Originally created 10/13/03

Former Cubs waiting, hoping to celebrate



MIAMI -- The Chicago Cubs are one victory from ending half a century of failure. No one would like to see it happen more than some of the franchise's former players.

"Oh, man, it would mean everything," said former second baseman Ryne Sandberg, now a spring instructor with the club. "I've heard all the things about being part of a losing organization, that the team can't win at Wrigley Field, that they can't win because of all the day games. I've heard all those things.

"This would pretty much erase all those things and say the Cubs are a winning organization, Chicago is a winning city."

The Cubs entered Sunday's Game 5 of the NL championship series against the Florida Marlins needing one win to reach their first World Series since 1945. Games 6 and 7 would be played in Chicago, if necessary.

The Cubs, one of professional sports' lovable losers, haven't won the championship since 1908. They lost the 1945 Fall Classic to Detroit in seven games.

Needing only one more win to make the World Series in 1984, they blew a 2-0 lead to San Diego in the best-of-five NLCS.

Only three times in LCS play and five times in the World Series have clubs overcome a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

"If those nine guys out there win it today, those guys in the past years, they'll be celebrating, too," said Hall of Famer Billy Williams, a former Cubs outfielder and now a special assistant to the team. "They're doing it for themselves, but we're rejoicing."

LINEUP SHAKEUP: Marlins manager Jack McKeon shuffled his lineup again Sunday, moving rookie Miguel Cabrera into the cleanup spot. McKeon moved Cabrera from third base to right field for Game 4, his first start there since Little League.

Cabrera entered Game 5 hitting .344 in the postseason with two homers and five RBIs. He started one game this season in the No. 4 spot - and the Marlins lost.

Derrek Lee batted cleanup in each of the first four games in the NLCS, but he had just three hits in 18 at-bats (.167).

"Just change it around a little bit, nothing to read into it," McKeon said. "We've done this before. Maybe he'll get up and do some damage."

BLOWN SAVE: Eric Gagne's blown save already cost Dusty Baker a win in the All-Star game. Now it could hurt him in the World Series.

Gagne, the Los Angeles Dodgers' closer, converted all 55 of his regular-season save opportunities this year, and has a major league-record 63 consecutive saves dating to 2002. But he came up short at the All-Star game, giving up a pinch-hit, two-run homer to Hank Blalock that gave the AL a 7-6 victory.

The victory gave the AL home-field advantage in the World Series, which starts next weekend. Which means if Baker's Chicago Cubs make the World Series, they'll play the first two games on the road.

"It came to my mind once and I said, 'I've got to expel it out of my mind,"' said Baker, the NL's All-Star manager. "You've got to get there and then it can come up and you can think about it."

Besides, Baker said, things have a way of working out.

"When that's his only blown save of the year, you weren't supposed to win it," Baker said. "We weren't supposed to win that night."

SERVING IT UP: Tennis star Venus Williams threw out the first pitch Sunday. A fan of Marlins rookie Dontrelle Willis, she had the left-hander catching for her.

"I was a little nervous, but I just threw it like a tennis ball," said Williams, who also met Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa as she left the field.

Willis seemed to be a fan of hers, too. He fumbled his glove when he gave Williams the baseball and had a huge smile on his face as he jogged back to the dugout, where jeering teammates awaited his return.