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Steve Bartman achieved infamy ten years ago today

Oct 14, 2013, 10:36 AM EDT

I didn’t know the date off the top of my head, but I bet a bunch of Cubs fans did. October 14, 2003 — ten years ago today — was Steve Bartman day.

In case you’re six years-old or generally oblivious, the Bartman game became known as such when Mr. Bartman reached for a foul ball that Moises Alou had leapt for and probably would have caught:

At the time the Cubs were up 3-0 in Game 6 of the NLCS and had five outs to go. After the play? The Marlins scored eight runs and won the series the next night.

Not that it was truly all Bartman’s fault. Indeed, way more blame should be (and, now that it is all in the rear-view mirror, usually is) placed on the Cubs for woofing the inning, the game and ultimately the series away. After all, Bartman didnt make Mark Prior walk Luis Castillo after his foul ball. Or throw a wild pitch. Bartman didn’t cause Alex Gonzalez to muff the double play that would have ended the inning. Blame belongs to a lot of people, mostly those who were wearing Cubs pinstipes.

But Bartman remains infamous.

There was a story about the play in the New York Times yesterday. The most notable thing: Bartman has basically disappeared from public view. He doesn’t give interviews or show up at conventions and does not appear to have done anything to capitalize on his notoriety.  Which is pretty darn admirable.

  1. chill1184 - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    That or Bartman just doesn’t want to be harassed by fans who still haven’t gotten over that.

    • jm91rs - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      I think saying they would harass him is putting it nicely. I think this guy probably had genuine reason to fear for his life in the month after this game. I can’t imagine how awful Cubs fans made his life before he disappeared.

      • flamethrower101 - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        Perhaps the “Curse of Bartman” isn’t the fact that Bartman caused the Cubs to lose the game, but the fact that most Cubs fans were such giant dicks to him afterwards that the baseball gods decided that until he gets a proper apology the Cubs would never win again.

  2. kkingprior - Oct 14, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    “Routine grounder to Alex Gonzalez, inning ending 6-4-3 double play!” I wish more people remembered that’s how that inning should have ended.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      Absolutely Prior. It’s precisely what I reply with when everyone hangs their hat on Bartman.

      • yahmule - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        If you blame Prior for that loss, you’re as off base as the Bartman bashers.

      • yahmule - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        Which you didn’t do. You just replied to a guy with Prior in his handle. Damn, what an awesome save! Okay, I’ll shut up now.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 14, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        Lol! Yep…good save Mule.
        You can also thank the late lunch I was eating.
        As they say…timing is everything.

        Good luck game #3!

      • yahmule - Oct 14, 2013 at 7:59 PM

        If I believed Ryu was 100%, I might think the Dodgers had a small chance tonight. I think their chances of taking the series were gone when Hanley got hurt. Not to say injuries are deciding the series. The Cardinals are down an important player, too. They’re just better able to handle it because they’re deeper and more experienced in post season play.

  3. scottychicago - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Bartman didn’t make them lose game 7 either.

    • mybrunoblog - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      Exactly! It’s the same as those idiots who blamed Bill Buckner for the game 6 goof in the 86 WS. Buckner didn’t cause them to blow game 7 too.

      • dlf9 - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:54 PM

        It was Schiraldi who cost them #7.

      • yahmule - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:13 PM

        I felt bad for Schiraldi. He had this 1000 yard stare going on while he was sitting on the bench.

      • thebadguyswon - Oct 14, 2013 at 6:12 PM

        Sorry Sox fans….you didn’t lose that Series, the Mets were better and just beat you.

  4. yahmule - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Nor did he leave Mark Prior in the game when he was clearly running on fumes. Before he became a punchline, Prior gutted out a lot of innings for the Cubs when he had absolutely nothing left.

    Will Lietch wrote a truly outstanding piece about Steve Bartman.

  5. stex52 - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    I would correct your article in one way Craig. None of the blame goes to Bartman. That was Moises Alou chasing that foul ball. I wouldn’t give you 50:50 he was going to hold onto it. Then you get into all of the other stuff that you mentioned.

