It lingers in the annals of great sports mishaps, whispered in the same hushed tones reserved for the space between Bill Buckner’s legs and the curious series of maladies that befell eight of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s nine starters on the eve of their championship match against Shelbyville. (If only Don Mattingly had gotten rid of those sideburns!) In 2003, in the eighth inning of the sixth game of the National League Championship series, the Florida Marlins’ Luis Castillo popped a ball into foul territory, an easy catch that would’ve put the Chicago Cubs four outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1908. The only problem is, two people went to catch the ball: Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou and Cubs fan Steve Bartman. The ball glanced off Bartman’s hand, ending the play and extending Castillo’s at-bat; the Marlins mounted a remarkable eight-run comeback on their way to winning the game, the NLCS, and the World Series; and North Side supporters gained a brand new scapegoat for their team’s inability to go all the way in the postseason—joining the ranks of an actual goat—even though there were many, many non-Bartman factors that led to the Marlins’ win.
Following the incident, Bartman was the recipient of a police-security detail and the subject (alongside Buckner) of the 30 For 30 documentary Catching Hell. When the Cubs won the 2016 World Series, he kept his distance, commending the team on its championship via the lawyer who serves as his spokesman. Today, team and pariah have made a certain kind of amends: Chicago’s WGN reports that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts invited Bartman to his office on Monday to reward the fan with his very own World Series championship ring. Let us look upon the occasion as a moment of redemption for Bartman, but not the Ricketts family, whose charitable gesture toward a target for undue hate does not excuse the fact that they’ve helped fund a lot of undue hate via their financial backing of President Donald Trump, a bloated, orange asterisk on the Cubs’ historic 2016 win.
Bartman has released a statement about the invitation and gift, which reads, in part:
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.