Come back, Steve Bartman, all is forgiven.
That’s the motivation of one “lifelong Cubs fan” who has created a GoFundMe page to raise money to send Bartman, the ostensible villain of the 2003 playoffs, to the upcoming wild-card game between the Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The GoFundMe page seeks $5,000 for the trip to Pittsburgh despite United advertising a $211 round-trip flight. At the time of this posting, the page listed 255 fans donating $2,965 to subsidize the 460-mile journey. The site does not indicate whether the donors root for the Pirates or the Cubs.
On the GoFundMe page, titled, “Come Get Bartman to Cubs wildcard game,” the explanation from its creator reads:
Lifelong Cubs fan wants to make amends for 2003, lets make it happen. First we need to find him to get him to the big game. If anyone knows where he is at, tell him we are looking for him. The money would pay for his expenses including his ticket, hotel room, flights and a little spending money. If he cannot be found by time of the big game all the proceeds raised will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.
As any baseball fan knows, the Chicago Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908, by far the longest stretch in baseball history. They managed to make it to the World Series a whopping seven times between 1909 and 1945, but lost every time, including a seven-game series against the Detroit Tigers in 1945 in which Hal Newhouser won three games for the Tigers. Since 1945, they have made the playoffs six times, never making past the NL Championship Series.
The most gut-wrenching loss came in 2003, when the Cubs won three of the first five games in a seven-game series with the Florida Marlins. In the sixth game, played at Wrigley Field, Cubs ace Mark Prior was sailing along with a three-hit shutout as the Cubs led 3-0 with one out in the eighth inning. With the Cubs five outs from the World Series, the Bartman incident occurred.
Juan Pierre rested on second base for the Marlins as Luis Castillo, with a full count, lofted a pop foul toward the on-field bullpen in left field. As Cubs left fielder Moises Alou jumped for the ball, headed for the stands, Bartman reached over for the ball, deflecting it away from Alou’s glove, and giving Castillo another chance.
The Cubs, primarily Alou and Prior, wanted an interference call but but umpire ruled against them, claiming the ball had broken the plane of the wall between the field and the stands. Castillo walked, triggering an eight-run outburst helped immeasurably by an error by Alex Gonzales that could have been an inning-ending double play.
The Marlins won the game, 8-3. They then won the next night 9-6 to reach the World Series, which they won in six games against the New York Yankees.
Bartman, vilified and hounded for his action, went into hiding. As the Chicago Tribune reported in 2013, “After enduring death threats and hate mail and becoming a household name, things have settled down for Bartman as the years marched on. Murtha (Bartman’s spokesman, Frank Murtha) said he has lived a relatively normal existence in the Chicago area since, with his family, friends and workplace fiercely protecting his privacy.”
Bartman is not the first scapegoat Cubs fans have targeted when their team has choked; for years, Cubs fans blamed centerfielder Don Young, who misplayed two fly balls in a July game against the New York Mets, for the eventual demise of the Cubs’ chances, despite the fact that the Cubs’ collapse happened at the tail end of the season. Whether Bartman attends the game against the Pirates or not, the Cubs may have a significant edge, as their ace Jake Arrieta, whose win total topped the league with a 21-6 record and whose 1.82 ERA placed second, will be their hurler.