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The Story of the Infamous Steve Bartman Incident At Wrigley Field
One thing to remember is that...the odds are not great that any team will ever ever win a World Series.
30 teams in a game where one team having four of the best players in the whole league doesn't mean a thing.
It is a collective effort in every sense of the word.
The only way any team can prove to be the best...is to psych everyone on your team into having the same pulse.
You not only have to think collectively, you have to FEEL collectively.
The Chicago Cubs of 2003 had managed to do this so well that when one little element caused one single player to lose his shit...it happened to every single last one of them.
It's like when you're sharing a bed with someone and that other person sets the sheets on fire accidentally. You'll panic too.
The Cubs in 2003 would manage to beat my Braves three-games-to-two in the best-of-five NLDS with the indominable duo of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Among the fans at Turner Field for three of these games in Atlanta was almost 20,000 Cubs fans. The Braves of course after making the stupid playoffs every year since 1991 and only winning once...had repelled their own city. There would be no excitement for the Atlanta Braves until they got further along. This is why...they win in the first place.
In Chicago, Wrigley Field is a trendy locale. It's where people go when they come to Chicago and get good jobs. It's not even a ballpark as much as a...park. The fans there are only a security guard away from bringing their dogs and a frisbee. The Cubs are an exercise in the psychological power of blue and red. Girls think blue and red is pretty, and grey is not. Sorry White Sox! Girls, particularly busybodies, make up a huge contingent of Cubs fans because when their relatives in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania talk to them, and the conversation becomes "I've got a job in Chicago", they hear "Chicago" and immediately say,"Oh, you'll probably be hitting Wrigley Field alot, huh?" And so they do, convinced that this is what you do when you're a Chicagoan...when all that relative of theirs meant to do was think of something, anything about Chicago to talk about.
The Cubs are an example of what you do when you very seriously don't want to spend money as a club owner. What would you do if you didn't want to pony up but still wanted to attract fans? I'll tell you what you'd do -- you'd give your uniforms pretty colors, you keep both the original name and design of the stadium always intact when every other ballpark on Earth has been remodeled and renamed by less soulless companies...I ask you...would a team that plans on actually drawing fans with its' on-the-field competence need so bad to keep an old-timey vintage tourist experience in place like that? Also you must put your team in a safe neighborhood...the one ballpark on Earth that's actually in a safe neighborhood. Good teams play on cheap gang territory. Why? Because what you're about to see on the field is worth it. The Cardinals could play in pig shit (and do). This is why there is no such thing as a thinking Chicagoan who doesn't regard the Cubs...and their fans...as suckers and cretins...when you know damn well the sight of a world championship for their organization would make us just as jubilant as it would them. By going to Wrigley Field for the last hundred years, Chicagoans have simply told the duo who made Disaster Movie that they want to see more. Stop encouraging them, and they won't be such lovable losers in the first place.
The Cubs for a century make a living off of buying one single superstar player. One. That's it.
The problem is that there comes a point when that superstar player's contract is about to expire. When this happens, they obviously try to keep him...and are always met by the same demands from his agent...he wants to play on a winner.
You can tell whenever this happens...because immediately afterwards...that player is suddenly surrounded by competent, high-priced players...for a single solitary season.
In the 80s, that player had been Ryne Sandburg. Sure enough, they're in the playoffs by 1989.
In the 90s, that player had been Mark Grace. Sure enough, they're in the playoffs by 1998.
And in the 2000s, that player was Sammy Sosa.
The Cubs also had Kerry Wood, who during that 98 season became the youngest player in baseball history to put up 20 strikeouts in a single game. And five years later, each of these men would have the appropriate help.
In the outfield with Sosa was Kenny Lofton and Moises Alou for f*ck's sake. In the infield was the great Amaris Ramirez at third, Mark Grudzielanek at second and Alex S. Gonzalez at short.
And pitching along Kerry Wood was Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano, with Kyle Farnsworth the most reliable relief pitcher in the game that year. Even more so then Mariano Rivera.
Cubs fans worldwide now an AWESOME team. But a good amount of them also knew...this was only going to be temporary. Which means that Steve Bartman, poor Steve Bartman, was about to make a name for himself by psychologically sinking the Chicago Cubs during basically their ONE AND ONLY SHOT.
Sammy Sosa, who had risen from poverty in the Dominican and fought obscurity, trades and demotions, was by now baseball's biggest star. He was cocky, charismatic, and still batting a ton now in his early 30s. Yet just as his team was winning, his legacy would be tarnished. During a game that early June, he swung at a pitch with a bat that would break...and right there in front of the home plate ump is a wine-bottle cork that popped out. The corked bat is the new "too much pine tar". When you shove a cork inside a wooden tube, it makes the wood...expand a bit. Toughen up. And it leads to hitting a ball farther then without. Thus it's cheating. And thus...Sosa was suspended for eight games. Sure enough he had the nerve to complain about a week's vacation when Pete Rose got a lifetime ban for placing a bet, not AGAINST the team he was managing, but FOR the team he was managing. Call me crazy but -- how corrupt really is that? Nothing Rose did was indicative of a manager who's about to throw the game. You want to get them to win if you're betting on them, right?
