It’s known simply as the Steve Bartman Incident. The date was October 14, 2003 and the setting was legendary Wrigley Field in Chicago. The ordinarily hapless Cubbies were anything but that year, having breezed through the regular season before easily winning their first playoff series. And that night, their ace, Mark Prior, was hurling a three-hit shutout, his team ahead 3-0, and just five outs shy of making its first World Series appearance since 1945. Was it possible the Cubs could become champions for the first time since 1908?
It sure seemed like it. Until Florida Marlin’s second basemen Luis Castillo hit a shallow fly ball which drifted toward the left-field bleachers.Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou looked as if he might have a play on the ball.
Enter Steve Bartman — a ordinary-looking fan sporting a fitted Cubs hat and a set of headphones which appeared to have been on loan from the 70’s. Just as Alou was reaching the highest point of his perfectly timed leap, the one that would allow his glove to reach into the first row of the stands and procure the inning’s second out, Bartman interfered with the ball and ruined Alou’s chances of making the play.
Though still a bachelor at the time, the first thing that came to my mind pertained to parenting. I turned to my friends who sat alongside me in stunned silence and uttered the following words. “If I ever have a child, I am going to make certain I teach him the importance of spectator sport etiquette.”
My three year old triplets are still a bit young to be schooled. But not my stepdaughter, Pookie. She’s 9. And each time I take her to any sporting event, I teach her all about etiquette. When it’s okay to take her seat. What’s okay to yell. When it’s appropriate to use the restroom. The last thing I ever want any of my kids to do is interfere with another’s enjoyment of a big-time sporting event — especially if that person plays for my favorite team!
The Marlins went on to score 8 runs that fateful inning. They won the game handily, and wound up winning the World Series over the heavily favored New York Yankees. The Cubs? They haven’t won a playoff game since.
Just like 2003, this year’s post season has been an exciting one. The story so far? The Texas Rangers who are just one game away from making their very first World Series appearance. They currently lead the heavily favored New York Yankees 3 games to 1. But I fully expect the defending champs to take care of business in game 5, which would send the series back to Texas for game 6.
So Rangers fans, should you see a foul ball floating your way, might I encourage you to keep your hands to yourself? The last thing you wanna do is pull a Bartman. Surely your parents taught you better than that.
Photo: Seattle Times