Should Steve Bartman forgive Cubs fans? I don’t think so.


Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante

Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante

Why the hell do I know Steve Bartman’s name?

Seriously. Why is Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS commonly referred to as “The Bartman Game”? Why is Bartman a household name?

How many people can even name the team who won Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS (and Game 7 and that year’s World Series)? I bet more can name Bartman than the Marlins.

The fact that we know Bartman’s name is disgusting. The fact that anyone gave him even the tiniest sliver of blame for the events of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS is a clear sign that there are more stupid people than intelligent people in this country.

Before Luis Castillo hit a foul pop to left field (that was not an easy play), the Cubs were leading 3-1 in the 8th with 1 out.

After the “Bartman foul pop”, the Cubs were leading 3-1 in the 8th with 1 out.

Man, I can really see how Steve Bartman affected the game so negatively! Remember when Bartman let up 8 runs? Remember when Bartman did not have a reliever ready in the 8th inning? Remember when Bartman booted a potential inning ending double play ball? Remember when Bartman let up a bases clearing double to a career backup infielder?

Of course you don’t because he didn’t. In a game with tons of legit scapegoats, Bartman took the blame because he (and half of the fans along the left field line) leaned in to catch a foul pop.

The Cubs were up 3 games to 1 in the series had a chance to clinch Game 5 in Miami and have a rested and ready Mark Prior and Kerry Wood for the World Series. They lost Game 5 when Josh Beckett tossed a complete game shutout. OK fine, the party came back to Wrigley.

Prior was dealing and took a 3-0 lead into the 8th. Facing the lineup for the fourth time, manager Dusty Baker should have had someone warm, just in case. He didn’t. With just 5 outs needed, Juan Pierre doubled. Then, after the Bartman pop up, Castillo walked.

When Pudge Rodriguez singled to make it 3-1, it was clear that Prior was vulnerable and a reliever was needed. He stayed in. Miguel Cabrera hit a grounder to Alex Gonzalez that may have been 2 but would have been at least one out. He booted it. Die hard baseball fans remember that. The rest of the planet remembers Bartman.

Still no reliever from Dusty Baker. Flashback to 2002. Dusty Baker was managing the Giants in the World Series and yanked Russ Ortiz out of the game too early and the Giants bullpen collapsed in Game 6 and the Angels took the game. Perhaps he was gunshy to pull Prior out.

Derrek Lee then tied the game with a double and Baker relieved Prior, allowing him to wither on the mound with questionable control and three very hard hit balls. Kyle Farnsworth came on and coughed up the lead, allowed Mike Mordecai to clear the bases with a double and by the time the carnage was over, the Cubs lost 8-3.

In Game 7, where presumably Steve Bartman was not in attendance, the Cubs took a 5-3 lead in the third before again collapsing and losing the pennant with Kerry Wood getting shellacked.

YES Network

YES Network

Keeping all of that in mind, remind me why Steve Bartman in left field is given even the tiniest of sliver of blame for this game?

The fact that Bartman’s name became public was the act of bitter and petty Cub fans and radio personalities looking to point a finger. There were plenty of culprits to blame. Dusty Baker should have received the lions share. Prior and Gonzalez should have taken their lumps.  But no! Let’s pick on the slight guy with glasses and headphones.

If he was a big shirtless dude with his face painted and holding two beers, would he have been a scapegoat? Or was the image of a little nerdy guy an easier target than million dollar players wetting the bed on the field?

It is one thing to think that fan rituals help your team. Waving the right towel, or sitting in the right seat or wearing the correct cap are all nice feelings even if they don’t really change anything. But to blame a fan for doing something that any other fan would do and remove the blame of the actual players is insane.

His name became public and his life became a living hell. It is one thing to have fans boo a player or make them a bigger scapegoat than they really are. (The morons who blamed Bill Buckner for 1986 come to mind.) But at least Buckner was a player, a public figure, and was blamed for his short comings on the field. Bartman was an anonymous face in the crowd who became the newest villain in the Billy Goat nonsense.

Bartman issued an apology right away. He declines interviews and despite being a lifelong Cubs fan, has not returned to Wrigley. The fans treatment of Bartman was inexcusable, with Governer Rod Blagojevich kidding that he should go into the witness protection program. He needed police protection around his house as people began to blame him for the NLCS failure. Evidently his trying to catch a foul ball cost the Cubs 3 games.

So now the Cubs are doing well and unlike 2007 and 2008, they managed to make it past the Division Series. And with the Cubs in the NLCS, Bartman’s name is back in the news. And with it comes a common and forehead slapping trend:

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There are more of these than I can count. #ForgiveBartman is a hashtag floating around.

Forgive him? For what? Isn’t this sentiment, no matter what good intentions they have, ass backwards?

It was Cub fans who did the borderline unforgivable and ruin the life of one of their own. It was Cub fans who decided to bully a fan instead of blaming the millionaire players on the field. It was Cub fans who made his name public and known to more people than the Cy Young and MVP candidates who failed that night and the manager who made it two straight years of bullpen bungling in a clinching game.

Should it say #ForgiveUSBartman ? Shouldn’t every single Cub fan who blamed Bartman even for an hour be begging Steve Bartman for forgiveness. Every commentator who tried to tie in his meaningless action to a team’s 3 game collapse should grovel at his feet.

Yeah he should be welcomed back to Wrigley because he never did anything to warrant being shunned.

There should be forgiveness in the Steve Bartman situation, but only FROM Bartman himself. And if decided not to, who can blame him?

He has been blamed too much already.

3 thoughts on “Should Steve Bartman forgive Cubs fans? I don’t think so.

  1. The batter should have been called out according to the rules which were not enforced that nite which is a crime against basebal.The losers in the stands heaved their sins of losing onto bartman, who will never be invited back until The Cubs win the world Champship, which they will not cuz of the billy goat curse.

  2. Excellent post. The hate heaped on him was inexcusable. I remember watching that game and yelling “What the f____ was that guy thinking?!?!” because he interfered and did cost them an out. But, you know, you move on. To hound the guy and to ruin s thing he loves when he already felt bad about it was terrible to watch unfold.

    • I will add, as you pointed out, he was not the only fan reaching for that ball. I remember watching a Red Sox game last year and Sox fans down the left field line purposefully did not touch a ball hit by a Sox player because they knew if they touched it the ball would be called dead. That is the attention required if you are sitting near the field of play.

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