The Chicago Cubs gave Steve Bartman his own World Series ring Monday, making amends with the longtime fan who was unfairly blamed for the team’s flameout in the 2003 playoffs.
Now, Bartman has an exclusive token of the Cubs’ historic 2016 championship season, 14 years after his life was turned upside down for doing what would come naturally to just about any baseball fanatic in his place.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts presented the ring to Bartman at Wrigley Field on Monday morning, WGN Chicago reported. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, the architect of last year’s championship run, and President of Operations Crane Kenney were also on hand to extend the olive branch.
“On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman,” the Cubs said in a statement. “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. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization.”
Bartman was just an inconspicuous fan sitting near the left field foul line at Wrigley Field on Oct. 14, 2003, one of thousands in Chicago and around the country eager to see the Cubs finish off the Florida Marlins and advance to the team’s first Word Series since 1945. In the eighth inning, with the Cubs leading 3-0 and enjoying a 3-2 series advantage, a foul ball was hit towards Bartman’s position at the edge of foul territory. As the ball plummeted into the stands, Bartman reached out and deflected it away from the outstretched glove of Cubs left fielder Moises Alou, who had raced over to make a difficult catch in the stands.
Bearing the weight of more than a half century of futility, the Cubs’ already shaky resolve snapped. The Marlins racked up eight runs in the final two innings to win Game 6 and, in what seemed like a forgone conclusion, cruised to an easy series-clinching win in Game 7.
Following the foul ball incident, Bartman was blamed not only for causing Alou to miss the catch, but for the Cubs’ losses in the final two league championship series games, and, ultimately, for the team’s slide back into mediocrity. In one of the ugliest chapters in Chicago sports history, he was forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats from fans who projected their misplaced anger onto a mild-mannered suburban accountant instead of the players responsible for the epic collapse.
Bartman has understandably avoided the spotlight since that day. Even as the pain of 2003’s loss was erased by the joy of last year’s World Series triumph, he stayed mum on the Cubs’ change of fortune.
Bartman broke his long silence Monday, releasing a humbly worded statement questioning if he was “worthy of such an honor.”
“My family and I will cherish it for generations,” Bartman said of the World Series ring. “Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organization and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.”
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