The immediate reaction from Cubs fans watching at home was one of horror, as many flashed back to a similar play on Sept. 23, 1998, at County Stadium in Milwaukee.
Like Suzuki, Cubs outfielder Brant Brown had been a key player in their wild-card race. But when a fly ball by Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Geoff Jenkins bounced off his glove with two outs in the ninth inning, bringing home three runs in an 8-7, walk-off loss, Brown felt like his world caved in.
“Basically my whole philosophy all year, no matter if I’m starting or coming off the bench, is just to try to contribute,” Brown said that day. “Today wasn’t the best contribution. You just have to go on. Life goes on. It’s not the worst thing that’s ever going to happen to me. Hopefully it is, but you know, it’s just something that happened and I can live with it.”
Suzuki said much the same. He had no choice but to forget about it.
“If I dwell on it (Wednesday), I’m not going to give a positive vibe to the team,” he said through an interpreter.
Brown’s teammates had his back and immediately came to his defense.
“There’s no rock big enough to crawl under when that happens,” third baseman Gary Gaetti said. “It’s just part of the game. Physical errors are part of the game. They have always been. They will always be.”
First baseman Mark Grace called him a “great kid” who had a bad moment.
“He did the best he could,” Grace said. “Those things happen. Brant Brown has done a lot of great things for us this year. We’re going to back him 100%. No one feels worse than he does. But by the same token, he’s our teammate and he’s someone we appreciate. Hopefully at the end of the season we can look back and laugh about this.”
Rod Beck, the Cubs closer who was tagged with the loss, tried to let Brown know it happens to everyone.
“I know how bad he feels,” Beck said. “I’ve been there. I’ve been there a lot.”
Suzuki said he was grateful his teammates had his back.
“I’m happy for those comments, but obviously these games are really, really important for us, and obviously that I dropped it is not the best result for us right now at this point in the season,” he said. “Also those errors in the outfield don’t really lead to the best results. I feel I need to hold a better consciousness when I go out there and focus on the game.”
Cubs broadcaster Ron Santo made his famous “Oh, no!” call on the Brown play for WGN-AM 720. His broadcast partner, Pat Hughes, told the story at Santo’s funeral that Cubs manager Jim Riggleman was consoling Santo after the game. “The first time a manager had to console the announcer,” Hughes said.
The Cubs bounced back that weekend in Houston and managed to play Game 163 and win the wild-card spot despite losing on the final day of the regular season.
“Eerie,” Hughes said Tuesday of calling the two similar moments in Cubs history.
Cubs pitcher Drew Smyly said late Tuesday that the Cubs would rebound.
“We have five more,” he said. “We’ve got to dig deep. It has to be a total team effort.”