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A World Series Ring For Steven Bartman

A 2016 World Series championship ring the Chicago Cubs said they were giving to Steve Bartman.
Chicago Cubs
A 2016 World Series championship ring the Chicago Cubs said they were giving to Steve Bartman.

Steven Bartman was in a baseline seat at Wrigley Field in the eighth inning of the sixth game of the 2003 National League Championship when fame fell on him.

The Chicago Cubs were just five outs from the World Series and Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins chipped a short fly ball down the left field line. Moises Alou, the Cubs left fielder, leaped and reached into the seats. But Steve Bartman and half a dozen other fans stretched for the ball, too. Everyone missed, but the ball smacked off of Steven Bartman's outstretched hand. No out.

Moises Alou slammed his glove in anger and frustration. The Cubs were close to extinguishing the curse that supposedly racked them for decades. Mark Prior, the Cubs pitcher, pointed to the stands to cry fan interference and the cameras settled on a young man in glasses who wore headphones just below his Cubs cap: Steve Bartman.

The Marlins went on to score eight runs — and eventually went on to win the World Series. The curse of the Cubs continued — but I think because of us fans.

What happened that night should be called the Ugly Fan Incident. Some jerks in the stands chanted obscene and brutal things at Steve Bartman. They threw cups of beer. Steven Bartman had to hang his coat over his head while police steered him through gangs of spitting, sputtering half-wits in Cubs hats, to bring him safely home. He needed a police guard for weeks.

I do not believe in curses. But I do believe jerks can earn comeuppance. That night, Cubs fans behaved shamefully, and cursed the club they love into a panic, and out of the World Series.

Over the years, Steven Bartman has declined comment, and turned down all offers to cash in on his notoriety with commercials, books, interviews or appearances.

The Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series last year, for the first time in 108 years. And this week, the club gave Steven Bartman a World Series ring, just like the one they gave their players, with 108 diamonds. A ring like that is not just some public radio tote bag.

"Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor," Steve Bartman said in a statement, "I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful ... 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."

This week a once-luckless club and a once-defamed fan gave us, as much as great athletes do, glimpses of grace.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

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