The Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series in 2016. The baseball world rejoiced (mostly), and Chicago fans felt relief unlike any other fan base in professional sports possibly could. The news stream ran wild with stories of Cubs fans who had 80+ years to witness a Cubs World Series, never believing it would happen, then finally seeing their dream realized.
But shortly after the champagne had popped, people remembered the greatest scapegoat in all of baseball history. Steve Bartman, the maligned, ridiculed, taunted, and hated Cubs fan who tried to catch a foul ball in the NLCS was vilified.
Cubs right fielder Moises Alou, livid at the interference, gave Cubs fans someone to focus their hatred on.
Never mind the ground ball that was botched by Alex S. Gonzalez, allowing the Marlins to keep their rally alive and eventually win the series. That should have been the point of focus. But Bartman, with his glasses, bulky headphones and dorky jacket were a much easier target.
Cubs fans ruined his life. He received death threats, had to be escorted by team of officers from the ballpark before the game ended. You’ll recall people started throwing garbage at him during the game.
But now the Cubs are champs, and they’d like to make amends. How nice. Bartman has notably declined to participate in any interviews or public appearance since the incident. He wasn’t looking to parlay his infamy to the media spotlight.
After an invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Cubs 2017 Opening Day was declined, it appeared that would be the end of it.
But the Cubs decided to award Bartman with a truly generous gift. They’ve awarded him with a World Series ring, complete with his name on it. Owner Tom Ricketts (or is that Ted Cruz?) reached out to the Bartman family personally to make them aware of the gift.
Breaking years of silence, Bartman issued a statement thanking the Cubs organization and Ricketts, but again asked for his privacy.
The statement was reported and supplied by WGN9 in Chicago:
“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.”
The Marlins would go on to beat the Cubs, eliminating them and their Mark Prior-Kyle Farnsworth duo, and riding momentum to an eventual World Series victory over the New York Yankees. Bartman, hoping to fade into obscurity, has remained in the back of every Cubs fans mind.
As far as the public is aware, he has not attended another game at Wrigley Field since the incident.
Good for Bartman, and hopefully the end of one of the uglier instances of scapegoating in the history of sports. Bartman now has all the financial collateral he could ever need, and hopefully, some healing.