BAKO: Man, [when the inning ended], I would say we were as shocked and awed as the crowd was. Obviously we're all professionals, but when you start that inning winning three to nothing and you come back in and you're down 8-3, that was definitely impossible to come back from that particular day. I mean Game 6, you know?
The competitor in you is like, "Let's go boys. We have six outs left to score. We can win this. We've done it before." But the reality is like, "Hopefully we can shake this off and come back tomorrow ready to play." As soon as the game's over, that's what we're thinking.
It was as bad a feeling as I've had from a game. The only time I ever had a comparable feeling was after losing the World Series [in 2009 with the Phillies]. It was very similar to the feeling of losing the World Series. The feeling in the stomach in both games was one and the same.
It's like a frickin' unsolved mystery. An unexplained phenomenon. It's like Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. I've never looked at the box score like this. I'm looking at it right now, and it's just such an anomaly. It's such a crazy—you know, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 1, 8, 0, 0, 0. It doesn't even make sense, you know? Almost like if you would take it to a statistician, he would say, "Is this a typo? What is this?" It doesn't make sense.
REDEYE: And it defies the rhythm of not just the game but almost of the series.
BAKO: Oh no doubt. Yes. Of the series. Of playoff baseball. It just defies everything.
The Cubs entered Game 7 the next night with hopes of a rebound effort. And after Kerry Wood homered in the second inning and Alou homered in the third, the Cubs led 5-3 and all was joyous at Wrigley Field. But Florida scored three runs in the fifth inning to take a lead they would never relinquish. They won the game 9-6 and went on to win the World Series.
Despite successful seasons in 2004, 2007, and 2008, the Cubs have not won a playoff game since the 2003 NLCS.
BAKO: The reality is that we were all completely disappointed. But from a whole body of work perspective, excluding the last two games of the season—which I know is hard to do—we were very tight. And I think we were proud of where we came from. From being in a brand-new situation in spring training, to coming together so quickly and getting to the playoffs and the NLCS. As bittersweet as it was, I think it was a huge accomplishment.
The closeness and the chemistry and the camaraderie in the clubhouse was tremendous. And equal to that, or a very close second, was the turnaround. Turning it around from the season before. The worst-to-first. And how well we played. I think a lot of that was reflective of Dusty and how he got us all together and how tight of a group we were.
PRIOR: It was one of the better, if not the best team I was on as far as relationships and friendships. I think winning obviously helps, but I think winning was a byproduct of the way we all felt about each other. There weren't a lot of egos on that team. Everybody was pulling for each other.
Overall, it was just a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun playing the game and a lot of fun being in Chicago. I feel proud that we were part of maybe helping to nudge the culture of the organization and pushing for a championship. I think we did great things there, and I think we're all proud of the way we played together.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. @readjackWant more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page.