CHICAGO - The Chicago Cubs announced Monday that Steve Bartman, a fan once vilified for deflecting a foul ball away from a Cubs outfielder during the 2003 NLCS, received a Cubs World Series ring from the team.
Bartman became a scapegoat by Cubs fans after attempting to catch the foul ball and preventing Cubs outfielder Moises Alou from making the catch in the eighth inning Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS.
The Cubs were leading the game 3-0 at the time and the series three games to two. After coming within five outs of the team's first World Series appearance since 1945, the Cubs would go on to lose the game and the series.
"As fate would have it he was right there, and he got blamed for it, which I think was really unjust," said fan Harold Weidner.
"Anyone would have reached for that ball, and the fact of the matter is Alou lost his cool, they couldn't get the last five outs, couldn't close the deal," said fan Dennis Alberts.
Bartman snuck out of Wrigley Field that night with security, and into 14 years of shame and silence.
Bartman avoided the public spotlight and declined interviews after the incident. After the Cubs ended their 108-year World Series drought in 2016, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said the team planned to reach out and extend an olive branch to Bartman.
"I think it's great, I think symbolically it should ease a lot of his pain. I'm glad we took the step to do that,' said Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
The Cubs said Bartman was presented with the ring Monday morning. According to Bartman's attorney, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, President of Business Operations Crane Kenney and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein were all present for the ring presentation.
"I think it's good to put that to bed and obviously we won so we can all move on and let him live his life so I think it's great," said Kerry Wood, 2003 Cubs pitcher.
On Monday, Bartman broke his silence and released a statement saying,
"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 organization 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 organization 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."
Ricketts also released a statement Monday:
"On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, 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 organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today."