    And after all that people also forget that it was only game 6 of the series. The Cubs had to lose the next night also. My enduring impression of the series was that the Cubs were ready to fold under the pressure of actually winning a playoff series and that they were just waiting for someone to give them an excuse. Bartman became the unlikely scapegoat for a team collapse.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Oct 14, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      Exactly! None, zero, zip, nada of the blame belongs to the guy who I will not name – because his name never should have been reported 10 years ago. Doubtful Alou would have caught the ball, and if “person I will not name” had not touched it, others in the stands would have (check the tape). And of course the little detail of the 8 runs the Cubs gave up

      Abosultely disgusting and contemptable the way he has been treated

  6. happytwinsfan - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    is there any other sport which allows the outcome to be potentaily affected by the physical involvement of a fan? i think the front row should be moved back enough to make that impossible.

    • stex52 - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      Football has had its share of sideline tacklers over the years.

      But no, I wouldn’t do that. Bartman didn’t change the game outcome. The Cubs did that. And if it happens on rare occasions, the harmony of the universe will not be disturbed.

      • happytwinsfan - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:44 AM

        true the universe won’t impolde if it does happen and bartman didn’t change the outcome although he did influence it. but why not do it. the games should be won / lost by the players not souvenir seekers

      • stex52 - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:59 PM

        Because the game belongs to the fans, not to the players.

    • DelawarePhilliesFan - Oct 14, 2013 at 2:42 PM

      Fair enough – but you could flip that around as well. Does any otehr sport allow player reach into the stands and affect the outcome of a game? You say move the front row back, you could just as easily say players can not reach over the rail.

  7. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    If I remember correctly, wasn’t he forced to move out of state due to the constant harassment and threats he was receiving for MONTH after the incident?

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      Yeah…I seem to remember that as well Weiters.

      • stex52 - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        Hey, SLB, I saw your note the other day. Haven’t been on as much. Two reasons:

        1. Busy in my personal life, and decompressing a bit from Fantasy League. It took up a lot of energy.

        2. Too many of the discussions I have seen devolve into idiotic political back-and-forths. Not interested. I am here for baseball. Occasional cultural commentaries are useful or even fun. But that is not what is going on these days on Hardball Talk.

        I’ve been trying to get back involved with mixed results. A lot of times I just read a bit and pass on.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 14, 2013 at 4:40 PM

        Both are good reasons. Regardless…glad to see you back!

  8. johnnysoda - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    That loss wasn’t even close to Bartman’s fault. Prior still had two strikes on the batter (and walked him), and had two strikes on the previous batter, who doubled. Not to mention the Gonzalez error, and the eight runs that followed, and the fact that they had chances to win it in games 5 and 7, and they lost both of those, too.

    And if the Cubs let it get to them that much, frankly, they didn’t deserve to win the pennant.

    • yahmule - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      Prior was done. The guy was gutting it out at that point and Baker was too paralyzed by indecision to remove him. Pinning the blame on a 22 year old who was pitching his 235th inning that year seems as unfair as blaming Bartman.

      • gostlcards5 - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        “…paralyzed by indecision…” – doesn’t that describe Dusty’s entire career? (Sorry for those that like him….I’ve just never thought he was a very good manager.)

  9. NatsLady - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    I agree it doesn’t make logical sense. But it makes human sense because most of us can imagine being a fan reaching for a ball. Most of us (actually, more than 50% of us) can’t realistically imagine being a major-league baseball player, but all of us can imagine being in the stands and, hopefully NOT snatching a ball from someone else’s hands and yelling racist taunts–but being in the stands and winning the game for our team.

  10. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    If you haven’t seen it, netflix has the “Catching Hell” 30 for 30 on Steve Bartman. It’s a great watch, as are most in the series.

  11. doubleogator - Oct 14, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    True story…That year I was invited to a halloween costume party and I went as Steve Bartman, with black and blue makeup to look as if I was beaten and crutches too…Most people had no idea, but the baseball fans there had a good laugh…

    • jarathen - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      Maybe you had to be there.

  12. jason9696 - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Someone else went for the foul ball as well. I’m surprised that Steve Bartman took all the blame for that. The whole thing was a disgrace. And the Cubs still had a chance in game seven. And I believe they were up 3-0 before they choked again. Cub fans suck for what they did to that kid.

