Bejeweling an Infamous Hand, Cubs Give Steve Bartman a …
“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,” the team said. “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.”
In his own statement, Bartman said, “Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful.” He added that he was “relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.”
And in the most pointed part of his statement, Bartman said he hoped that “we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating.”
Bartman was seated in the front row in foul territory in left field for Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series when he accidentally collided with the team he had long rooted for.
It all descended on him in the top of the eighth inning, with the Cubs ahead, 3-0, and needing just five more outs to make it to the World Series for the first time in 58 years.
Then Luis Castillo of the Marlins hit a pitch from the Cubs’ Mark Prior that rose high in the air and fell right toward Bartman, who was wearing a Cubs hat and had headphones on, presumably because he was listening to a broadcast of the game.
The Cubs’ left fielder, Moises Alou, raced over to the stands and seemed to have a good chance to snare the ball for the second out of the inning. But before he could, Bartman instinctively reached for the ball himself and got in Alou’s way. Instead of an out, Castillo’s pop-up was merely a foul ball.
Chaos quickly ensued. Castillo walked, and two batters later, Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez muffed a potential double-play grounder. By the time the top of the eighth was over, the Marlins had scored eight runs and put the game away.
As enraged fans turned on Bartman, he had to be escorted from his seat by security personnel and then out of the park.
Had the Cubs then rallied to win Game 7, all might have been quickly forgiven. But they didn’t, and Bartman instead found himself one of the most reviled fans in the history of baseball. It didn’t matter that many fans have always done exactly what Bartman did that night — reach for a foul ball that a player on the home team is trying to catch. Bartman had become a scapegoat in boldface.
But no longer. Resentment toward Bartman probably diminished somewhat over time, and the World Series victory in 2016 washed what was left of it away.
And on Monday, in and around Wrigley Field, Cubs fans seemed happy to hear that Bartman now had a World Series ring of his own, and suggested that it had actually taken too long for such a gesture to take place.
“I think it’s overdue, frankly,” said Tom Schaeffer, a longtime Cubs fan from Columbus, Ohio, who was posing for a picture next to the Ernie Banks statue outside the ballpark. “I think he suffered more than he deserved.”
Lindy Lindquist, a Cubs fan from Chicago, said, “I wish the closure would have happened before the World Series — not after it — but at least something is being done.”
And then there was the reaction from Scott Simon, a native Chicagoan who is the host of “Weekend Edition Saturday” on National Public Radio and whose sentiments are evident in the title of his new book, “My Cubs: A Love Story.”
In a telephone interview, Scott said the decision to give Bartman a ring made him feel as proud as he did when the Cubs won the Series last fall. Or even prouder, he added.
“Cubs fans have been waiting for a moment like this,” he said. “Just to put their arms around the guy one way or another and say: ‘It could have been any of us; it just happened to be you. And we’re sorry for what happened to you.’”
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