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The Steve Bartman incident occurred during a playoff baseball game on October 14, 2003 when several spectators, including Steve Bartman, attempted to catch a foul ball in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.[1] The fans, Bartman being singled out among them, purportedly prevented Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou from catching the ball for an out. The incident was seen as a turning point in the series; at the time, the Cubs were five outs from clinching the National League pennant. The Cubs relinquished the lead, lost the game and were eliminated in the seventh game.

Steve BartmanEdit

Steve Bartman grew up in Northbrook, Illinois. His childhood home was located right next to a baseball field, where his father hit balls for Bartman and his friends. Bartman attended Notre Dame High School for Boys in Niles, Illinois and played varsity baseball while participating in theater and community service. He graduated from high school in 1995 and attended the University of Notre Dame. At the time of the incident, he was 26 years old and working at Hewitt Associates, a business process offshoring firm.[2]

Outside of work, Bartman served as a part-time coach for the Renegades, a team for 13- and 14-year olds based in Niles, Illinois. Bartman had played for the Renegades in 1992, when the team went 47-10 and won the Palatine League championship.[3] He was also an avid Cubs fan; in the past, he had traveled to Mesa, Arizona to view the Cubs' spring training.[4]

Foul ball incidentEdit

At the time of the incident, Mark Prior was pitching a three-hit shutout for the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning. Luis Castillo was at bat with one out and teammate Juan Pierre on second base. The Chicago Cubs led the game 3-0, holding a series lead of 3-2. They were five outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945 and attempting to win it for the first time since 1908.[5]

Bartman was sitting in the front row along the left field corner wall behind the bullpen when a pop foul off the bat of Castillo drifted toward his seat. Cubs left fielder Moisés Alou approached the seats, jumped, and reached into the crowd. Bartman and nearby fans also attempted to catch the ball, deflecting it away. Alou slammed his glove down in frustration and was seen shouting at several fans. The Cubs argued for interference, but umpire Mike Everitt ruled there was no fan interference because the ball was in the stands and not in the field of play.[6]

On Fox, Thom Brennaman called the play this way:[7]

Again in the air, down the left field line. Alou reaching into the stands and couldn't get it and is livid with a fan.[7]

The aftermathEdit

For the Chicago Cubs and Florida MarlinsEdit

Following the incident the Marlins scored eight runs, six of them unearned:[8]

  • Castillo, with his at-bat extended, drew a walk. Ball four was a wild pitch from Cubs starter Mark Prior, which allowed Pierre to advance to third base.
  • Iván Rodríguez singled to drive in the first run of the inning, making the score 3-1.
  • Miguel Cabrera hit a ground ball to Alex S. Gonzalez, who misfielded the ball. Had Gonzalez fielded the ball properly, the Cubs could have ended the half-inning with a double play. Instead all runners were safe and the bases were loaded.
  • Derrek Lee doubled, tying the score and chasing Prior from the game.
  • Relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth issued an intentional walk, then gave up a sacrifice fly to give Florida a 4-3 lead. Another intentional walk again loaded the bases.
  • A bases-clearing double from Mike Mordecai broke the game open, making the score 7-3.
  • Pierre singled to put Florida ahead 8-3.
  • Finally Luis Castillo, whose foul popup initiated the controversy, popped out to second to end the inning. In total, the Marlins had sent twelve batters to the plate and scored eight runs. Florida won the game 8-3.

The next night, back at Wrigley Field, Florida overcame Kerry Wood and a 5-3 deficit to win 9-6, and win the pennant.[9] The Marlins would go on to win the 2003 World Series, beating the New York Yankees four games to two.[10]

The Cubs have not won a playoff game since the incident. They missed the playoffs in the following three seasons, were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 NLDS, and were swept again by the NL West champions LA Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS.

For BartmanEdit

Bartman had to be led away from the park under security escort for his own safety as Cubs fans shouted profanities towards him and others threw debris onto the field and towards the exit tunnel from the field. News footage of the game showed him surrounded by security as passersby pelted him with drinks and other debris. Bartman's name, as well as personal information about him, appeared on Major League Baseball's online message boards minutes after the game ended.[11] As many as six police cars gathered outside of his home to protect Bartman and his family following the incident.[3] Afterwards, then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested that Bartman join a witness protection program, while then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered Bartman asylum.[1] Many fans associated the Bartman incident with the Curse of the Billy Goat, allegedly laid on the Cubs during the 1945 World Series after Billy Sianis and his pet goat were ejected from Wrigley Field. The Cubs lost that series and have yet to return to the championship round.[1] Bartman was also compared to the black cat which ran across Shea Stadium during a September 9, 1969 regular season game between the Cubs and the New York Mets. The Cubs were in first place at the time, but after the cat appeared, the Cubs lost the game and eventually fell eight games behind the Mets in the standings, missing that season's playoffs entirely.[12]

