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Tuesday, June 8, 2004
Updated: June 9, 3:09 PM ET
Windy City blues

By Kieran Darcy
Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: Page 2, along with ESPN2's "Cold Pizza," is counting down the 15 Most Tortured Sports Cities in America. This week we discover why the White Sox are cursed, along with our list of the Top 10 most painful moments in Chicago's sports history.

It's been 95 years since the Cubs were champs. It's been 86 years for the White Sox. And 43 for the Blackhawks. The Bulls and Bears have won it all more recently -- but things look pretty bleak for them right now. So what better time to relive these tortured moments, right Chicago fans?

10. White Sox vs. Dodgers, Oct. 5, 1959
The 1959 White Sox won 94 games, and made the World Series for the first time in 40 years, where they faced the L.A. Dodgers. The Sox had the AL MVP (Nellie Fox) and the AL Cy Young Award winner (Early Wynn). They won Game 1 of the Series, 11-0, at Comiskey Park. But the Dodgers won the next two games, both tight contests. In Game 4 in Los Angeles, the White Sox trailed 4-0 until the seventh inning, when they rallied for four runs to tie the game. But then Gil Hodges broke their hearts with a game-winning solo home run in the eighth, giving the Dogers a daunting 3-1 lead in the series. Chicago did win Game 5, but lost the series in Game 6 at Comiskey.

THE 15 MOST TORTURED SPORTS CITIES
15. Tampa Bay
14. Kansas City
13. Cincinnati
12. Phoenix
11. Washington, D.C.
10. Houston
9. San Diego
8. Atlanta
7. Seattle
6. Minneapolis
5. Boston
4. Chicago

Want to find out what the No. 3 city is? Tune into ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" next Wednesday morning. Then head back to Page 2 to read all about it.

9. Blackhawks vs. Penguins, May 26, 1992
After trailing St. Louis 2-1 in their opening series of the 1992 playoffs, the Blackhawks rattled off a remarkable 11 consecutive postseason wins, going on to beat St. Louis in six games and sweeping Detroit and Edmonton to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. And they appeared to have retained that momentum in Game 1 of the Finals, when they took a 4-1 lead midway through the second period against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. But the Penguins stormed back to tie the game -- and then won it on a stunning power-play goal by Mario Lemieux with 12.6 seconds left in regulation. The Blackhawks never recovered. They ended up being swept, although they lost the next three games by a combined total of only four goals.

8. Cubs vs. Athletics, Oct. 12, 1929
The Athletics won the first two games of the 1929 World Series at Wrigley Field, but the Cubs won Game 3 on the road, and appeared on the verge of evening up the series 2-2 when they took an 8-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 4. That's when the roof caved in. The A's scored 10 runs in that inning, off Cubs pitchers Charlie Root, Art Nehf, Sheriff Blake and Pat Malone. The A's were also aided in the inning by a critical error by Cubs outfielder Hack Wilson. The A's won the game, 10-8, and went on to take Game 5 and win the series 4-1.

7. Bears vs. Redskins, Jan. 10, 1988
The Bears hosted the Redskins in the opening round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year -- and for the second consecutive year, they were upset. Chicago led 14-0 in the second quarter, but Washington came back to tie the game at halftime, and took a 21-14 lead in the third quarter on a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown by Darrell Green. Chicago had opportunities to come back. They got to Washington's 13-yard line before settling for a field goal. And with just over nine minutes remaining in the game, at Washington's 14-yard line, Chicago QB Jim McMahon threw an interception in the end zone, one of his three second-half INTs. The Redskins won the game 21-17. And the loss stung even more because it was the final game of Walter Payton's brilliant career.

6. Bears vs. Redskins, Jan. 3, 1987
A year after crushing the Patriots in Super Bowl XX, 46-10, the Bears notched the NFL's best regular-season record, at 14-2. Their stifling defense allowed a NFL record-low 187 points. They were favored by many to win a second consecutive Super Bowl title. In their opening game of the postseason, they hosted the Washington Redskins, on a surprisingly mild day in Chicago. The Bears led 13-7 at the half. But the Redskins scored 20 unanswered points in the second half for the upset victory. Chicago QB Doug Flutie, playing for the injured Jim McMahon, completed just 11 of his 31 passes, for 134 yards, and tossed two interceptions.

