Published October 16, 2003
CHICAGO (AP) - Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon returned to his hotel room early yesterday, a few hours after his team clinched a World Series berth, and found himself inundated with phone calls.
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His cell phone kept ringing. So did his wife's. There were two phone lines in the room, and they kept ringing.
"Tickets. Tickets. Hotel rooms," McKeon said. "The whole family called. It's the same people, but you add a few more, because now you've got the cousins calling."
At 72, McKeon has four children and nine grandchildren. And now, thanks to the Marlins' astounding success, he's probably hearing from some long-lost relatives.
Florida's comeback victory in the NL championship series left countless Chicago Cubs fans in despair, but at least it made McKeon's family happy. He'll become the oldest manager in World Series history when the Marlins play Game 1 Saturday against the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.
The resilient Marlins clinched their second pennant in six years in characteristic fashion - by coming from behind. They trailed by two runs in the fifth inning of Game 7 before rallying to beat the Cubs 9-6 Wednesday.
Florida won despite leading in just 20 of 67 innings in the series. The Marlins beat Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in the final two games, and they're only the fourth team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in a league championship series.
"It didn't sink in until a couple of hours later what has happened," McKeon said. "You're reached the top. The World Series is it. Whether you win or lose, you're in the World Series."
The Marlins remained in Chicago on Thursday, waiting to fly to Boston or New York, depending on which team won Game 7 of the AL championship series. Against either team, the Marlins will be underdogs - as they were in the NLCS, the division series, the wild-card race and spring training.
"We like that," McKeon said. "Believe me, we're going to give the American League a tough shot."
Sammy Sosa's advice: Don't count the Marlins out.
"They beat Mark Prior and Kerry Wood back to back," the Cubs slugger said. "They have to win the World Series. If they don't do that, we will be very mad."
The Marlins' odds against winning will be even longer because the scramble to win the final three games against the Cubs left McKeon's rotation in disarray. He used three starters in Game 7, with Mark Redman pitching three innings, Brad Penny one and series hero Josh Beckett four.
Penny and struggling rookie Dontrelle Willis will likely start Games 1 and 2 in some order, McKeon said.
"I really think Penny is going to step up this series," he said.
Penny went 14-10 during the regular season but has won only once since hyperextending his pitching elbow Sept. 12. He an ERA of 14.14 in two postseason starts.
Beckett will probably be rested until Game 3 in Miami, where he threw a two-hit shutout Sunday to beat Chicago. Left-hander Redman will likely start Game 4.
Carl Pavano took Penny's turn Tuesday and allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings to help beat the Cubs. But McKeon said he wants Pavano back in the bullpen, where he pitched 4 2-3 scoreless innings in the playoffs.