October 14th, 2003. I had just turned 11 years old and just weeks prior had vacated all allegiances in the great Yankees/Mets schism of the Rutherford household.
I fell in love with Prior/Wood/Zambrano three-headed monster of the Chicago Cubs that postseason and would endure a heartbreak that I was not yet prepared to understand.
I sat Indian style on my living room floor as the Cubs lead was 3-0 against the then Florida Marlins in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the NLCS. Six outs away from the World Series. Six.
Mike Mordecai would fly out to left to open the inning in a game in which Mark Prior had dominated and looked poised to continue to do so. Now five outs away. Five.
Juan Pierre would hit a double in the next at bat. Still five outs away. Then on the 8th pitch of the following at bat, Luis Castillo hit a ball down the left field line where this happened:
Steve Bartman did what every fan would do, he reached for a foul ball. And I thought nothing of it. Moises Alou slammed his glove in anger and yelled as dip spit flew from his mouth. A tough break I thought, but the Cubs, now my Cubs, were still five outs away with a 3-run lead.
Then the team would collapse. The Marlins would score 8 runs in the inning and go on to win the series in 7 games, which at the time extended the Cubs historic championship drought to 95 years.
It would take another 13 years, countless articles, and an ESPN 30 for 30 Catching Hell detailing Bartman’s infamous moment and his treatment as Chicago’s greatest scapegoat, surpassing the goat and the black cat that represented the curses of yesteryear, before Cubs fan would finally have peace.
The Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series and arguably the greatest baseball game of all time in Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians and finally Steve Bartman could breath easy.
The imaginary hand that was clenched around his windpipe in the form of a bitter baseball fanbase was relinquished.
And on July 31st, 2017, 271 days after the Cubs won the World Series and 5,039 days after the “Bartman Incident,” Steve Bartman would be awarded his very own Championship Ring:
The team released a statement via WGN-TV:
“We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization.”
After the 2003 NLCS, Steve Bartman, a youth league baseball coach and financial consultant, disappeared. He declined all media opportunities and became a ghost in the city he loved and a silent fan of the team he loved he even more.
“Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring.
I am fully aware of the historical significance and
appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations.
Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organization and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.”
After the Cubs won the 2016 NLCS and finally made their way back to the World Series, after a 71-year drought, I wrote about how it was time for fans to face their fears, none of which were on the field and all of which were excuses manifested in the form of a billy goat, a black cat, and a Bartman.
We all had the opportunity to move on and bask in the triumph of the 2016 Chicago Cubs and the most unforgettable season ever played and now I’m just glad that Steve Bartman, a victim of scapegoating of the grandest sort, gets to do the same.
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