Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why Do They Still Blame Steve Bartman?

The Bartman seat at Wrigley Field.
Photo by Cubfanwooss.
Cubs fan Steve Bartman has suffered long enough. The man who was vilified by many for his part in an infamous 2003 baseball incident at Wrigley Field, deserves to be forgiven. At the time, and for years after, some people blamed Bartman's act for the Cubs losing that year's NLCS, and for their failure to advance to the World Series. Since the Cubs are now, finally, in the Fall Classic after a 71-year draught, it is the perfect time to give this guy a break.
Baseball fans are familiar with the Bartman incident. It took place in 2003 at Wrigley Field, in the eighth inning of Game Six of the National League Championship Series. The Cubs were ahead in the series, three games to two over the Florida Marlins, just five outs away from the NL title, and a trip to the World Series.
It began when the Marlins' Luis Castillo hit a foul ball along the left field line. As the ball approached the stands, Bartman and other spectators reached up, ready to catch it. Cubs left fielder Moises Alou jumped, but failed to make the catch as it bounced off of the hands of Bartman and others.

Alou reacted immediately, making it clear he felt that fans, and specifically, Bartman, had interfered with his attempt to catch the ball for what would have been the second out of the inning. The Cubs went on to blow the game, and many Wrigley Field spectators began shouting at Bartman. It was a potentially dangerous situation, prompting police to escort him from the stadium.

The Cubs also lost the next game, allowing the Marlins to advance to the World Series. Although it is obvious that Alou's missed catch had nothing whatsoever to do with the Cubs losing, Bartman has long been blamed for the disaster.
It is a ridiculous argument, insisting that Bartman had anything to do with the Cubs meltdown. Had the ball been caught, it would have been the second out of the inning, allowing the possibility that even with two outs, Mark Prior's wild pitch, Alex Gonzalez' error, and everything else that occurred could well still have happened. Even without that out, the missed catch would have been a non-play. It is just as likely that Prior would have walked Castillo anyway, regardless of whether Alou made the catch.
The Insanity Begins
The lunacy started almost immediately. According to Wayne Drehs' Almost Famous (ESPN Outside The Lines), "The entire stadium started chanting "a--hole."" In that story, Drehs reported that the day after the incident, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed Bartman's name as the man many considered responsible for causing the Cubs to lose.
The Cubs organization released a statement soon after that game, absolving Bartman. They stated that the game had been lost on the field, and the actions of a fan in no way contributed to that loss. Unfortunately, that didn't stop Chicago from condemning Bartman.
According to several sources, many in Chicago took that incident as part of the so-called Curse of the Billy Goat; yet another of the 'reasons' why the Cubs could not win. Those people obviously didn't understand that, as per the Cub Organization's statement, games are won and lost on the field. Such things as curses, goats, and overzealous fans have no bearing on what happens between the lines, a sane person realizes.
A number of news organizations went after Bartman for interviews, but other than his "I'm sorry" statement, he refused to comment publicly. ESPN hounded him (referred to as "stalking" by the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan). More madness followed as Chicago latched onto the insane notion that Bartman was responsible for the Cubs inability to win when it counted.
Bartman was placed under police protection for awhile, when his name and address were made public by people obviously intent on bringing harm to the guy they believed had caused the Cubs to lose.
Blame Steve Songs and Detonating A Baseball
Tom Latourette of the Beachwood Reporter recorded a video, 'Go Blame It On Steve Bartman.'
Local Chicago restaurateur Grant DePorter, who happened to be the managing partner of Harry Caray's (former Cubs announcer) chain of Italian steak houses, took on the Bartman problem and the curse as a personal crusade. DePorter bought the ball in question at auction, paying in excess of $100,000 for it. Then he hired a special effects expert to blow it up. Supposedly, he was trying to end the goat curse (of which he determined that the Bartman ball was a component). After detonating the ball, DePorter boiled the remains, captured the resulting steam, distilled it, infused it with beer and other spices, and added it to a spaghetti sauce – all in an attempt to end the curse.
Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reported from Bartman spokesman Frank Murtha regarding the ball detonation and subsequent making of the spaghetti sauce: "We are no more fine with it now than we were then. No one person has perpetuated the storyline more than (DePorter) did."
These people are more than a little crazy.
Murtha said, as reported by Nancy Armour in USA Today:
"Steve became the perfect cover for bad baseball and bad managing of baseball."
Although Bartman maintained a low profile in the 13 years since the incident, people still remember it. Because the Cubs are in the World Series now, we have been reminded of that game and that fly ball.
The Continuation of Bartman Bashing
A ridiculous Daily headline appeared in mid-October 2016: 'Notorious fan Steve Bartman is too scared to go to The World Series after ruining the Cubs’ chances 13 years ago.'
Daily Mail reporter David Burke is responsible for that bit of stupidity. We can be reasonably certain that Burke knows nothing about American baseball, but that didn't stop him from continuing the Bartman bashing. quoted Alou in 2008 from a Palm Beach Post story: "It's time to forgive the guy and move on. I said that the night it happened."
Cleveland infielder Jason Kipnis, born and raised a Cubs fan, said in a Bob Nightengale/USA Today story in October 2016:
"He didn’t deserve that. He’s a nice guy. He didn’t need to be put in that situation."
Kipnis wanted Bartman to throw out the first World Series pitch.
"If he threw out a first pitch, I think everyone would go nuts," he said in the Nightengale story.
If any such offer was made to Bartman he apparently declined, just as he has refused every opportunity to speak about or cash in on the fame (or infamy) brought on by his involvement. In any case, what this story comes down to is what effect his actions had on that 2003 NLCS Series, and the alleged continuation of the so-called curse.
Was Bartman blamed for the loss of the game and the series? For sure.
Was any of that his fault? Absolutely not.
Is thinking he was the cause insane? Yes.
Should he be forever absolved of any complicity in the Cubs inability to win playoff games? That is a no-brainer.
So once and for all – for those who still insist that the goat and/or Bartman had anything to do with what happened or didn't happen on the field – leave Bartman alone.
Stop blaming him for something for which he was not responsible.
Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts'.

He also writes about baseball for Climbing Tal's Hill, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

He lives in Central Texas with his wife and family.

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