Shortly after the incident, Bartman released a statement, saying he was "truly sorry." He added, "I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moisés Alou much less that he may have had a play."[3] Trying to maintain a low profile, Bartman declined interviews, endorsement deals, and requests for public appearances, and his family changed their phone number to avoid harassing phone calls.[13] He requested that any gifts sent to him by Florida Marlins fans be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.[14] In July 2008, Bartman was offered $25,000 to autograph a picture of himself at National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont, Illinois, but he refused the offer.[15]

Defense of BartmanEdit

After the incident, the Chicago Cubs issued the following press release:[16]

The Chicago Cubs would like to thank our fans for their tremendous outpouring of support this year. We are very grateful.

We would also like to remind everyone that games are decided by what happens on the playing field — not in the stands. It is inaccurate and unfair to suggest that an individual fan is responsible for the events that transpired in Game 6. He did what every fan who comes to the ballpark tries to do — catch a foul ball in the stands. That's one of the things that makes baseball the special sport that it is.

This was an exciting season and we're looking forward to working towards an extended run of October baseball at Wrigley Field.

Several Cubs players publicly absolved Bartman of blame. Mark Prior said, "We had chances to get out of that situation. I hung an 0-2 curveball to [Ivan] Rodriguez that he hit for a single. Alex Gonzalez, who's a sure thing almost at shortstop, the ball came up on him ... and things just snowballed. Everybody in the clubhouse and management knows that play is not the reason we lost the game."[17] Former Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe said that the crowd's reactions to Bartman "crushed [him]". "Right after I saw what happened with the fan, I woke up the next morning and told my wife that if the Cubs asked me to throw out the first pitch in the World Series, I was going to take that fan out to the mound with me," he said.[18] Baseball commissioner Bud Selig also came to Bartman's defense, telling an interviewer, "[W]hile I understand that people felt so strongly and that their hearts were just breaking, to blame this young man, who is the most devoted Cub fan ... it's just unfair. When I read his statement, it broke my heart.... If you want to blame the Curse of the Bambino and the goat in Chicago or a series of other things, that's fine. But blaming Steve Bartman is just not right."[19]

Several of Bartman's friends and family members spoke out in the days following the incident. His father told the Chicago Sun-Times, "He's a huge Cubs fan. I'm sure I taught him well. I taught him to catch foul balls when they come near him." A neighbor added, "He's a good kid, a wonderful son, never in any trouble. I don't think he should be blamed at all. People reach for balls. This just happened to be a little more critical. If Florida didn't score all the runs, you wouldn't be standing here."[3] One of Bartman's high school friends wrote to the Chicago Tribune, saying, "He was the kind of person you wanted to be around–funny, yet sincere, and always looking out for his friends. It's been years since I've seen Steve, but I know that he never, ever would do anything to intentionally hurt anybody."[20] Five days after the game, a group of 13- and 14-year-old baseball players whom Bartman had coached held a rally for Bartman in a park in Northbrook. One boy called him "a great coach, a great person and a great role model". Another remarked that "the foul ball had nothing to do with the rest of the game".[21]

Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti wrote, "A fan in that situation should try his best to get out of the way, even if he isn't of the mind to see Alou approaching, as Bartman claims. Still, he's also a human being who was reacting in a tense, unusual moment. And the resulting verbal abuse and trash-hurling, followed by the Neanderthal threats and creepy reaction on the Internet, hasn't reflected well on Chicago's sports culture. As it is, everyone thinks the prototypical local fans are those mopes from the Superfans skits on Saturday Night Live."[17]

Five years later: Moisés AlouEdit

In April 2008, Moisés Alou was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "You know what the funny thing is? I wouldn't have caught it, anyway."[22] However, Alou later disputed that story. "I don't remember that", he said to a writer from the Palm Beach Post. "If I said that, I was probably joking to make [Bartman] feel better. But I don't remember saying that.'[23] Alou added, "It's time to forgive the guy and move on."[24]

Destruction of the Bartman ballEdit

The loose ball was snatched up by a Chicago lawyer and sold at an auction in December 2003. Grant DePorter purchased it for $113,824.16 on behalf of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group. On February 26, 2004, it was publicly detonated by Academy Award winning special effects expert Michael Lantieri.[25][26]

