The Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano to what was then the biggest contract in franchise history before the 2007 season.
That, along with the signing of lefthander Ted Lilly and the hire of manager Lou Piniella, gave Cubs fans some hope that the 2007 season would be an improvement over 2006. (It would have been hard not to, as the Cubs lost 96 games in ‘06.)
The team fell flat on its face early on. They entered June six games out of first place, and then lost the first two games of a series to the Braves. In the second of those games, Lou tried to fire up his team by kicking dirt on umpire Mark Wegner, but the Cubs lost anyway.
Maybe the firing-up worked. The Cubs, 22-31 after that loss to the Braves, went on a winning roll. Entering the June 25 game vs. the Rockies, they had gone 13-8 since that Saturday afternoon, though still trailed the first-place Brewers by a significant margin.
The Cubs scored four in the first, with the big blow a three-run homer by Angel Pagan. Jason Marquis, Michael Wuertz and Scott Eyre (or, as Lou called him, “Stevie Ire”) held the Rockies to three runs over the first eight innings while the Cubs fashioned an 8-3 lead.
What could possibly...
Well, you know when you see those words that plenty could go wrong, and did.
Eyre started the ninth and allowed a single, walk and double to make it 8-4. He was relieved by Bob Howry.
Howry was worse. Two singles made it 8-6 and then Troy Tulowitzki hit a three-run homer off Howry to give the Rockies a six-run inning and a 9-8 lead.
The man arrested for running onto Wrigley Field toward relief pitcher Bob Howry during the ninth inning of Monday’s Cubs-Rockies game has been identified by police as Brent Kowalkoski, 24, of Elmwood Park.
Howry had just surrendered a three-run home run to Troy Tulowitzki, giving the Rockies a 9-8 lead, when Kowalkoski vaulted the short wall that separates the seats from the playing field and approached Howry from the first-base line.
Wrigley Field security guard Anton Migursky tackled Kowalkoski before he could get to the pitcher, and additional security removed him from the field.
When things settled down, Howry retired the next three hitters in order.
In the bottom of the ninth, Mark DeRosa led off with a single and two outs later Koyie Hill, batting for Howry, also singled.
Now that latter hit itself is worth noting. Hill hit .161/.231/.269 for the Cubs in 2007 and that was one of only two pinch hits he had all season.
The next hitter, Ryan Theriot, hit a ground ball that should have been a force play and ended the game. But Rockies second baseman Kazuo Matsui dropped the ball and the game continued, now with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.
So Howry, who had pitched poorly and been attacked on the field, got the “win.” The Cubs, of course, went on to win the NL Central that year, just the second time in franchise history they had come from at least nine games under .500 to have a winning record (the other, 35-45 in 1968 to 84-78).
As for Kowalkoski? He was sentenced in February 2008:
Brent Kowalkoski, the fan who raced onto the field and confronted Cubs reliever Bob Howry in the ninth inning of a game June 25 against Colorado, pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony count of trespassing.
Kowalkoski was sentenced to two years’ probation, was given 40 hours of community service and is required to pay court costs of about $500. Kowalkoski also is banned from attending a game at Wrigley Field for two years.
Kowalkoski, an Elmwood Park resident, was originally charged with illegal conduct within a sports facility, a misdemeanor, but the charge was upgraded to a felony at the request of the Cubs.
That was a memorable evening at Wrigley Field for more than one reason. Here’s Mike Bojanowski’s scorecard and ticket from the game. Click here for a larger version of the scorecard.