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Fan caught more than he wanted

Published Oct. 16, 2003|Updated Sep. 1, 2005

Add the Curse of Steve Bartman as the latest chapter in Chicago Cubs lore.

The fan who had a hand in foiling the Cubs' attempt to get to the World Series for the first time in 58 years by attempting to catch a foul ball in Tuesday night's NL Championship Series game found his life threatened and forever changed Wednesday.

His actions were even worse because the Cubs lost Game 7, prolonging their agony and meaning it will be 58 years without a return to the World Series.

A police guard was posted outside the house where he lives with his parents, and his brother-in-law said he was "hiding somewhere." Reporters were massed outside and calling neighbors, friends and relatives seeking any tidbit they could.

His picture was splattered all over the world, and by midday his name was posted on the Chicago Sun-Times Web site. He was blasted on talk shows and mocked on other Web sites, including one (sportsjournalists.com) that posted photos of him, Forrest Gump-style, holding a rifle in Dealey Plaza and lighting the Hindenburg afire. His office told him not to come to work.

All that after he had to have assistance from security to leave Wrigley Field on Tuesday as fans threw beer and threatened violence.

The reaction was so strong that the Cubs, who were denied a key out on the play and ended up losing 8-3, felt sorry for him Wednesday.

"That's wrong," manager Dusty Baker said. "How one event can change your life; this guy had no clue when he left home that his life would be changed. That's not what lost the game. That out would've helped. I feel sorry for the guy actually. I feel bad."

"He didn't mean to do that," first baseman Randall Simon said. "You're supposed to forget and forgive. The fan made a mistake. We just have to forget about it."

Marlins manager Jack McKeon was equally compassionate.

"I feel sorry for the guy," McKeon said. "He was an innocent fan. I probably would have done the same thing. You see it all the time in baseball. How about all the people around him trying to do the same thing?"

Bartman, 26, a resident of the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, issued an apology Wednesday evening, saying he felt "awful" and was "truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan's broken heart."

Bartman said he didn't realize Cubs leftfielder Moises Alou was going to make a play, and if he had he would have done what he could to get out of the way.

"I ask that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented toward my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs," Bartman said in a statement.

According to various reports, Bartman is a devout Cubs fan whose favorite player was Ryne Sandberg; a youth-league baseball coach; a 1999 graduate of Notre Dame; and an employee of Hewitt Associates, an international consulting firm in Lincolnshire, Ill., that decided it best he not come to work Wednesday.

While there was an angry response around Chicago, the reaction in Florida was more amusing. Gov. Jeb Bush said asylum in the sunshine state "might be good," and a Pompano Beach hotel offered him airfare to Florida and a free three-month stay.

"(It's) the least we could do for the fan that saved our season," Phil Goldfarb, president of the Holiday Inn Pompano Beach, told the Associated Press. "As dedicated Marlins fans, it is our honor to return the favor."

There even was talk that Bartman's actions were the result of a higher power. So claimed Sam Sianis, the nephew of the bar owner who supposedly placed a curse on the Cubs in 1945 when he wasn't allowed to bring a goat into the stadium.

"It seemed to me like there was something," Sianis said. "The guy was sitting there and it seemed to me like someone grabbed him and lifted him up and his hand touched the ball."

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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