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The Steve Bartman incident occurred during a Major League Baseball playoff game between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins on October 14, 2003 at Wrigley Fieldmarker in Chicagomarker.

In the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, with Chicago ahead 3-0 and holding a 3 games to 2 lead in the best of 7 series, several spectators attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Marlins' second baseman Luis Castillo. One of the fans, Steve Bartman, touched the ball once it crossed into the stands, disrupting a potential catch by Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou. If Alou had caught the ball, it would have been the second out in the inning, and the Cubs would have been just four outs away from winning the National League pennant. Instead, the Cubs relinquished the lead that inning and then lost the game. When they were eliminated in the seventh game the next day, the "Steve Bartman incident" was seen as the turning point of the series.

In the aftermath of the incident, Bartman, a lifelong Cubs fan, had to be escorted from the stadium by security guards, and received police protection for a time when his name and address were made public on MLB message boards.

Steve Bartman

Steve Bartman grew up in Northbrook, Illinoismarker. His childhood home was located next to a baseball field, where his father hit balls for Bartman and his friends. Bartman attended Notre Dame High School for Boysmarker in Niles, Illinoismarker and played varsity baseball while participating in theater and community service. He graduated high school in 1995 and attended the University of Notre Damemarker. At the time of the incident, he was 26 years old and working at Hewitt Associates, a human resources consulting and business process outsourcing firm.

Outside work, Bartman served as a part-time coach for the Renegades, a team for 13- and 14-year olds based in Niles, Illinoismarker. Bartman had played for the Renegades in 1992, when the team went 47-10 and won the Palatine League championship. He was also an avid Cubs fan; in the past, he had traveled to Mesa, Arizonamarker to view the Cubs' spring training.

Foul ball incident

At the time of the incident, Mark Prior was pitching a three-hit shutout for the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning. Luis Castillo was at bat with one out and teammate Juan Pierre on second base. The Chicago Cubs led the game 3-0, holding a series lead of 3-2. They were five outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945 and attempting to win it for the first time since 1908.

Bartman was sitting in the front row along the left field corner wall behind the bullpen when a pop foul off the bat of Castillo drifted toward his seat. Cubs left fielder Moisés Alou approached the seats, jumped, and reached into the crowd. Bartman and nearby fans also attempted to catch the ball, deflecting it away. Alou slammed his glove down in frustration and was seen shouting at several fans. The Cubs argued for interference, but umpire Mike Everitt ruled there was no fan interference because the ball had broken the plane of the wall separating the field of play from the stands and entered the stands.

On Fox, Thom Brennaman called the play this way:

Aftermath

For the Cubs and Marlins

Following the incident the Marlins scored eight runs:
  • Castillo, with his at-bat extended, drew a walk. Ball four was a wild pitch from Cubs starter Mark Prior, which allowed Pierre to advance to third base.
  • Iván Rodríguez singled to drive in the first run of the inning, making the score 3-1.
  • Miguel Cabrera hit a ground ball to Alex S. Gonzalez, who misfielded the ball. Had Gonzalez fielded the ball properly, the Cubs could have ended the half-inning with a double play, still ahead by two runs. Instead all runners were safe and the bases were loaded.
  • Derrek Lee doubled, tying the score and chasing Prior from the game.
  • Relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth issued an intentional walk, then gave up a sacrifice fly to give Florida a 4-3 lead. Another intentional walk again loaded the bases.
  • A bases-clearing double from Mike Mordecai broke the game open, making the score 7-3.
  • Pierre singled to put Florida ahead 8-3.
  • Finally Luis Castillo, whose foul popup initiated the controversy, popped out to second to end the inning. In total, the Marlins had sent twelve batters to the plate and scored eight runs. Florida won the game 8-3.
The next night, back at Wrigley Field, Florida overcame Kerry Wood and a 5-3 deficit to win 9-6, and win the pennant. The Marlins would go on to win the 2003 World Series, beating the New York Yankees four games to two.

The Cubs have not won a playoff game since the incident. They missed the playoffs in the following three seasons, were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 NLDS, were swept again by the NL West champions LA Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS, and missed the playoffs in 2009.

For Bartman

Bartman had to be led away from the park under security escort for his own safety as Cubs fans shouted profanities towards him and others threw debris onto the field and towards the exit tunnel from the field. News footage of the game showed him surrounded by security as passersby pelted him with drinks and other debris. Bartman's name, as well as personal information about him, appeared on Major League Baseball's online message boards minutes after the game ended. As many as six police cars gathered outside his home to protect Bartman and his family following the incident. Afterwards, then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested that Bartman join a witness protection program, while then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered Bartman asylum.

