I feel so bad for this poor bastard. I really do.
Thirteen years ago, a diehard Cubs fan went to Wrigley Field, hoping to see his beloved team go to the World Series for the first time since 1945. The Cubs held a 3-2 lead in the NLCS over the Marlins, and were protecting a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning of Game 6 when Steve Bartman’s life changed forever. Luis Castillo hit a pop up along the left field line, which tailed foul, then went in and out of the hands of Bartman. The ball only went in and out of his hands, because he put them there. Sure, other fans reached for the ball, too, and I think it’s unfair that we only know Bartman’s name when others were guilty of doing the same thing, but I think the whole thing in general is unfair.
The Cubs blew that game, and even had a Game 7 to redeem themselves after choking in Game 6, but they didn’t. The Marlins went on to win the National League pennant and the World Series that year, and the Cubs haven’t sniffed a chance at the World Series until this year when they finally made it for the first time in 71 years. Bartman became the scapegoat, received death threats, and had to be protected by police outside of his house. He’s basically gone off the grid, and into the witness protection program, without actually going into the witness protection program. It was insane. You know who else thinks that whole situation was ridiculous? Indians second baseman, Jason Kipnis, who grew up down the street from Steve Bartman.
In a sick plot twist, Kipnis grew up a diehard Cubs fan, and now he must try to stop them from winning the World Series title that he would’ve given his right arm to witness as a teenager. Kipnis says that won’t interfere with his focus in the series. And why would it? He’s an adult now, and he’s a professional. It wouldn’t make sense to prefer your childhood favorite team to beat you in the World Series. The boyhood dream is to win the World Series.
In the end, that’s all Bartman wanted for the Cubs, too. Should he have known better than to reach for a ball that was playable for Moises Alou? Absolutely. But it’s a reactionary thing. I get it. However, this poor guy doesn’t even use credit cards anymore, because he doesn’t want to be recognized, or be found by angry Cubs fans or media. Since the incident, he’s done zero interviews, zero appearances, and in this day and age where social media strips away everybody’s privacy, he still hasn’t been seen even in that form.
Bartman has more or less disappeared since that fateful night, turning down numerous offers to cash in on his infamy. According to CNN, one hotel company offered him a six-week Florida vacation; Bartman instead asked for gift certificates, which he donated to charity.
Kipnis thinks that now that the Cubs have finally reached the World Series, this would be the perfect time for Bartman to resurface.
If it were up to Kipnis, he would have Bartman throw out one of ceremonial first pitches at Wrigley Field. If he needed a ticket, he would leave him on the pass list. If he saw him again in person, he would hug him.
“He didn’t deserve all of that,” says Kipnis. “He’s a very loyal fan, who wanted a foul ball, and the way the events turned, made him into a scapegoat.
“If he threw out a first pitch, I think everyone would go nuts.’’
It’d be one of the all-time great sports moments. Not just for the Cubs. Not just for baseball. We’re talking all sports, and an all-time great moment if Steve Bartman returned to a roaring crowd at Wrigley Field before a World Series game. It’s a moment that I don’t think we’re ever going to see, unfortunately.
“Steve is cheering for the Cubs and continues to be a Cubs fan. He just wants everybody, moving forward, to respect his privacy and let his life continue to unfold as the grand plan has it. Unimpeded by things that … have been blown out of proportion,” said Frank Murtha, the family friend who has acted as Bartman’s agent, spokesman and gatekeeper these past 13 years. “I think that’s the one message. It’s not necessarily a new one.”
Guy just wants to be left alone. Can you blame him? I can’t even imagine how traumatizing it must be to have been an everyday normal guy, who becomes the most hated man in a city, which happens to have one of the highest crime rates in the country, and to have needed police protection outside of his home because of a foul ball. Bartman is a guy who just loved the Cubs, and then became despised by the entire fan base, and the butt end of every joke about the team’s failures for over a decade, even though he was never to blame to begin with.
If the Cubs invited Bartman back to throw out a first pitch in the World Series, I think it’d be an amazing moment that would transcend sports, given its human element. But that’s thinking as a selfish baseball fan. If I’m putting myself in Bartman’s shoes, I’m politely declining the Cubs’ offer and thanking them for the opportunity, but then telling Cubs fans to go fuck themselves for their treatment of a guy who was only ever guilty of loving the Cubs.