A World Series Ring For Steven Bartman

Aug 5, 2017
Originally published on August 5, 2017 8:11 am

Steven Bartman was in a baseline seat at Wrigley Field in the eighth inning of the sixth game of the 2003 National League Championship when fame fell on him.

The Chicago Cubs were just five outs from the World Series and Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins chipped a short fly ball down the left field line. Moises Alou, the Cubs left fielder, leaped and reached into the seats. But Steve Bartman and half a dozen other fans stretched for the ball, too. Everyone missed, but the ball smacked off of Steven Bartman's outstretched hand. No out.

Moises Alou slammed his glove in anger and frustration. The Cubs were close to extinguishing the curse that supposedly racked them for decades. Mark Prior, the Cubs pitcher, pointed to the stands to cry fan interference and the cameras settled on a young man in glasses who wore headphones just below his Cubs cap: Steve Bartman.

The Marlins went on to score eight runs — and eventually went on to win the World Series. The curse of the Cubs continued — but I think because of us fans.

What happened that night should be called the Ugly Fan Incident. Some jerks in the stands chanted obscene and brutal things at Steve Bartman. They threw cups of beer. Steven Bartman had to hang his coat over his head while police steered him through gangs of spitting, sputtering half-wits in Cubs hats, to bring him safely home. He needed a police guard for weeks.

I do not believe in curses. But I do believe jerks can earn comeuppance. That night, Cubs fans behaved shamefully, and cursed the club they love into a panic, and out of the World Series.

Over the years, Steven Bartman has declined comment, and turned down all offers to cash in on his notoriety with commercials, books, interviews or appearances.

The Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series last year, for the first time in 108 years. And this week, the club gave Steven Bartman a World Series ring, just like the one they gave their players, with 108 diamonds. A ring like that is not just some public radio tote bag.

"Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor," Steve Bartman said in a statement, "I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful ... I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today's society."

This week a once-luckless club and a once-defamed fan gave us, as much as great athletes do, glimpses of grace.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Steven Bartman was in a base-line seat at Wrigley Field in the eighth inning of the sixth game of the 2003 National League Championship when fame fell on him. The Chicago Cubs were just five outs from the World Series. And Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins chipped a short fly ball down the left field line. Moises Alou, the Cubs left fielder, leapt and reached into the stands. But Steve Bartman and half a dozen other fans stretched for the ball, too. Everyone missed, but the ball smacked off of Steven Bartman's outstretched hand - no out. Moises Alou slammed his glove in anger and frustration.

The Cubs were close to extinguishing the curse that supposedly wracked them for decades. Mark Prior, the Cubs pitcher, pointed to the stands to cry fan interference. And the camera settled on a young man in glasses who wore headphones just below his Cubs cap - Steve Bartman. The Marlins went on to score eight runs and eventually went on to win the World Series. The curse of the Cubs continued. But I think because of us fans, what happened that night should be called the ugly fan incident. Some jerks in the stands chanted obscene and brutal things at Steve Bartman. They threw cups of beer. Steven Bartman had to hang his coat over his head while police steered him through gangs of spitting, sputtering halfwits in Cubs hats to bring him safely home. He needed a police guard for weeks.

I do not believe in curses, but I do believe jerks can earn comeuppance. That night, Cubs fans behaved shamefully and cursed at the club they love into a panic and out of the World Series. Over the years, Steven Bartman has declined comment and turned down all offers to cash in on his notoriety with commercials, books, interviews or appearances. The Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series last year for the first time in 108 years. This week, the club gave Steven Baartman a World Series ring, just like the one they gave their players, with 108 diamonds. A ring like that is not just some public radio tote bag.

Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, Steve Bartman said in a statement, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful. I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today's society. This week, a once-luckless club and a once-defamed fan gave us as much as great athletes do - glimpses of grace.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT YOU'D CALL A DREAM")

BRETT RIGBY: (Singing) And I run for home. And we win the game. And it's what you'd call a dream. And the sun shines like diamonds.

SIMON: Brett Rigby. And you're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.