Shortly after the incident, Bartman released a statement, saying he was "truly sorry." He added, "I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moisés Alou much less that he may have had a play." Trying to maintain a low profile, Bartman declined interviews, endorsement deals, and requests for public appearances, and his family changed their phone number to avoid harassing phone calls. He requested that any gifts sent to him by Florida Marlins fans be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In July 2008, Bartman was offered $25,000 to autograph a picture of himself at National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont, Illinoismarker, but he refused the offer.

Many fans associated the Bartman incident with the Curse of the Billy Goat, allegedly laid on the Cubs during the 1945 World Series after Billy Sianis and his pet goat were ejected from Wrigley Fieldmarker. The Cubs lost that series and have yet to return to the championship round. Bartman was also compared to the black cat which ran across Shea Stadiummarker during a September 9, 1969 regular season game between the Cubs and the New York Mets. The Cubs were in first place at the time, but after the cat appeared, the Cubs lost the game and eventually fell eight games behind the Mets in the standings, missing that season's playoffs entirely. On Fox, Brennaman said of the incident, as well as the Marlins' subsequent rally: "It's safe to say that every Cubs fan has to be wondering right now, is the Curse of the Billy Goat alive and well?"

Destruction of the Bartman ball

The loose ball was snatched up by a Chicago lawyer and sold at an auction in December 2003. Grant DePorter purchased it for $113,824.16 on behalf of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group. On February 26, 2004, it was publicly detonated by special effects expert Michael Lantieri.

In , the remains of the ball were used by the restaurant in a pasta sauce. While no part of the ball itself was in the sauce, the ball was boiled and the steam captured, distilled, and added to the final concoction.

The Bartman seat

In the intervening years since the incident, the seat Bartman sat in – Aisle 4, Row 8, Seat 113 – has become a tourist attraction at Wrigley Field. Fans often take pictures of each other sitting in it, and it is frequently covered with Cubs stickers.

Five years later: Moisés Alou

In April 2008, Moisés Alou was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "You know what the funny thing is? I wouldn't have caught it, anyway." However, Alou later disputed that story. "I don't remember that", he said to a writer from the Palm Beach Post. "If I said that, I was probably joking to make [Bartman] feel better. But I don't remember saying that.'" Alou added, "It's time to forgive the guy and move on."

Defense of Bartman

After the incident, the Chicago Cubs issued the following press release:

Several Cubs players publicly absolved Bartman of blame. Mark Prior said, "We had chances to get out of that situation. I hung an 0-2 curveball to [Ivan] Rodriguez that he hit for a single. Alex Gonzalez, who's a sure thing almost at shortstop, the ball came up on him ... and things just snowballed. Everybody in the clubhouse and management knows that play is not the reason we lost the game." Former Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe said that the crowd's reactions to Bartman "crushed [him]". "Right after I saw what happened with the fan, I woke up the next morning and told my wife that if the Cubs asked me to throw out the first pitch in the World Series, I was going to take that fan out to the mound with me," he said. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig also came to Bartman's defense, telling an interviewer, "[W]hile I understand that people felt so strongly and that their hearts were just breaking, to blame this young man, who is the most devoted Cub fan ... it's just unfair. When I read his statement, it broke my heart.... If you want to blame the Curse of the Bambino and the goat in Chicago or a series of other things, that's fine. But blaming Steve Bartman is just not right."

Several of Bartman's friends and family members spoke out in the days following the incident. His father told the Chicago Sun-Times, "He's a huge Cubs fan. I'm sure I taught him well. I taught him to catch foul balls when they come near him." A neighbor added, "He's a good kid, a wonderful son, never in any trouble. I don't think he should be blamed at all. People reach for balls. This just happened to be a little more critical. If Florida didn't score all the runs, you wouldn't be standing here." One of Bartman's high school friends wrote to the Chicago Tribune, saying, "He was the kind of person you wanted to be around–funny, yet sincere, and always looking out for his friends. It's been years since I've seen Steve, but I know that he never, ever would do anything to intentionally hurt anybody." Five days after the game, a group of 13- and 14-year-old baseball players whom Bartman had coached held a rally for Bartman in a park in Northbrook. One boy called him "a great coach, a great person and a great role model". Another remarked that "the foul ball had nothing to do with the rest of the game".

Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti wrote, "A fan in that situation should try his best to get out of the way, even if he isn't of the mind to see Alou approaching, as Bartman claims. Still, he's also a human being who was reacting in a tense, unusual moment. And the resulting verbal abuse and trash-hurling, followed by the Neanderthal threats and creepy reaction on the Internet, hasn't reflected well on Chicago's sports culture. As it is, everyone thinks the prototypical local fans are those mopes from the Superfans skits on Saturday Night Live."

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