Sport, in some way, affects the lives of most people around the globe. Be it the players, officials, administrators, corporates, media or the fans, sport tends to affect everyone in their own unique way. Very few though have been affected in the way that Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman has been.
Bartman may not have dressed in crazy outfits, he may not have screamed at the top of his voice and he may not have shown the raw emotion that others do, however on the inside, he was as passionate a fan as you’ll ever find. He love the Cubs more than anyone – This is what makes his story so upsetting.
The Steve Bartman story revolved around an incident which occurred during a Major League Baseball playoff game between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins, on October 14 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The incident, which in its entirety lasted less than 10 seconds, changed his life… And the lives of millions of people all around the globe.
In the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, with his beloved Cubs ahead 3–0 and holding a 3-2 lead in the best of 7 series, Bartman made what will probably prove to be the biggest mistake of his life.
As the Marlins' second baseman Luis Castillo struck a foul ball into the stands, several spectators attempted to catch the ball – As so often happens in MLB. It’s what most die-hard fans dream of, being the 1 of 50,000+ fans to catch a foul ball at the baseball. One of these fans was Steve Bartman, who had no idea of the cruel fate which awaited him
completely unaware of Cubs outfielder Moises’ Alou who was closing in on a remarkable catch, Bartman reached for the ball and deflected it away from Alou. In the process, he prevented a potential catch and a crucial second out of the inning.
On Fox, Thom Brennaman called the play this way:
“Again in the air, down the left field line. Alou reaching into the stands and couldn't get it! He is livid with a fan!”
Had Alou caught the ball, the Cubs would have been just four outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945, whilst attempting to win it for the first time since 1908. Instead, they still needed five more outs – Five more outs which in a cruel twist of fate, never occurred.
After an initial outburst from Alou, where he slammed his glove down in frustration and singled out Bartman in the stands, play resumed. However the momentum had changed and the Cubs ended up surrendering eight runs in the inning, comfortably giving up the lead.
Bartman remained seated as the camera continuously panned live shots of him between multiple replays of the foul ball. The somber image of Bartman wearing a Cubs baseball cap, glasses, headset, and green turtleneck shirt became memorable.
The Cubs went on to lose the game and in the aftermath, Bartman had to be escorted from the stadium by security guards in fear for his life. His fellow Cubs fans shouted insults towards him whilst others threw debris his way. One fan even dumped a cup of beer on him. News footage was constantly on replay, the whole time showing him surrounded by security as passersby pelted him with drinks and other debris.
Despite the drama, the reality was that the series was still alive. Bartman, more than any Cubs fans, was praying his side won Game 7 the following day and all would be forgiven… However it wasn’t to be. The dream was over and where did the blame lay? With Steve Bartman.
The media went absolutely nuts, claiming the “Steve Bartman incident" was seen as the turning point of the series.
His life would never be the same, as his name and address were made public on numerous MLB message boards and forums. The severity of the situation became so bad that he received police protection for many weeks after the series and was too afraid to travel to work. In addition to this, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested that Bartman join a witness protection program, while Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered Bartman asylum.
Things had gotten way out of hand.
To make things worse, just over a week later the Marlins would go on to win the 2003 World Series, beating the New York Yankees 4-2. It truly was the World Series the Cubs were destined to win, but didn’t. The drought would enter a 95th year.
Sadly for the Cubs, and Bartman, they have not won a playoff game since the incident occurred. They did not reach the playoffs in the three subsequent seasons, were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 NLDS, were swept again by the NL West champions LA Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS, and missed the playoffs in 2009, 2010 and 2011. So far in 2012, they have a poor record of 19 & 36 and sit on the bottom of the NL Central table. Once again, they look certain to miss the playoffs.
The drought now looks set enter a record-breaking 104th year.
Footage of the Bartman incident can be found here.
Image courtesy of ESPN