singing the praises of their home team suddenly turned their wrath on the fan who grabbed for the fly ball. Obscene chants echoed from inside the stadium and from the surrounding streets, where thousands had gathered to celebrate what they hoped would be the Cubs' first trip to the World Series since 1945.
Ballpark guards escorted the man, who was wearing a Cubs hat, from his seat along the low outfield wall and into a security office as the game ended. He covered his face with a sweater as he walked past fans who pelted him with cups of beer and shouted obscenities. Some chanted "kill him."
Jim Cuthbert, 33, of Lombard, said he was sitting about 15 to 20 rows behind the fan and was kicked out after approaching to berate him.
"My wife was hanging on to my arm. I was going nuts. That idiot. We were five outs away," Cuthbert said.
Fans outside the ballpark at first couldn't believe what they were hearing on radios or watching on portable televisions.
"I hope he gets an escort out," said Mary Krueger of suburban Niles, who watched the mishap on a portable TV while standing on Waveland Avenue behind Wrigley's outfield wall. "One more night, that's all."
But for other fans, the sudden turnaround brought back fans' worst fears of the Cubs' many previous late-season collapses.
"I've seen this movie before," said Torey Stern, 39, of Chicago. "I saw it in '84 with the Padres, 'in 89 with the Giants and in '98 with the Braves. The movie ends the same."
Earlier in the game, people jammed the many bars in the Wrigleyville neighborhood surrounding the stadium and thousands more packed the streets, waving signs, chanting and dancing. Some bodysurfed across the top of the crowd on Waveland Avenue.
Tony Kloss, 27, flew to Chicago Tuesday morning from New Jersey along with his two employees, even though they didn't have tickets. The 27-year-old business owner said he watched the Cubs on TV as a child and just wanted to be with the crowds outside.
"I love the crowd, I love Chicago," he said.
But the roar of cheers turned to groans as those outside learned of the sudden change of fortunes. Some sat down in the street where minutes earlier they had been jumping.
Fans began to stream outside of the stadium immediately after the game, talking to friends on cellular phones about the defeat.
"Look at how silent everyone is," said Ray Shannon, 52, of Brookfield, Wis., who watched the game from the rooftop of a nearby building. "We were up on the roof high-fiving and pouring beers on guys and suddenly somebody turns the lights out. It's shock theater."
As they filed away from what was supposed to be a major victory party, some spoke of the legendary Cubs curse. As the story goes, the owner of a Chicago tavern put a curse on the Cubs when he and a goat were denied entry to a 1945 World Series game against Detroit. The Cubs went on to lose that series 4-3; since then, it's been one heartbreak after another.
In 1969, the Cubs collapsed late in the season, passed in the standings by New York's "Miracle" Mets. In 1973, the Mets once again overtook the Cubs.
In 1984, the Cubs led the Padres 2-0 in the NL championship series -- only to lose three straight games in San Diego. The Cubs returned to the playoffs in 1989 and 1998, but failed to win a series either time.
"Hopefully we pull it off tomorrow, but nothing's for granted," said a dejected Jason Forsyth, 30, of Elwood, who clutched a beer outside a sports bar near the ballpark.