5. Michael Jordan retires, Oct. 6, 1993
Michael Jordan shocked Chicago and the world when he retired at the age of 30 prior to training camp before the 1993-94 season. The Bulls were coming off three straight NBA championships, and appeared poised to continue their dominance. Jordan said he wanted to pursue his other dream of becoming a major league baseball player. Of course, after struggling with the Double-A Birmingham Barons (a White Sox affiliate,) and missing the game of basketball, Jordan returned to the Bulls in March of 1995, and eventually led them to three more championships.

4. Blackhawks vs. Canadiens, May 18, 1971
The Blackhawks led the Canadiens 3-2 in the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals, before losing Game 6, 4-3, in Montreal. But Game 7 was played in Chicago, and the Blackhawks had a 2-0 lead in the second period. With six minutes remaining in that period, Montreal's Jacques Lemaire slapped a 100-foot shot from center ice past Chicago goaltender Tony Esposito to get the Canadiens back in the game and take all the momentum away from the Blackhawks. Montreal added the tying goal late in the second period, and the eventual game-winner early in the third period, and hoisted the Stanley Cup in Chicago. That was the last time a road team has won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Steve Bartman
With Steve as the poster boy for the Cubs' collapse, the team gets off the hook.
3. The "Black Sox" scandal, 1919
The 1919 White Sox will forever life in infamy. They went 88-52 in the 1919 regular season, and led the major leagues in batting average, runs scored and stolen bases. But in the World Series, they played poorly and lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 5-3, in a best-of-nine series (from 1919-1921, the World Series was a best-of-nine because of the sport's immense popularity after World War 1). Afterwards, eight members of the Sox -- pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, outfielders Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch, and infielders Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver and Fred McMullen, were charged with conspiring to fix the outcome of the Series. Despite being cleared of the charges in court, those eight players were banned from baseball for life in 1921, and that team has been known from then on as the "Black Sox."

2. Cubs vs. Padres, Oct. 7, 1984
In the postseason for the first time since 1945, the Cubs faced the Padres in the NLCS, and they won the first two games of the best-of-five series at Wrigley Field. But the Padres bounced back to win the next two games at home. In Game 5, also in San Diego, the Cubs had ace Rick Sutcliffe on the hill -- who'd gone 16-1 since being acquired by the Cubs in mid-June. The Cubs jumped out to a 3-0 lead early. The Padres finally tagged Sutcliffe for two runs in the sixth inning. And then, in the seventh inning, things fell apart. Cubs 1B Leon Durham, who'd made only seven errors all season, let a routine grounder slip under his glove, allowing the tying run to score. And the Padres added two more runs when a hard-hit ball by Tony Gwynn took a bad hop over the shoulder of 2B Ryne Sandberg. The Padres went on to win the game 6-3 and advanced to the World Series.

1. Cubs vs. Marlins, Oct. 14, 2003
The Cubs were five outs away from winning Game 6 of the NLCS against the Marlins and going to their first World Series since 1945. They'd led the series 3-1 before losing Game 5 in Florida. In Game 6, at Wrigley Field, the Cubs led 3-0 heading into the eighth inning, and Mark Prior was pitching a three-hit shutout. After a flyout to open the inning, Florida's Juan Pierre hit a double. Then, Luis Castillo lofted a fly ball down the left-field line. Cubs outfielder Moises Alou appeared poised to make a leaping catch at the wall. But 26-year-old fan Steve Bartman reached out for the ball and knocked it away from Alou. Castillo ended up drawing a walk, and the Marlins ended up torching the Cubs for eight runs in the inning, and won the game 8-3. Chicago also had a 5-3 lead in Game 7 and Kerry Wood on the mound, but they couldn't hold the lead and the Marlins won Game 7 as well, 9-6. It may be Chicago's most recent tortured moment -- but it also probably feels like the most painful of all.