Some of you here may know I work seasonally for our local minor league baseball team as the official scorer. A neat job, really.
This year our parent club, the Toronto Blue Jays hired a new manager for the Lugnuts: Mike Redmond. Mike spent 13 years in the majors with Florida, Minnesota and Cleveland. He retired from the Indians last year and this is his first season as a minor league manager.
Mike is a very positive, likeable guy and has already guided the Lugnuts into the Midwest League playoffs by virtue of a second-place finish in the MWL’s first half (many minor league seasons are split into two halves with the top finishers in each half making the post season).
He and I have a good working relationship and in fact, the team record is 15-7 when I do the scoring (I share the weekly duties with another scorer). So Mike likes seeing me come through the door. (Superstition in baseball? Nonsense.)
I say all this because I intended at some point this season to playfully mention to Mike that without even knowing me, he broke my heart eight years ago. That ‘some point’ happened last night.
Mike was a member of the 2003 Florida Marlins. We all know what happened that year between the Cubs and the Marlins in the NLCS. Rather than rehash the negative, I was interested in getting his perspective of what it was like in the Marlin’s locker room after game 6 (a game that I attended with my family).
“The Bartman game? You were there?” he asked. I nodded. Mike said before that fateful eighth inning, “We (the Marlins) were dead.” Then everything began to happen and they watched it unfold in the dugout just as we Cub fans did in the stands and on TV.
He then mentioned game 2 (won by the Cubs 12-3) and that the Marlins players needed a police escort to get out of their locker room at Wrigley and onto the team bus. “It was crazy. Madness. The fans were everywhere and some were rocking our bus back and forth.”
“It was just our year. We (the Marlins) were loaded (with talent). We got a lot of breaks all year long and we capitalized on them.”
When you look back at the Marlins roster from 2003, it WAS loaded with talent. As Casey Stengel used to say: “You can look it up.” I have to admit, as a Cubs’ fan, I didn’t give the Marlins the respect they deserved. In hindsight, very dumb
So I asked again about the Marlins locker room after their stunning comeback in game 6. Mike said: “It was crazy. We knew- KNEW that we were going to win the series. The guys were sky high. We couldn’t wait to get back for game 7. There were over a dozen players in the lobby of the team hotel the next morning at 8am chomping at the bit to get to the ballpark (for the night game).”
And as we know, the Marlins eventually won it all that year: 2003 World Series Champions.
He said he and Kerry Wood were teammates last season at Cleveland and they talked about that fateful night. Kerry told him that he went into the Cubs locker room in the 7th inning and found that plastic sheeting was already going up over the lockers in anticipation of a Cubs’ win. Kerry ordered the plastic removed.
Too late for the karma of baseball, apparently.
Mike also said that Jim Hendry signed him to his first professional contract and that he has great respect for him. He hopes the Cubs can win it all someday for Jim, the team and the fans.
I replied that I hoped I live long enough to see it happen.
I think we ALL do.