Today’s #TBT sports blog painfully recalls the Windy City’s most infamous sports personality – who just happens to be a baseball fan.
On October 14, 2003, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan named Steve Bartman unwittingly found himself in the national spotlight. His dubious distinction was due to one brief, inglorious moment at Chicago’s famed Wrigley Field.
On that fateful day, Bartman’s Cubs were leading 3 – 0 in the top of the 8th inning against the Florida Marlins. Leading the series 3 – 2, Chicago was just five outs away from capturing the National League pennant.
Then, the unthinkable happened. One swing of the bat changed the destiny of the Cubs’ season and Bartman’s life.
A very catchable foul pop off Marlins’ 2B Luis Castillo’s bat floated down the left field line toward where Bartman was sitting.
With a beat on the ball, Cubs’ LF Moises Alou positioned himself to make the catch and inch his team four outs closer to the club’s first World Series since 1945.
Cubs Fan Steve Bartman Unexpectedly Rises From Seat
Unfortunately, Alou had no idea that loyal Cubs fan Steve Bartman would rise from seat #113, aisle 4 and row 8 to unintentionally interfere with his attempted catch. The result proved disastrous for the Cubs.
The Marlins’ bats became energized when the Cubs OF was unable to corral the foul ball. The Florida team proceeded to score eight unanswered runs, forcing the NLCS deciding Game 7 which the Marlins also won.
Sadly, the Bartman mishap turned legendary. It served as a symbol of the Chicago franchise’s continuing frustrations to seek an ever-elusive World Series Championship – which the team ultimately achieved in 2016.
Baseball fans compared the Bartman bungle to Boston Red Sox Bill Buckner’s booted ground ball in the 1986 World Series which perpetuated the Curse of the Bambino myth.
More than a decade after Bartman’s benign interference, the horrifying memory still resonates deeply with Chicago Cubs fans.
Bartman’s action marked the third egregious event in Chicago baseball history. The first event involved the city’s legendary tale of the 1945 Curse of the Billy Goat.
The second harkened back to the notorious tale of a black cat scampering past Ron Santo in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium. Back then, superstitious Chicago fans believed the appearance of the black cat caused the team’s 1969 epic collapse.
Bartman’s botched attempt yielded him an uncomfortable escort out of the unfriendly atmosphere of The Friendly Confines. He was led out of the stadium under tight security amid taunts, threats and flying debris.
Villainized as the focal point of Cubs’ fans angst, Bartman would begin a self-imposed banishment from Chicago area sporting events. His simple failed attempt at catching a foul pop at a ball game – every baseball fan’s dream – would forever torment him.
Bartman Featured in ESPN 30 for 30 Documentary
In 2011, it even prompted the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary aptly called Catching Hell.
Steve Bartman’s unexpected baseball blunder became the source of epic fodder. Later in 2003 affluent Chicago Cubs fan Grant DePorte spent nearly $114,000 to buy the Bartman ball at auction.
As if burning the memorial relic in infamy wasn’t enough, less than a year later, DePorte detonated the ball in public view.
The obscure young man in glasses, sporting headphones and a green sweatshirt, never would have imagined how simply rising from his seat that fateful night would have sprung him into a lifetime of Chicago sports ignominy.
Though qualifying as neither an athlete nor a team, Steve Bartman also earns a spot as a fan – an infamous one at that – in my FREE book Chicago Sports Icons.
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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!