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What was the Steve Bartman Incident?

The Steve Bartman incident happened in 14 October 2003 during a Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason game between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins at the Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Cubs were leading 3-0 and required five outs to defeat the Marlins and proceed to the World Series. Steve Bartman, 26 then, a human resources employee from Chicago, and other spectators attempted to catch a foul ball sent high in the sky by Marlins’ second baseman Luis Castillo.

The spectators’ action prevented an almost certain catch by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou as he tried grab what would have been the second out of the inning. Had Alou gotten his hands on the ball, the Cubs would have been four outs from the World Series. Following the failed attempt, Alou cursed at Bartman full of frustration and went back to his position in the field.

The disgruntlement on the Cubs outfielder was understandable as that was their best chance of winning the World Series since their last win in 1908.

In fact, since 1945 they had not played in a championship. Following a series of errors after the incident, the Cubs lost 8-3 with six unearned of the runs. They were knocked out the following night and the Marlins went on to win the World Series.

Aftermath of the Incident and Effect on Bartman’s Life

Things escalated quickly after the happening. Television stations broadcasting the game replayed the foul ball incident many times. Since the stadium did not have replay boards at the time, other fans at first did not know what he had done. However, friends and families of the fans in the stadium watching the game on TV called the spectators telling them about Bartman’s interference.

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Fans of the Cubs started pointing at Bartman while insulting him. Drinks bottles and other containers were thrown at him but he was protected by security who safely then escorted him out of the field. His name among other personal information were displayed on MLB’s message boards online after the end of the game. Reactions on the web were loathsome, with pictures of him in the bunker of Saddam Hussein being displayed. Others included Death to Steve Bartman’. Policemen rushed to Bartman’s home to protect him and his family. Rod Blagojevich, then Governor of Illinois, recommended that he join the witness protection program.

Later, Bartman released a statement describing how awful he felt and beseeched fans of the Cubs to direct their anger to positive things. He just wanted to be left alone and go back to being a private citizen again. Time passed but the media continued pelting him with interview requests as well as public appearance requests. Bartman’s days were spent at a Chicago suburb office avoiding attention but the infamy surrounding his name did not fade off just yet. In any case, it worsened when it became apparent that the Cubs would finish last.

Meanwhile, Marlin’s fans sent gifts to Bartman which he declined and directed that they be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. A company offered him a hefty six figure sum to appear in an advert that was to be aired over the Super Bowl. Another offer of $25,000 was thrown at him to turn up and autograph a photograph of him in the incident. Jeb Bush, then Florida Governor offered asylum to Bartman if he wanted.

The ill-fated ball, which was grabbed by Chicago lawyer was in December 2003 sold at an auction for a sum of $113,824.16. It was bought by Grant DePorter for Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group. It was later publicly detonated by Michael Lantieri, a special effects expert on 26 February 2004. The remnants of the ball were used to make a pasta sauce by the restaurant. Of note is that, because of health and safety concerns, no part of the ball was used in the sauce. Instead, it was boiled in water and the steam collected, distilled and mixed with the final dish. The final remains are displayed at the Chicago Sports Museum.

Up to now the attention surrounding Steve Bartman has barely faded. There is a Bartman impersonator on twitter who has sapped a couple of reporters and Cubs fan into starting a GoFundMe campaign to facilitate Bartman to attend a wild-card game. Bartman declined.

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