Anyway, the Cubs go on to play the Marlins in the NLCS.
Cubs are up 3-1 in Florida and can take the series on Columbus Day Monday.
But in that Monday game, Josh Beckett throws a 3-hitter for the Marlins.
And so we go onto Game 6 at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs can earn a spot in the World Series for the first time since 1945.
Behind Mark Prior, the Cubs take a 3-0 lead after seven innings.
Marlins up to bat in the top of the eighth.
Prior still on and pitching a three-hitter so far of his own.
Alou catches a flyball in left for the first out.
Fans are flipping out.
A baseball game contains twenty-seven outs. The Cubs were five outs away.
Waveland Avenue outside the stadium in the outfield (in front of those rooftop apartments) are crammed with jumping, crazy fans.
Then, again, nobody on and one out, here comes Luis Castillo for the Marlins.
He hits a fly ball that drifts foul. The wind is pushing it to the point where Moises Alou is going to have to leap up into the seats.
As he does, there are a handful of fans trying to reach for the ball.
Yet they all back off seemingly INSTANTLY after their first initial attempts fail.
Except for one 27-year old man from the north suburbs whose hands actually make contact.
These hands, directly OVER Alou's reaching glove, proceed to spend the next several seconds BOBBLING THE DAMN BALL while Alou does his damnest to defy gravity fully stretched.
Alou returns to his feet, throws down his glove, and starts yelling at him.
This poor fan, who amazingly was a little league baseball coach who had several good players who all adored him -- was listening to the game on the radio. He would proceed to listen to the commentators talking about a "fan who interfered". He would feel popcorn and beer hit the back of his neck. He would keep his eyes away from the people behind him -- for there were several thousand of these eyes on him. The fans were pointing and chanting "We're Gonna Kill You!" and "Everybody in Chicago hates you!"
There is what is known as the Billy Goat curse. In 1945, prior to the first game of the World Series, a guy tried to enter Wrigley Field with two tickets -- one for him, and one for his smelly, smelly ass goat. When the goat was denied admission, the man declared that the Cubs would never win a damn thing ever again. They got mauled in that series, and haven't been back to the World Series since.
What transpired since is sixty years of futility highlighted by two particular incidents that erased the Cubs two only chances to return. The first was in 1969 when Cubs star third baseman Ron Santo (who clicked his stupid heels like Dorothy after every win) would stand in the on-deck circle and watch a black cat run right past him...leading to the Cubs blowing a 14 game lead on the Mets within just 45 days. And the second was in 1984 when first baseman Leon Durham let a ball go through his legs to allow the San Diego Padres to come back and tie the deciding game before winning the whole pennant less then half an hour later (after being down 0-2 in a then best-of-five series, Cubs blew three straight opportunities to get that third win).
And thus, when the Bartman incident happened, a growing feeling of horror began to grip Wrigley Field. And not just the fans. The players too.
Prior throws a wild pitch that results in Castillo making it to first.
Prior then gives up a hit to Marlins superstar Ivan Rodriguez.
Now with runners at first and second, an easy double play ball is hit at Alex Gonzalez who ends up doing a freaking juggling act, sending half my family into a rage, the other half (including me) into a laughing fit.
Prior then gives up another hit. It's 3-2. But that ball goes into the outfield and Sosa misses the cut off man. Next guy up, it's 3-3.
Out comes Prior, in comes Farnsworth. Wrigley is dead silent.
The Marlins will put up five more runs before the inning is over, and Bartman is escorted out of the field by security guards. Bartman sees that there are cameras and cell phones on him, so he tries to cover his face. Yet the sea of security surrounding Bartman attracts the attention of a whole bunch of angry angry fans who had come down to buy a drink to calm their nerves. They see Bartman and suddenly the rage from the field extends to the mezzanine.
Bartman's friends ditched him. He bought four tickets that night and there had been perfect attendance.
The Cubs lose the game and now it gets fun.
As we're going into a Wednesday night Game 7, the Cubs can still win this.
Because of that slight glimmer of hope, the Chicago media decides to go ahead and try to identify the fan. A) it's news, B) it's his ass and not theirs so what do they care, and C) they can still win this series so how much trouble could he possibly be in?
Sure enough, as the Cubs lose Game 7, a game that they really really did well in and took the lead in multiple times, the media and the fans had signed Steve Bartman's death warrant.
The poor bastard would watch himself being talked about on the news deep into the night and for many months and years to come.
It was 2003, and the Cubs would never ever win a playoff game ever again.
To make it even more fun, the Yankees -- the supposed team that the Cubs were going to play in the World Series -- would be weaker then shit, and the Marlins would take them in six games. The Cubs COULD HAVE WON THE WORLD SERIES IN 2003 AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN THEIR FIRST IN NINETY-FIVE YEARS.
Instead, it's now been 103.
There were only two teams in major American team sports that had gone anywhere near as long without a title -- the Chicago White Sox (last title in 1917) and the Boston Red Sox (last title in 1918).
BOTH won the world championship in the next two years.
From all of us at Hubpagian Justice, thank you for reading.