When the Chicago Cubs blew a 3-1 National League Championship Series lead to the Florida Marlins in 2003, many fans of the “lovable losers” directed their ire, not toward the players on the field, but a fan named Steve Bartman.
As ridiculous as it sounds, fans blamed Bartman for the team’s defeat after he tipped a foul ball – that likely would’ve been caught by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou – in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the NLCS. The Marlins rallied to win the game and eventually the series, eliminating Chicago and extending the club’s World Series drought to 105 years.
Bartman was nowhere to be seen during the celebration, having led a largely private life since being humiliated on national television more than a decade earlier.
Although the Cubs organization never put blame on Bartman for the team’s past failure, owner Tom Ricketts decided it was time to bury the hatchet between the fan and the Cubbies.
“On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman,” read a statement from Ricketts and the Cubs.
“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. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today.”
Bartman received the ring in a Monday, July 31, meeting with Ricketts at Wrigley Field that was also attended by Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and President of Operations Crane Kenney.
Thankful for the kind deed of Ricketts and the Cubs, Bartman broke his silence issuing the following statement.
“Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring. I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations. 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.
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. My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.
Moreover, I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved. To that end, I request the media please respect my privacy, and the privacy of my family. I will not participate in interviews or further public statements at this time.
Words alone cannot express my heartfelt thanks to the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein, and the entire
Cubs organization for this extraordinary gift, and for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an
unforgettable World Championship in 2016. I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving
forward with my life.”
Time apparently DOES heal all wounds.
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(Photo Credit: Chicago Cubs)