Yesterday a friend told me the story of Steve Bartman. It’s a baseball story; an American story. I was fascinated by the outcome, trying to give it some frame of reference.
America is baseball, as hockey is Canada. As a Canadian I was born a hockey fan. Hockey Night in Canada was our church, Don Cherry became the preacher. With this perspective I tried to understand the Bartman case. Try as I might, I couldn’t see this happening in Canada. I thought about Stanley Cup riots, which I immediately dismissed as apples and oranges. I pondered until my head hurt and still drew a blank. Sports fans are superstitious, that’s a given, but to blame one man for your teams demise was astounding.
Steve Bartman was a 26 year old Chicago Cubs fan in 2003. Game six of the National League Championship at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Cubs are up three runs against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs lead the series three games to two, a win will clinch a spot in the World Series. The eighth inning, bases loaded for the Marlins, Florida batter Luis Castillo hits a foul ball, several fans reach for it, appearing to interfere with Cubs fielder Moises Alou. The game is tied, Florida goes on to win the game, and ultimately the series.
Steve Bartman is singled out as the fan responsible. Security has to escort him from the stands as fans shower him with garbage, uttering death threats. Removed from Wrigley Field in disguise, fans won’t let it go. Bartman’s name and address are published shortly after, six police cars station themselves outside his home. Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich offered Bartman entry into the witness protection program, and Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered asylum. The baseball in question was sold at auction for over $100,000 dollars, then ceremoniously “blown up” at a local restaurant to rid Chicago of the curse.
Steve Bartman has never spoken publicly about the incident, refusing lucrative offers to tell his story.
Hockey is a religion in Canada, in America baseball must be God.
Associated Press photo