For years, Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman was the most loathed person in the city, all because of one innocent play.
He reached for a Luis Castillo foul ball during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins, and his life changed immediately.
Because he touched the ball and allegedly prevented Cubs’ left-fielder Moises Alou from making the catch in the 8th inning of a game and series the Marlins went on to win, many believed Bartman was to blame for extending the team’s curse. The Cubs were up 3-0 in the series leading up to that game.
Bartman and his family went into hiding and declined all requests for interviews.
Now that the 108-year World Series drought has ended, the team is giving Bartman a ring, too.
“We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series,” the team said in a statement provided to WGN. “While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization.”
Bartman, although still opting to stay out of the public eye, issued a touching statement of his own.
Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring. I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations. Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organization and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.
I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today’s society. My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.
Moreover, I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved. To that end, I request the media please respect my privacy, and the privacy of my family. I will not participate in interviews or further public statements at this time. Words alone cannot express my heartfelt thanks to the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein, and the entire Cubs organization for this extraordinary gift, and for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an unforgettable World Championship in 2016. I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving forward with my life. (USA Today)
Hopefully, Bartman and the city of Chicago can put 2003 behind them. Athletes don’t deserve years of criticism for one botched play, and neither do fans.