The Cubs’ Most Infamous Fan, Steve Bartman, Will Receive A World Series Championship Ring

The Cubs erased 108 years of misery by ending the longest championship drought in major U.S. professional sports last year by defeating the Indians in a thrilling World Series Game 7. That 8-7 victory launched massive celebrations in Chicago and soothed the pain of so many failures of the past century-plus.

The most infamous of their recent failures was in the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins, and the poster boy for Cubs misery was Steve Bartman reaching out to catch a ball over the outstretched glove of Moises Alou, who threw a fit in the outfield as the ball bounced away. The Cubs went on to lose the game and the series, thus ending their best chance in decades at ending their title drought.

Bartman became the most infamous fan in sports and was forced to go into hiding to avoid the death threats and hatred he received from Cubs fans who needed to make him the scapegoat of their frustrations with a team that made plenty of mistakes on their own to lose that series. The Bartman ball was purchased and blown up by a Chicago bar to exorcise the demons of that game, but in recent years — now more than a decade removed from the incident — there’s been a push to apologize to Bartman for the demonization of his relatively innocent act of reaching out for a fly ball.

On Monday, it was announced that the Cubs would do their part to mend fences with their once most hated fan by presenting him with a 2016 championship ring. The Cubs released an image of Bartman’s ring, along with a statement to WGN as to why they wanted to give him a ring.

“On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman,” the Cubs told WGN in a statement. “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.”

It’s a nice gesture and one that is more than deserved for someone who dealt with as much as he did for a minor incident that was blown out of proportion for a long time. Bartman released a statement as well thanking the Cubs’ organization with a hopeful tone that this can finally put an end to everything that’s surrounded the foul ball incident for the past 14 years.

“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.”