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PUT AWAY YOUR TOYS: Sunday brought perfect weather for hot-air ballooning over the Old Mendon Highway -- but when it's over, you still have to pack up. / Photo by Nancy Williams

Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Can Cubbies lose the Bartman curse?

By Matt Lenio

September 22, 2006 | To most people, the name Steve Bartman means nothing. For Chicago Cubs fans, myself included, the mere mention of his name sends shivers down our spines and makes us want to rip our Derrek Lee jerseys in rage.

It was a brisk October night at Chicago's legendary Wrigley Field when Bartman, an anonymous human resources worker, took destiny of a sports franchise into his own hands. There were two outs in the top of the eighth inning of the National League Championship Series, and the Florida Marlins trailed the Cubs 3-0. As the Marlins' Luis Castillo cracked a deep fly ball into foul territory, Bartman, a 26-year-old Cubs fan, abolished the Cubs' hope of winning the World Series for the first time in nearly a century. The Cubs' left-fielder Moises Alou ran to the brick wall, and Bartman, who was sitting in the first row, reached over Alou's baseball glove and deflected the ball.

Now, I cringe when I see the event replayed on ESPN. At the time, however, I had no idea what a disastrous chain of events would follow. Alou and the Cubs immediately argued for an interference call, but the evidence was ruled inconclusive. The video replay was able to prove that Alou had a likely chance of catching the fly ball, but league rules state that interference can only be contested when a spectator actually reaches into the field of play.

When the call was announced, chaos broke out at Wrigley Field. Police were forced to escort Bartman out of the stadium as fans hurled beer cans and popcorn at him from their seats. His only mode of self-defense was a feeble attempt to cover his face with his coat. Those of us watching from home rooted for the team from our couches and La-Z-Boy recliners, but it would prove to be in vain. With the fans enraged and the Cubs' rhythm broken, there was only one way the game could go from there -- down.

Castillo was walked by Cubs' pitcher Mark Prior, and the Marlins rallied by scoring eight runs in the inning, forcing a seventh game. The Marlins later on would defeat the Cubs, becoming the National League and future World Series Champions.

Even though Bartman apologized "from the bottom of this Cubs fan's broken heart," it could not undo the damage of that day. As a Chicago native and die-hard Cubs fan, I slept horribly on the night of Oct. 14, 2003. As my stomach did somersaults, I knew inside that the deflected fly ball was the Cubs' last chance of making another World Series appearance for a number of years to come.

The ball that had been deflected by Bartman turned into a piece of Cubs' history, and was later sold at an auction for a whopping $113,824.16 to the owners of Harry Caray's Restaurant. They later destroyed the ball at a large public event in Chicago, though it was little consolation to the legions of brokenhearted Cubs fans.

This baseball fan still holds a glimmer of hope for his home team, however. If the Boston Red Sox can overcome their "Curse of the Bambino," certainly the Cubs' time will also come. In 1918, George Herman Ruth led the Boston Red Sox to win their fifth World Series title. Ruth, who was better known as "The Babe" or "The Bambino," was just a young pitcher at the time. He would later end his career by hitting 714 homeruns before his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1936. Harry Frazee, who was owner of the Boston Red Sox in 1920, sold Ruth's contract to the New York Yankees for $100,000, in order to fund his girlfriend's theater career. The Yankees, who had previously never won a World Series title, have since gone on to win a Major League Baseball record of 26 titles.

Prior to 2004, the Red Sox made only four World Series appearances over the course of the 86 seasons. Each of those appearances was lost in game seven. That was, of course, until October 2004. After 86 seasons of waiting, hoping and praying, the Red Sox won the series, and the curse was broken.

The Cubs winning another World Series is a thought that has yet to be actualized, but every chance I get, I still go to see my Cubbies play. I am the guy in the stands, wearing blue and red and keeping a sharp lookout for anyone who looks like they might accidentally intercept a fly ball.




Copyright 1997-2006 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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