In 2005, the remains of the ball were used by the restaurant in a drink. While no part of the ball itself was in the drink, the ball was boiled and the steam captured, distilled, and added to the final concoction. [27]

The Bartman seatEdit

In the intervening years since the incident, the Bartman seat (Aisle 4, Row 8, Seat 113) has become a tourist attraction at Wrigley Field. Fans often take pictures of each other sitting in it, and it is frequently covered with Cubs stickers.[28]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "BBC article Baseball fan feels Chicago's fury". BBC News. October 17,2003. Retrieved on July 9, 2008.
  2. Lapointe, Joe. "As Cubs Appear in Playoffs, One Fan Is Not to Be Found".The New York Times. October 3, 2007.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Annie Sweeney, et al. "Infamous fan: I'm truly sorry". Chicago Sun-Times. October 16, 2003. 9.
  4. Natasha Korecki and Bob Susnjara. "Day of infamy for sorry fan with foul reach".The Daily Herald. October 16, 2003. 9.
  5. Mike Kiley. " Stunned Prior : 'I gave it everything I possibly had'". Chicago Sun-Times. October 15,2003.
  6. Lisa Olson. "Fan latest goat in historic hex". New York Daily News. October 15, 2003. 65.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Fox Broadcast of Game 6, October 14, 2003
  8. Box score and play-by-play of the "Bartman Game". Retrosheet.org. Retrieved on July 9, 2008.
  9. Toni Ginnetti. "Wood gives it his all but gets little help". Chicago Sun-Times. October 16, 2003. 6.
  10. Chris De Luca. "Marlins on top of the World - Series title belongs to Beckett, Florida after gem in Game 6". Chicago Sun-Times. October 26,2003. 128.
  11. Jay Mariotti. "Damage can't be undone - Alou's remorse over Bartman incident a case of too little, too late". Chicago Sun-Times. April 2, 2008. 78.
  12. Jay Mariotti. "KARMA Prior, Cubs have it bad". Chicago Sun-Times. May 29, 2005. 134.
  13. Jimmy Greenfield and Kathryn Masterson. "Bartman today; four months later, Cubs fan trying to lead a normal life". RedEye. February 26, 2004. 6.
  14. Michael Sneed. "$113,824 will help put foul ball out of its misery". Chicago Sun-Times. December 20, 2003. 3.
  15. "What's price of a Bartman autograph? It's not $25k". San Diego Union-Tribune. July 25, 2008. Retrieved on July 28, 2008.
  16. "Cubs thank their fans". cubs.com. October 17, 2003. Retrieved on July 9, 2008.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Jay Mariotti. "Time for fan to reach out, have say". Chicago Sun-Times. October 28, 2003. 110.
  18. Chris De Luca. "Sutcliffe disgusted by how fans reacted in Bartman fiasco". Chicago Sun-Times. October 22, 2003. 147.
  19. Fred Mitchell. "Major League Baseball's commissioner commiserates with forlorn Cubs fans, consoles the vilified Wrigley Field foul ball fan and reflects on the All-Star Game". Chicago Tribune. October 28, 2003. 2.
  20. Jocelyn DeLaurelle. "Defense of a friend". Chicago Tribune. October 17,2003. 36.
  21. Dave Newbart. "To baseball team members, Coach Bartman did no wrong". Chicago Sun-Times. October 19, 2003. 17.
  22. "Alou says he wouldn't have caught Bartman ball in 2003 NLCS". ESPN News Wire. ESPN.com. April 1, 2008. Retrieved on July 9, 2008.
  23. "Report: Alou says he would have caught Bartman ball". ESPN News Wire. ESPN.com. June 3, 2008. Retrieved on December 27, 2008.
  24. Joe Capozzi. "Marlins notebook: Moisés Alou sticks to his original 'Bartman' story". Palm Beach Post. May 28, 2008. Retrieved on July 9, 2008.
  25. Fran Spielman, et al. "'It's going to be like a firecracker' - Signs point to ball's explosion, but owners mum on the method". Chicago Sun-Times. February 25, 2004. 16
  26. Lucio Guerrero. "Mission accomplished for special effects man - Oscar winner drills, stuffs, electrifies for good show". Chicago Sun-Times. February 27, 2004. 13.
  27. Jon Greenberg. "'Cursed' ball simmers in Chicago'". MLB.com. February 21, 2005. June 29, 2008
  28. Pat Sullivan. "Special views at a special place". Chicago Tribune. March 26, 2006. 12.

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