By Scott Allen of the Washington Post
Infamous baseball fan Steve Bartman, who was blamed by some for helping prolong the Cubs' championship drought in 2003, will receive a 2016 World Series ring from the team.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts announced the decision to extend an olive branch to Bartman - 14 years after the fact - in the following statement to WGN on Monday:
"On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organisation, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman. We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organisation. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognise Steve Bartman with this gift today."
Bartman was vilified after he inadvertently interfered with Cubs left fielder Moises Alou's attempt to catch a foul ball hit by Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo with one out in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.
The Cubs, who led 3-0 at the time, were five outs away from their first trip to the World Series since 1945. Castillo eventually walked, the Marlins scored eight runs in the inning en route to an 8-3 win and eliminated Chicago with a win in Game 7 the following night.
Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez committed an error on what should've been an inning-ending double play a couple of batters after Castillo walked in the fateful eighth inning of Game 6, but Bartman was the one who was vilified. The until-then unknown 26-year-old Cubs fan in the black sweatshirt and headphones received death threats and went into hiding. He also hired a family friend as his spokesman.
After the Cubs broke their 108-year-old championship drought last November, Ricketts told USA Today that the team would reach out to Bartman "at the right time."
Bartman, who hasn't spoken publicly about the night he became a household name, issued the following statement on Monday:
"Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring. I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations. Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organisation and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.
"I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today's society. My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.
"Moreover, I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved. To that end, I request the media please respect my privacy, and the privacy of my family. I will not participate in interviews or further public statements at this time.
"Words alone cannot express my heartfelt thanks to the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein, and the entire Cubs organisation for this extraordinary gift, and for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an unforgettable World Championship in 2016. I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving forward with my life."