WGN is reporting that Steve Bartman — the fan made infamous when he interfered with a foul ball during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS — is receiving an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring as a special gift from the Ricketts family and the Cubs organization.
Both Tom Ricketts, the Cubs owner, and Bartman, have given WGN a statement. Here’s Ricketts:
“On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman. 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 all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today.”
Bartman’s statement was long — it’s printed in its totality at WGN — but it begins thusly:
“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 . . . I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.”
We all know the story of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, which began with the Cubs leading the series 3-2 and needing only one win in two games at home to go to the World Series. Bartman, like many other fans in his section that night and like countless other fans at countless other baseball games before and since, went for a foul ball coming his way. The fielder — Moises Alou — probably had a chance to catch it (I say “probably” because Alou himself has changed his stance at that on numerous occasions over the past 14 years). Either way, the ball was not caught, the Florida Marlins mounted a huge eighth inning rally, went on to win Game 7 and, eventually, the World Series.
The game was played on a Tuesday night. It became known forever as “the Steve Bartman Game” before the sun rose on Wednesday morning. It could’ve been called “The Mike Everitt Game” after the umpire who didn’t call fan interference on the play. It could’ve been called “The Alex Gonzalez Game” after the would-be inning-ending double play the Cubs shortstop booted, prolonging the Marlins’ rally. Or “The Mark Prior Game” for Prior’s subsequent walk of Luis Castillo or “The Dusty Baker Game” for Baker leaving Prior in too long. When a team blows a huge lead in fantastic fashion they NEVER blame it on one single player or one single play, but the entire 2003 NLCS and the Cubs’ subsequent struggles after that have always, to greater or lesser degrees, been hung on Bartman.
That — and Bartman’s forced exile, which was occasioned by threats and his very public pillorying — has always been a shame. He messed up, but he never deserved the scorn he got. Nor the constant lazy references to that night back in 2003 whenever someone wanted to get a quick yuk or to sum up the Cubs various misfortunes. Past owners, GMs and managers never got the kind of guff Bartman got despite their far greater responsibility for the Cubs’ pre-2016 futility.
Now, at last, that all seems to be ending. It’s a shame that it took the Cubs winning a World Series for them and others to come around on Bartman, but I suppose it probably doesn’t matter anymore. That history, finally, is being condemned to history.