  13. ramblingalb - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Alou could not have caught the ball, and admitted that a few years ago. If Bartman doesn’t touch it, one of several others would have. It was much ado about nothing, a media created story.

  14. gostlcards5 - Oct 14, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    “Grant DePorter, the chief executive of Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, paid $114,000 for the Bartman ball and, in a well-publicized ceremony, had it destroyed to try to lift the curse on the Cubs. The remnants were used in a spaghetti sauce. ”


    They used the remnants of a burned baseball in spaghetti sauce….???

    I don’t think you’ll have to, but NEVER let me forget to not eat at any restaurant within Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group! (yes, I’m aware that he was an radio guy for the Cardinals as well…)

    • materialman80 - Oct 18, 2013 at 2:55 PM

      At least Old Harry got to announce for a winner for part of his career…..

  15. gostlcards5 - Oct 14, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    And on Bartman…
    1) RIDICULOUS, the way he was treated by Moises Alou…
    2) DOUBLY RIDICULOUS, the way he was treated by the idiot fans (no, not all of them are idiots) during and after the game.
    3) Kudos to the guys like Prior, who said it wasn’t Bartman’s fault.

    The problem for me is, how bad do you think he wants to come back and watch baseball? For a guy that is perceived as contributing to the continuation of this “curse”, he can’t. It is admirable to me, though it may be a function of his non-desire for any publicity, that he has done nothing to profit from the incident. Glanville is spot-on, you can’t try to minimize the fact that it happened, because the only way to do that is to draw attention to it, especially while they continue to lose.

    I hope that Steve Bartman finally gets a conclusion to this whole mess that has now haunted him, through no fault of his own, for a decade. I believe that Theo is the guy to do it, though it may take him another 2 years or so to get the Cubs into contention.

  16. kando53 - Oct 14, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    No Bartman didn’t cause the Cubs to loose the series, but events like that can have a shattering affect in situations like that. Bartman, and apparently many here, are typical of the new technology generations that are much more interested in the spectacle than in being a real fan. A real fan would have kept their d@mn hands away from the ball, period.
    And, no, Buckner didn’t loose that series either, but he made a bone headed play that affected it, much the same way that Bartman did in this instance. I’ve heard Buckner’s explanation for the mis-fielding, and it is as lame as the fielding effort he made in the game.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 14, 2013 at 4:30 PM

      A real fan would have kept their d@mn hands away from the ball, period.

      Then I guess guys like ex-MLBer and current announcer Steve Lyons isn’t a real fan, b/c in that 30 for 30 series he admitted he would have done the same thing as Bartman. As would the 6-7 other people who reached for the ball, as would almost everyone else who has been at a game.

      • kando53 - Oct 14, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        If the shoe fits, then yes, I guess he isn’t a real fan of the sport. A lot of announcers are there merely for the spectacle as well, and simply love being in the spotlight. I’ve heard plenty of people defend both Bartman and Buckner, so what. Just shows what intellectual level they’re on, slightly below that of a slug. Stupid is as stupid does!

  17. stephenolszewski - Oct 14, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Watch the 30 for 30 on Bartman makes you look at how ridiculous we can be over sports guys life is or was practically ruined but I’m not a Cubs fan so I wouldn’t understand the feeling

  18. whitecastleisafoodgroup - Oct 14, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    For God’s sake give it up on blaming fans and goats for the Cub’s demise. The Cubs choked. No curse, nothing to burn in ceremony. End of story and nothing left to talk about.

    Anyone would have gone for that ball including the all the dickheads in the media that brought this garbage back up just to fill in some space on their web page or newspaper.

  19. 84cubs - Oct 14, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    I’M Not sure if it’s been pointed out here or not, if it has I apologize for the redundancy, the great Moises Alou and the even more magnificent Aramis Ramirez, booked their flights home after game 6! They recently admitted such in a local documentary about that night. In their small minds they were admitting defeat before game 7. That’s the loser mentality that two of the supposed leaders of the team had!
    So, any TRUE Cub fan knows it wasn’t any fans fault!

  20. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 14, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    Also btw, Will Leitch’s article on Bartman from Leitch’s novel is a great read:

  21. materialman80 - Oct 18, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    Don’t blame Bartman, they are the Cubs, by losing they are fulfilling their destiny…..

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