The Chicago Cubs broke a 100-year curse winning the World Series last year, but this year the team made history yet again by being the first team to award a diamond-studded World Series Ring to a fan, albeit an aggrieved one.
On Monday team owners, the Ricketts family, called the notorious fan to the Cubs’ office to offer the gift of “closure” in the form of a personalized 2016 World Series ring with his name embossed on the side, the Chicago media reported:
Steve Bartman: 2016 World Series champion. pic.twitter.com/yp73Fq22b6
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 31, 2017
Those not living in Chicago or who are not long suffering Cubs fans may not know the story of the infamous Steven Bartman, but the Windy City may never forget him as the man who reached out to grab for a ball flying toward the stands interfering with left fielder Moises Alou in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.
In 2003 he became infamous during the NLCS. Today, Steve Bartman received a Cubs World Series ring. pic.twitter.com/tWh3UezMa2
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 31, 2017
The entire city erupted in shock at the incident sending sports reporters and fans scurrying to identify the culprit who cost the Cubs the game, the series, and maybe the World Series that year. Due to the fact that the Cubs never recovered after Bartman’s actions, and the team subsequently went down in flames.
The incident has been contentious ever since. Some insist that Bartman interfered in the play and others say Alou never had a chance to snag that fly ball, anyway, because it was outside his reach. In 2008, Alou himself even said that he could never have caught it. But whatever the case, Bartman was hounded by Chicago fans for years afterward and became a pariah in his own city.
The ball involved in the messy incident—unsurprisingly dubbed “the Bartman ball”—was later purchased for over $100,000 and publicly destroyed in 2004 for charity. But all that accomplished was to put Mr. Bartman in the news all over again, stirring up all the old passions.
As to the Cubs, well, over the years they repeatedly absolved Bartman from any wrong doing. And now, the Ricketts’ hope that by awarding him a World Series ring, Bartman will have some “closure.”
The team’s owners released a statement:
On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman,” the Cubs told WGN in a statement. “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. 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. After all, he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today
Mr. Bartman also released a statement:
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.
With such a magnanimous statement as that, let’s hope this is the last chapter in the infamous Bartman ball incident.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.