If you don’t know who Steve Bartman is, let’s take a trip back to 2003.
The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of one of the best runs the team has had in its history.
The “lovable losers” have won 88 regular season games, enough to earn the NL Central crown for the first time in 14 years, and are now treading unfamiliar territory in the postseason.
In the NLDS, they’ve unseated the heavily-favored Atlanta Braves, who had won a league-high 101 games, in five games to advance to the NL Championship Series.
There, they have a 3-2 series lead against the Florida Marlins and in Game 6, only a win away from the pennant, they have a 3-0 lead at Wrigley Field entering the top of the eighth inning.
The Cubs are just six outs away from what would be their first World Series appearance in half a century.
Enter Steve Bartman:
It’s been heavily debated whether or not Bartman interfered with Cubs’ outfielder Moises Alou on the play, but the ball was ruled foul and the Marlins went on to score eight runs in the inning, winning the game and forcing a Game 7.
The Marlins went on to win Game 7 en route to winning the World Series a few days later and the Cubs loss was put (unfairly) on Bartman.
Bartman, a fan like any of the rest of us just trying to catch a souvenir, was unofficially banished from the hallowed grounds of Wrigley thereafter, receiving death threats from fans who faulted him for the blown series rather than the team.
Bartman has been in hiding since.
Let’s fast-forward to the present day — Monday’s World Series Media Day.
Cleveland Indians infielder Jason Kipnis, coincidentally once a neighbor of Bartman in the Northern Chicago suburbs — thinks Cubs fans should move on from the 2003 incident and embrace Bartman:
Unfortunately, I’m not convinced everyone would “go nuts.”
Cubs fans should be embarrassed for how they treated Bartman that October night. He reacted impulsively as any true baseball fan would have. Who wouldn’t want a souvenir ball from a history-making series involving their favorite team?
Bartman wasn’t the reason the Cubs allowed eight runs that inning. And he wasn’t the reason the Cubs lost Game 7.
Nor was he the reason the Cubs didn’t go to the NLCS again until 2015.
Cubs fans can blame their team for that.
If Bartman does return to the limelight, it would only be a neat moment if Cubs fans did embrace him but there’s no guarantee they will.
What if he gets booed? If the team loses the series, Bartman could get blamed for the loss again.
He’s basically had to change his entire lifestyle because he was in the wrong seat at the wrong time. An NL Championship Series ticket that should have been a glorious purchase for him, more than likely ended up being his biggest regret.
Bartman doesn’t really have anything to gain from returning to Wrigley Field. If the fans truly wanted him back to apologize, they would have petitioned to have him return, not waited until an opponent and childhood friend came out and essentially asked the fans to forgive him.
Why should he return to the same fans and grounds that unjustly ostracized him?
The ball is in Chicago’s court, but the game ball will be in Cleveland on Tuesday for Game 1 of the 2016 Fall Classic.