I know what I am about to write may not be popular to fans of the Chicago Cubs. It may reopen an old wound that still hasn’t quite healed. But it needs to be said. It’s time to forgive Steve Bartman. Now, maybe some of you have – if you’re one of those who did already, good for you. You’re a better person than I am. I for one didn’t think I could ever come to this point. Time heals all wounds, and it’s been enough time for this wound to heal.
Let’s be honest, Bartman did the same thing 99% of all baseball fans would have done. You see a fly ball coming your way, you put your hands up to catch a souvenir. No harm, no foul – except that one time, it was the wrong place at the wrong time. I, like most of you Cub fans will be able to recall every moment of that night after that infamous foul ball was touched. I wanted to break my television – I’m not going to lie. I thought about picking it up and chucking it out the window of my apartment. But I didn’t. I was in too much shock to even believe what just happened.
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But now that so much time has gone by, I can go back and look at everything that unfolded after that one moment. How does Alex Gonzalez not make that routine one-hop play? A ball that he probably had hit to him just like that one – thousands of times before and played with no problem. How does that bouncer not get scooped up and thrown over to get the out? If anything, Gonzalez deserves more blame than the scapegoat Bartman did.
Does Dusty Baker deserve any blame? That is debatable. Mark Prior was running through the Marlins, why not stick with him. You can’t fault Baker for wanting to stick with his best arm. But aside from his call with Prior, I can question Baker for giving Mike Lowell a free pass. Yes, Lowell was a better hitter than Jeff Conine, but not in that post-season. Heading into game six, Lowell was hitting .167 in the playoffs – while Conine was hitting .333. Why pitch around a guy hitting .167 to get to a guy hitting .333? Of course after that walk, Conine would fly out to Sammy Sosa who would miss the cut off man allowing for Lowell to move into scoring position. Another intentional walk was given and Mike Mordecai brought everyone in with his double. The game was broken wide open with a 7-3 score.
What would be a nice gesture of the Cubs and the Ricketts family, would be to invite Bartman back to Wrigley. As Boston did for Bill Buckner after their “curse” was broken, they brought back Buckner and forgave him. When (yes, I’m saying when not if) the Cubs win the World Series, I hope the Cubs will do just that. Let this long time Cubs fan who has already been through more than anyone of us would ever want – let him come back and sing the 7th inning stretch. Let him throw out the first pitch. Let him hold up the trophy, and let him be a fan once again.
Now that we are 11 years, four months, and seven days removed from that moment – I can say now what I never thought I would. What I swore many times I’d never say. Steve Bartman, I forgive you, and I do not hold you responsible for the Cubs losing the 2003 NLCS. Now, for those who haven’t done the same – can you?