Despite the myriad story lines involving the Cubs and their 108-year championship drought, most seemed to be fixated on one in particular: What does Steve Bartman think about all this?
I maintain that if the Cubs do indeed emerge victorious, Bartman should be given an invitation by the Cubs' brass to ride in one of the victory parade cars. I feel that would be a more than appropriate gesture given his life was thrown into upheaval after the 2003 NLCS. While I have no way of knowing for sure, my sense is that only a minority percentage of the Cubs' faithful still harbor any bitterness towards Bartman. As such, I imagine he'd be welcomed back to Wrigley Field for the World Series, a story line which would approach the enormity of the Cubs actually being in the Fall Classic for the first time in 70+ years.
Alas, such an appearance seems unlikely.
Ray Sanchez of CNN spoke with Frank Murtha, a sports agent and family friend who has served as Bartman's spokesperson for the past 13 years. Murtha was asked if Bartman might make an appearance at Wrigley Field during the World Series, perhaps to throw out a first pitch. Murtha's answer seemingly shut the door on the possibility.
"The likelihood that he would return to throw out a first ball or anything like that is probably slim, none and no chance," Murtha said. "Steve just wishes the Cubs well and has no interest in being any distraction from whatever happens to them."
Bartman was a distraction in 2003. With the Cubs up 3-2 on the Marlins and five outs from the World Series, Bartman reached for a foul ball. Left fielder Moises Alou threw a fit, seeming to believe he would have caught the ball. Fans turned on Bartman and he had to be escorted from the park as the Cubs went on to lose both Game 6 and Game 7 the following night.
The flip side to this is what if the Cubs go on to lose the series after Bartman attended a game? I guarantee there would be some fans who would blame such a defeat on his mere presence.
According to Sanchez, Bartman still lives in Chicago, works at a financial firm, and is still a Cubs fan.
In fact, while it has not been confirmed, Tom Waddle of ESPN Radio in Chicago says that he has heard that Bartman has indeed been to Cubs games since the incident in 2003.
"It is my understanding that he has actually been to games, Waddle said on ESPN Radio. "He's just done it in a very low key, kinda secretive fashion. He remains a Cubs fan."
Despite the image of the green turtlenecked/glasses wearing/headphones donning super fan being seared into the collective minds of all baseball fans, would anyone even recognize Bartman if he, say, starting wearing contact lenses, wore no hat and grew a goatee? Yes, I absolutely believe he has been to Wrigley Field in the 13 years since his own personal day of infamy.
Murtha also told Newsday that the Cubs have indeed invited him back to Wrigley. Bartman spurned those invitations along with numerous lucrative offers to make personal appearances.
Among the offers turned down by Murtha, according to Sanchez, were book proposals, "six-figure" offers to do a commercial, a six-week Florida vacation, and even a Broadway play.
Hearing of this causes me to give Bartman the utmost respect. From what we learned about him in the aftermath of the 2003 NLCS Game 6 incident was that he was a lifelong Cubs fan who wanted nothing more then to see his beloved team finally exorcise its multi-generational demons. Naturally seeing his Cubs fall short would have been heartbreaking enough. But the idea that Bartman may have felt partially responsible for prolonging the franchise's agony is unconscionable. Yet despite all that, Bartman loves his Cubs so much that he wouldn't even entertain the multiple generous offers (which I would argue he more than deserved given what he's had to endure) to emerge from the shadows and share his story.
While Murtha says that Bartman's goal "has been to return to a normal life," he also concedes that there is still a safety concern, and that Steve still receives threats.
"There’s a certain number of people in our society who are wrapped real tight and they’re a couple of bricks short of a full load," Murtha told Newsday. "Death threats and the like show up on social media, attempts to get through to him at his workplace."
If for no other reason, I would like to see the Cubs win just for the opportunity for a middle-aged man to resume living a (somewhat) normal life. That is the absolute least he deserves.