How does it feel to be the most hated Chicago Cubs fan in the world? Look no farther than Steve Bartman. Sure, you remember Bartman. He’s the one who supposedly interfered with Moises Alou’s catch in the eighth inning of game six during the 2003 National League Championship Series with only five outs standing between the Cubs and a trip to the World Series.
Ten years after the incident, Bartman is still the scapegoat, detested by fans who blame him for the downfall of the Cubs after he deflected a ball that may or may not have been catchable for Alou. Could Alou have made the out? First he said no, but a few months later he retracted his statement and said he could have made the catch if it hadn’t been for fan interference. Forget the fact that then Manager Dusty Baker did not go out the mound to settle down 23-year-old pitcher Mark Prior. Forget the fact that Alex Gonzalez bobbled what should have been a routine double play ball. No, Cubs fans blame Bartman, just like they blame the Billy Goat from 1945 and the black cat in Shea Stadium in 1969.
Bartman went into seclusion and has refused to talk about the incident in public. Recently his spokesman, Frank Murtha, blasted Grant DePorter, president and managing partner for Harry Caray’s Restaurants, for monetizing the tragic event. It was DePorter, who bought the ball for $113,000 at auction and then blew it up, in a huge televised media event. To make matters worse, remains of the ball were served in a sauce at the restaurant.
You have to feel sorry for Bartman. He’s the butt of so many jokes and his deflection of the ball will live on in Cubs lore until the team actually wins a World Series.
For many years, the “Bartman seat” was an attraction at Wrigley Field. That particular seat no longer exists, which may be a good thing. Why rehash bad memories? Bartman did what most fans do automatically, he saw a ball coming to him, and reached for it. It was foul, as shown in photos. Was there fan interference? That’s up for debate. Some fans will say yes. Others will say no.
What is left in the end is the sad fact that the Bartman incident was the beginning or the unraveling of the Cubs, at least for Game Six. You can’t blame Bartman completely. Baker, Gonzalez and Prior all played a part in what happened that night.