Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series was heartbreaking for all of Wrigley Field and Chicago, but it ruined the life of one man in particular. Steve Bartman, the hapless chap who attempted to catch a foul ball with one out in the top of the 8th, was forever vilified for doing something every fan does. Bartman attempted to grab a foul ball and inadvertently disrupted a potential catch by Cubs LF Moises Alou. The Cubs folded drastically after, blowing a three run lead to lose the game 8-3. They eventually lost the series to the then-Florida Marlins in 7 games after being five outs away from the Pennant.
Despite the numerous factors that led to the Cubbies blowing it, fans blamed Bartman for the loss and he had to be escorted from Wrigley by security after the game and he even had to placed in police protection for a period. Though the Cubs themselves, Commissioner Bud Selig and numerous other MLB figures defended Bartman, the man’s life was forever ruined and he has become synonymous with the misfortunes of the Lovable Losers.
Now the misery is at last over for Cubs fans. When Michael Martinez grounded out to Kris Bryant to end the marathon seventh game of the 2016 World Series, the Cubs finally achieved their salvation. The victory means that Cubs fans can celebrate like they haven’t in 108 years and those of them that never saw a World Championship in their lifetimes can rest in peace.
But, what about Bartman? Can the past at last be put away for him as well?
Steve Bartman has hardly been spotted in public at all since that fateful night (certainly understandable on his part). He hasn’t granted interview requests to anyone, not even ESPN when it was producing Catching Hell, a 30 for 30 film that analyzed how ridiculous scapegoating him was.
And who can blame him? Millions of fans in the history of MLB have gone to a game and attempted to get a foul ball souvenir. Even if the ball Bartman deflected was still playable, any other fan would have done exactly as he did. He was simply in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Cubs fans needed a target to take out their anger and heartbreak on, and Bartman was the easy choice. The incident turned him into a pariah in Chicago and he has essentially had to live his life in hiding ever since.
On Friday a Chicago-area resident submitted a letter to The Chicago Tribune apologizing for the role he played in scapegoating Bartman and called for all Cubs fans to do the same, and they all should. The man suggested that Cubs ownership should host “Steve Bartman Day”, which sounds like a great thing to do. There is of course the old saying “time heals all wounds”, but that shouldn’t cut it in this case.
Bartman did not attend the sea of humanity that was the Cubs victory parade on Friday. He was ecstatic for his team, but stayed away out of respect for them.
“He did not want to be a distraction to the accomplishments of the players and the organization,” Bartman’s lawyer Frank Murtha said to ESPN.
I agree wholeheartedly with the idea put forth in the letter. Cubs fans need to say they are sorry to the man whose life they ruined and the Cubs need to allow it to happen. Bartman has hidden pretty well over the years, but maybe just maybe he will oblidge if the Cubs themselves make the gesture. Have a celebration of him or have him throw out the first pitch on Opening Day next season. Either way, it will allow all of Chicago the chance to have closure and Bartman to finally get on with his life.
Make it happen, Chicago Cubs.