It’s time to set the record straight on some Chicago history. First, Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow did not start the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Second, Marie Antoinette* did not say “let them eat cake.” And finally, Steve Bartman did not cost the Cubs the National League Championship Series against the wild-card Marlins who went from being down three games to one to defeating the Cubs in a bizarre NLCS 10 years ago.
* okay not a Chicago Factoid but I’d like to believe if she were alive today, with head attached, she’d hang out here.
Today is the 10th anniversary stories of Oct. 14, 2003, the night when a now infamous Cub fan reached out and deflected a foul ball at the wall thus, according to bitter fans and erroneous folklore, costing the team not only an out but the game — the sixth in the National League Championship Series against the Marlins — and the next game, and no doubt inducing the succeeding decade of futility as well.
It’s time to put this legend to rest and set the record straight.
First and foremost, he only did what any other fan would have done in the same situation. You’re gonna tell me that if you are sitting in the expensive seats and a fly ball comes your way, you’re gonna have the presence of mind to ignore it? Maybe if you are in the ground level box seats you think differently, but Bartman was sitting in the [in the front row along the left field corner wall behind the on-
Second, many forget or overlook the relatively easy play that shortstop Alex Gonzalez booted that cost the Cubs the game. Sure you cannot assume the double play in baseball, but he at least gets the runner at second out. And then maybe Prior either regains his composure or Dusty Baker has the good sense to put in his closer.
Third, Moises Alou’s reaction to missing the foul ball was completely unprofessional, and directed undue attention to Steve Bartman. If he had just walked back to his position like any other player, nobody would know the fan’s name. I get trying to sell fan interference, but once it was over, let it go. Alou also took years to admit that he probably wouldn’t have been able to catch the ball.
ESPN did a 30 for 30 episode on this which was very good. The ESPN film was pretty decent at revealing the amount of hatred and vitriol thrown in his direction. Pretty embarrassing if you are a Cubs fan, to see the way many behaved. Even to this day, comment threads are filled with people who not only blame Bartman, but actually want the guy to die or something, as if that would magically erase the results of Game 6 (not to mention the whole kill another human being over a stupid fly ball thing).
Finally, if the Cubs had won Game 7, this would be a
mute moot point.
If anything has erased the memory of Bartman, it’s those subsequent, Bartman-free collapses in 2004 (2-6 down the stretch to cough up the Wild Card), 2007 (swept in the first round after sprinting to an unlikely division title), and 2008 (swept in the first round after winning a National League best 97 games). The Cubs have proven capable of mucking things up all on their own, thank you very much.
Thankfully 2 years later the White Sox cleared the city’s shame and won the World Series. *crickets*
Let’s also keep in mind, the man — who didn’t even end up with the souvenir ball — could have decided to capitalize on this situation. Instead he has avoided the limelight for 10 years. This guy has been harder to find than Osama Bin Laden. I think the best way to move on is to stop saying that Bartman’s grab at a foul ball in any way, shape or form changed the the outcome of the series.
By the way, I like to think that Bartman moved to Canada for a few years, learned a different sport and has returned to Chicago to help lead another team to a championship.
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Filed under: Chicago Sports