Steve Bartman goes from fan to fiend in record time
Fair to say that if the Chicago Cubs had not won their long-sought after and painfully desired World Series title last season, we would not be here today discussing the final chapter in the tale of Steve Bartman. How an entire city and even certain members of the organization turned on one loyal fan for what was nothing more than a spontaneous moment of joy.
October 14, 2003 Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. The Chicago Cubs were 5 outs away from possibly winning the series and advancing to their first World Series since 1945. One foul ball. One fan doing what billions of fans have done over the years, seeking to snare that major league foul ball for the trophy case back home.
One moment that destroyed one man’s life, and that of his friends and family, for more than a decade.
The Bartman Backlash
We’re not going to go deep into the discussion here about what happened after that moment. If you don’t already know the story, take the time to read, watch and digest the hateful and despicable manner Bartman was treated by fans, the press corps, the radio show gasbag babblers and all the rest. Steve Bartman’s life was ruined despite the fact that he did nothing wrong. Watch the play as many times as you would like, and the result is the same. Umpire Mike Everitt made the right call. The ball was technically in the stands. It did indeed break the plane of the stands and the playing field. Even announcer Thom Brennaman on FOX called it correctly as a ball that went into the stands. Bartman did not lean over into the playing field. Cubs OF Moises Alou whined and pouted like a 10 year old and did nothing to help the situation. It enraged Cubs fans everywhere. Bartman was identified by the local news corps, and he never went back to Wrigley Field again.
That’s because following the incident, the Cubs pitching staff collapsed, the Florida Marlins scored 8 runs, and they went on to win the game, tying the series. Florida scored 9 runs the next night and won the Series, advancing to the World Series they would win 4-2 over the NY Yankees.
The Cubs had another chance to recover, and they failed. Plain and simple. Don’t get me started on how great teams overcome great adversity. We’ll be here for hours.
The Cubs, their players, front office and fans could all look to next year. Not Bartman. The man became a pariah who couldn’t go out in public, had to live in hiding, and received more than a few death threats. All because of a foul ball in a baseball game.
I hosted a nationally syndicated sports radio show at the time, and took my share of hits from fans I called out and verbally tore into. It never seemed right to me that one man should suffer such abuse just for being a fan.
Winning a World Series changes everything
The Cubs are now no longer the lovable losers of old, having finally cast aside their years of “bad luck” winning the World Series in 2016. So in what has to be viewed as a classy move, they are seeking to finally close this open wound after 14 years by awarding Bartman a World Series ring.
The man damn sure earned it.
Bartman has never given a single interview about what happened, trying desperately to sink into the background and just live a normal life. His statement after being told the news was one of humble thanks, but also one that had a message which hopefully won’t get lost in the shuffle of righting a terrible wrong.
Don’t miss the part where he writes “My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.”
A Lesson in Respect and Integrity
Steve Bartman never lashed out at anyone for what happened that day and in the years that followed. He never sought out an interview to rail against the team, the players or the fans. He lived and to this day lives his life in quiet dignity and with a level of integrity we can all only hope to one day achieve in our personal and professional lives.
Could the Cubs have made a gesture earlier than 14 years later? Could or should they have made a greater effort at the time it happened to tamp it down? And should players such as Moises Alou and the myriad of announcers and talk show hacks who hammered away at Bartman over the years had the decency and grace to understand this is A GAME? It is not life and death.
HERE’S THE TAKEAWAY
The answers are for you to decide. But this much is evident.
Bartman is a class act for the manner in which he handled this for so many years. The Cubs are to be lauded for reaching out and going to an extraordinary length to try and put this issue to rest. Of course, it will always be remembered and always be a part of Cubs and sports lore.
Good. Let that moment and this one teach us about integrity, a level of leadership, and our personal and professional image. Sometimes we have to endure a level of hardship we could never conceive, all because of something so innocent.
And it’s then up to us to show who we really are deep inside, and provide an example for others.
Well played, Steve Bartman. Well played, Chicago Cubs.