10/15/2003 8:37 PM ET
Cubs hope fan is forgiven
Vilified spectator issues apology for going after ball
CHICAGO -- The heartbroken fan who unwittingly played in a role in the Chicago Cubs' Game 6 loss of the National League Championship Series apologized Wednesday in a prepared statement.
"I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moises Alou, much less that he may have had a play," Steve Bartman, 26, said in the statement. "Had I thought for one second that the ball was playable or had I seen Alou approaching, I would have done whatever I could to get out of the way and give Alou a chance to make the catch.
"I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan's broken heart," he said. "I ask that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs."
Cubs manager Dusty Baker agreed, saying prior to Game 7 that everyone blaming the fan for fouling up the Chicago Cubs' chances to advance to the World Series should back off.
"That's not what lost the game," Baker said. "That out would've helped. I feel sorry for the guy, actually. I feel bad."
Bartman tried to catch a foul ball hit by Luis Castillo in the Marlins eighth inning Tuesday night in Game 6. Cubs left fielder Moises Alou also tried to get the ball, making a leaping catch at the wall, and Bartman appeared to interfere with Alou. However, fan interference wasn't called because the umpires ruled the ball was not in the field of play.
The Cubs had a 3-0 lead Tuesday, but the Marlins rallied for eight in the eighth to win, 8-3, and force a Game 7. There was champagne on ice waiting to be sprayed in the Cubs clubhouse. It'll have to wait.
Fans were carrying "Wanted" signs outside Wrigley Field before Game 7 with the fan's image on them. Told that the media was at the fan's house Wednesday, Baker bristled.
"That's wrong," the Cubs manager said. "How one event can change your life -- this guy had no clue when he left home that his life would be changed. Maybe we were just supposed to play Game 7. Maybe he's part of the equation and the whole reason we're playing Game 7. I'd like to win this game [Wednesday] just to relieve him, too."
There's no talk of a curse or jinx or hex on the Cubs after what happened. Former Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg pointed out that Bartman wasn't the only one going after the ball.
"The guy's got a Cub hat on," Sandberg said Wednesday. "I think [Mark] Prior said it as good as anybody -- he thought that 99 percent of the fans would have the same reaction down there.
"Plus, [the fan] didn't reach two or three feet over the wall," Sandberg said. "It was just right there on him. If you look at any pictures or look at any of the replays, you've got fans reaching over all over the place, even like three rows back there's fans coming into the picture. Everybody has the same idea there. Some of it's self defense -- you're not to get hit on the head -- and also get a souvenir along with it.
"Look at the great effort by Alou," Sandberg said. "I haven't seen too many guys climb that wall and go as deep as he was. He made a great effort to get that close to it."
There were other mistakes that inning. How about the rare error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who had made 10 errors in 150 regular-season games?
"You can't point fingers at Gonzo, either," Baker said. "He's saved us defensively all year long. How many shortstops end the season with 10 errors? You can't point fingers at anybody. You've got Game 7 here and you've got to play."
The Cubs' resiliency has been tested all season. They've survived corked bats, collisions, suspensions and injuries. Now, it's a foul ball misplayed by a overexuberant fan.
The Cubs were five outs away from advancing to the World Series before the eighth inning debacle. Can they forget about that?
"You've got to be able to forget [Tuesday]," Baker said. "These guys believe. Things can knock them down but nothing can keep them down. If they did, we wouldn't be where we are now. It's similar to where we were going into the last week [of the regular season] tied with Houston. It's similar to Game 5 in Atlanta [of the NLDS]. We've been tested like this all year long and now here we are in Game 7."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story, which was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com