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The Steve Bartman Game

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The Man in Section 4, Row 8, Seat 113

 

The Steve Bartman Game

Fan involvement on matchdays is crucial. Teams push for fans to be as involved as much as possible. Sometimes fans may get a little too involved in the game during the heat of the moment, as one Chicago Cubs fan found out in 2003.

Steve Bartman, a lifelong Cubs fan went to what he thought was just another game. How wrong he was. 

The First Domino 

It’s the 14th October 2003, the Cubs were hosting the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field in the 2003 postseason. The winner of the game would become the National League (NL) winners and go through to the World Series match against the American League winners.

The Cubs were 3-2 up in the best of seven series and in with a great chance of winning their first NL pennant since 1945. The Marlins were struggling in the game and their batter Luis Castillo hit a ball deep into foul territory. The ball was being chased down by Cubs player, Moisés Alou. As it headed into the crowd Bartman reached out and deflected the ball away from Alou who missed the catch. 

Alou had reached over the wall into the crowd, breaking the divide between field and fans. This meant there was no fan interference that could save Alou or Bartman from their embarrassment. 

Despite being 3-0 up in the second innings at the time, the Cubs fell apart and lost 8-3 in the game. The Cubs went on to lose the seven-game series and were eliminated. Bartman was seen to be the first domino to fall, causing a ripple effect that ended the team’s chances.

 

The Backlash 

Unfortunately for Bartman, the incident was seen by many at the stadium and by the eyes of the ever brutal media. It is often replayed to this day, there is no escaping it.

The cameras caught Bartman, at this point an unknown, just after the incident wiping away his tears whilst the rest of the ground was angered and shocked about what they had seen. Various times throughout the game, cameras cut back to Bartman, slouched in his chair looking like his entire world was about to crumble.

Bartman received abuse from fans during the game, many voicing their anger with Bartman for interfering and costing them the game in their opinion. It felt as though this one mans unfortunate actions were about to cost an entire city the days, the weeks and the months of hard work it took them to get to this position.

Security had to eventually intervene and take Bartman out of the stadium for his own safety as the abuse continued and objects were thrown at him.

His name and personal information were posted all over online sites and the abuse continued from Cubs fans, as well as mockery from other fans and the media.

 

Reaction

The media used Bartman as a scapegoat, he was seen as causing not just the defeat in the 6th game, but the whole entire series loss. This is despite some bad performances from the team, Bartman seemed to take the full brunt of the media and fans for his small action. A lucky escape for the players.

Alou, understandably, reacted angrily with Bartman at the time as he felt he was going to make the catch. Alou in one interview said, “I had the ball. (But) it don’t matter anymore… I got upset at the time. It was not the kid’s fault”. Alou also commented on how chants of “Bartman, Bartman, Bartman,” followed him for years after the incident.

Bartman released a statement following the incident, expressing his regret for the events:

“There are no words to describe how awful I feel and what I have experienced within these last 24 hours.”

The heartbreak of the incident on Bartman was clear for many to see, unfortunately, this didn’t stop the abuse.

 

Moving On

Moving on is crucial in all aspects of life, in sport though it seems difficult to do. I still, to this day, have nightmares of Diame scoring against Sheffield Wednesday to end our Premier League dreams in the Playoff final *wipes away a tear*.

The same can be said for the Cubs fans, apart from in this case the person they had nightmares about was a fellow fan, one of their own.

Bartman was seen as a yet another curse on the Cubs franchise, he was hated by a big majority of the Cubs fans for some years. This hatred was maybe a reason that Bartman has never returned to Wrigley Field for a game, the fear of being booed out of the stadium or possible physical attack.

The fans couldn’t get past his actions easily, some still haven’t.

The Following Years 

Since the incident, Bartman kept himself to himself which was probably a wise decision at the time. He has often been approached by the media for interviews and has been offered tickets by the Cubs to go to games but he has always turned both down.

In 2016, the Cubs and Bartman finally got some redemption when Chicago won the World Series. Despite the anger of some fans still, the Cubs gifted Bartman a World Series ring. The gift helped lure Bartman back to Wrigley Field for a tour and the presentation of the ring.

The Cubs released a statement at the time:

“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… We feel it is important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organisation.”

There was another winner from this incident. When the ball was knocked, it fell into the lap of an unnamed fan. The fan kept the ball and put the ball up for sale in an auction in 2013. The ball sold for just a mere $113,824, not a bad profit for an evening of watching baseball. Maybe they’ll write to Bartman thanking him one day.

 

What if?

How different the incident may have been if the Cubs had held on and won that game?

Well, they would have been in the World Series game that’s for one, so Bartman’s actions wouldn’t have even been thought about. 

Bartman would have probably still attended their games. He would have turned into a club legend for the moment of madness. He may have made multiple TV appearances, laughing and joking about that crazy night, they might have made some funny memorabilia about the incident. The possibilities are endless.

In the end, the abuse of Bartman slowly died out. There has been a number of documentaries about the incident over the year and it has certainly gone down in baseball folk law.

Bartman keeps a low profile still to this days. He probably spends most of his time cleaning his World Series ring.

What a story for the grandkids.

 

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘The Steve Bartman Game.’ Was Bartman to fault in this classic fiasco, or did he end up a mere scapegoat for the fans and media to blame? Let us know!

 

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Josh is a recent MA Sports Journalism graduate and a BA (hons) Sports Studies graduate. He is passionate about football, Sheffield Wednesday, Liam Gallagher and writing about himself in 3rd person. Josh is contactable via email at stedman890@gmail.com

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