October 14, 2003. The Chicago Cubs are playing the Florida Marlins in Game 6 of the NLCS with only 5 outs to go before the Cubs make it to the World Series for the first time since 1945. Although the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 the first step is getting there. The Cubs were winning 3-0 in the 8th inning and were ahead in the series 3 games to 2 and everything seemed to be going as planned for the Cubbies and their fans… until that fateful foul ball that changed 1 man’s life forever.
Steve Bartman was sitting along the wall in left field with a couple of his friends, all of whom were excited to see the Cubs head to the World Series. He had spent the entire game trying to get on TV, but little did he know that he would get more than he bargained for. With 1 out in the 8th inning Luis Castillo hit a foul ball that hugged the left field wall until it reached the area that Bartman was sitting. He, along with 4-5 other people around him, kept his eye on the ball hoping to score a valuable souvenir. Little did any of them know, but Moises Alou was in a position to catch the foul ball and bring the Cubs 1 out closer to a trip to the World Series. As the ball and Alou approached the seats, Steve Bartman reached his hand out near the edge of the fence and deflected it away from both himself and Moises Alou causing Alou to become frustrated and ultimately rile up the crowd.
It didn’t seem like too many people laid the blame on Bartman until the Cubs started to fall apart and the media pointed the finger. The Marlins scored 8 runs that inning after the Bartman play, but the Cubs had a chance to get out of the inning unscathed. Alex Gonzalez missed a routine ground ball that would have been a double play to end the inning… but nobody remembers that, all they remember is Bartman.
ESPN ran a documentary this week called “Catching Hell” that documented the Bartman incident. I thought the documentary was very well done although it probably spent more time talking about Bill Buckner and his 1986 World Series incident than it did Bartman’s incident. I’m not sure if this was because Bartman wouldn’t talk to the cameras and Buckner would or if it’s because now that Boston has won a World Series since the Buckner incident, all has been forgiven. Either way I’m glad to see that people are starting to move on and forget about Bartman and realize how ridiculous it was/is to blame him for what happened in Game 6. Of course people aren’t going to forget it and it will go down as part of Cubs history, but ultimately it was the players that lost the series and not Bartman. Twitter was abuzz with people sympathizing with Bartman last night as the documentary was airing which is exactly what I was hoping for when I searched his name. I don’t think I saw one negative thing said regarding Bartman or the documentary which I hope makes people realize that you can’t lay the blame on one guy, especially a fan. Hell, I don’t even think anyone should be able to lay blame on Buckner for what happened in the ’86 World Series either. Nobody remembers the plays that happened before the Buckner play that lead to the Mets winning that game (which was also Game 6). Nobody remembers the wild pitch that brought in the tying run of that game and nobody remembers game 7, just like in Chicago. Buckner seems to have been forgiven by fans as he through out the first pitch at the Red Sox home opener in 2008 after the Red Sox won their 2nd World Series that decade. This is exactly what should happen with Bartman. When the Cubs win the World Series, if Steve Bartman is still alive he should be the first person the Cubs call to throw out the opening pitch the following season. It’s up to him if he declines, but he should be publicly forgiven for all of the shit he’s gone through over the years.
Any fan in that position would have done the exact same thing. You can say that you would have backed off and let Alou catch the ball, but if a foul ball is coming straight at you, you know you’d be staring up at the ball just hoping that it ends up in your hands and not the guy next to you. So for anyone that still believes that Bartman lost that game for the Cubs or that he deserved any of the shit he’s gotten over the years, put yourself in his shoes, how would you have felt if it was your face and name that was plastered all over the news. How would you have felt if you had to live in fear of death threats from idiotic Cub fans. How would you have felt if your whole world was flipped upside down just because you did what anyone else in your position would do. This guy has turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars in appearance fees just because he wants to forget it ever happened and hopefully this documentary brings his good heart to light.
Now we just need the Cubs to actually play well and maybe we can just forget about this whole thing once and for all.