The Cubs, led by their starting pitcher Mark Prior, held a 3-0 lead going into the top of the eighth inning in Game 6, and after causing Mike Mordecai to hit a high pop fly to left field, had only five outs between them and the prize they had not contested since 1945, and not won since 1908, the World Series. Prior had retired the last eight hitters and had allowed only three hits up to that point. After Mordecai made the first out of the inning, center fielder Juan Pierre (who was later traded to the Cubs) then hit a double off Prior to get to second base. Then, Luis Castillo, on a 3-2 pitch, hit a high foul ball toward the left field wall (this was the eighth pitch of the at bat for Castillo). Cubs left fielder Moisés Alou went toward the stands trying to catch the ball for the second out. Just then, Cubs fan Steve Bartman went to catch the ball, along with other fans near the area; but unfortunately for Bartman, it went off his hand and into the stands. Even though the Cubs pleaded for fan interference, the umpire ruled that the ball had left the field of play and was therefore up for grabs.
As a result, Castillo remained an active batter at home plate. Afterward, Prior didn't seem to be the same pitcher; on the next pitch, he walked Castillo on a wild pitch that got away from catcher Paul Bako, allowing Pierre to advance to third base. Next, Iván Rodríguez hit an 0-2 pitch hard into left field, singling and scoring Pierre. It was now 3-1. Miguel Cabrera then hit a ground ball toward Cubs shortstop Alex S. Gonzalez that could have ended in a double play. Gonzalez, who led all NL shortstops in fielding percentage, closed his glove a little too early and the ball landed in the dirt, allowing Cabrera to get on base, loading the bases. On the next pitch, Derrek Lee (a future Cubs All-Star) drilled a double into left field, scoring Castillo and Rodríguez to tie the game at 3-3.
Prior was then taken out of the game and replaced by Kyle Farnsworth, who intentionally walked Mike Lowell to load the bases. Jeff Conine then hit a sacrifice fly to right field for the second out of the inning, allowing Cabrera to score from third and the others runners to advance one base. This gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead, their first of the night. Farnsworth walked Todd Hollandsworth intentionally to once again load the bases. The Marlins now having batted around, Farnsworth faced Mike Mordecai, who was looking to make up for his earlier out. This time, Mordecai prevailed, hitting a bases-clearing double to left-center field, allowing Lee, Lowell and Hollandsworth to score and making it a 7-3 Marlins lead.
Farnsworth was also taken out of the game and replaced by Mike Remlinger, who gave up a single to Pierre to score Mordecai from second base, putting the Marlins up 8-3. Luis Castillo, hit a high pop fly ball to shallow right field for the third out. The totals for the inning were 8 runs (5 unearned) on 5 hits and 3 walks (2 intentionally) with 1 left on base. The Cubs went down in order in the bottom of the 8th and 9th innings to lose Game 6, forcing a final Game 7 which the Marlins rallied to win as well.
ESPN's case for exonerating Bartman was as follows: