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Cleveland’s Heart Breaks Again

October 27, 1997

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Nothing ever hurt this much.

This title-starved city watched in anguish as its best chance to win the World Series in nearly a half-century slipped away Sunday night, when the Florida Marlins won Game 7 over the Cleveland Indians 3-2 in 11 innings.

For long-suffering Indians fans _ who have not seen their club win the World Series since 1948 and have witnessed four 100-loss seasons since 1971 _ it was the hardest loss ever.

``I’m heartbroken,″ said Indians fans Ben Pyles. ``We’ve waited 50 years for this and they lose it when they’re two outs away. It’s driving me nuts.″

Pyles was one of about 2,000 people who braved a steady rain and bone-chilling cold to watch the game on giant TV screens outside at the Nautica entertainment complex in the Flats district, a neighborhood of bars and restaurants.

Bars in the Flats and Gateway neighborhood near Jacobs Field were jammed throughout the marathon game that lasted into early Monday morning.

For most watching in this city of a half-million, it was an emotionally exhausting experience.

The mood was festive as the Indians entered the bottom of the ninth inning ahead 2-1. But things changed when Florida’s Craig Counsell drove a sacrifice fly to deep right field, scoring Moises Alou to tie it.

At Pete & Dewey’s, just beyond the center field fence of Jacobs Field, many in the standing room crowd put their heads in their hands.

Other walked in circles, stunned in disbelief. Some cursed. At Nautica, the once rowdy crowd went completely silent.

The disbelief soon turned to despair when Edgar Renteria singled in Counsell to win the game for Florida.

``Oh God!″ cried a fan at Pete & Dewey’s.

``Another year!″ yelled another.

Others just wept.

The fans at Nautica, soaked and tired, picked up their belongings and headed home.

``We were so close _ it was awful,″ said Kim Turan.

``It seems the city of Cleveland can’t get a break,″ said Joan Hinkle.

No Cleveland sports team has won a major title since the 1964 Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship.

Still, as they trudged home disappointed, Cleveland fans were already beginning to forgive the Indians.

``I felt really bad for them,″ said Michelle Jagielo. ``They should have won, but we’re proud of them.″

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