Theo Epstein’s plan to end the Chicago Cubs’ 103-year run without a World Series title may include Steve Bartman, the ostracized fan who some blame for extending the championship drought in 2003.
Epstein was introduced yesterday as the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, taking control of an organization that last won Major League Baseball’s World Series in 1908 and last appeared in the championship round in 1945.
At the end of a subsequent interview on ESPN, Epstein was asked about Bartman, who earned a spot in Cubs’ lore during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.
“I haven’t talked to anyone here at the Cubs about that, but from afar, it seems like it would be an important step, maybe a cathartic moment that would allow people to move forward together,” Epstein told the sports television network.
The Cubs led the Florida Marlins 3-0 and were five outs away from advancing to the World Series when Bartman reached for a foul ball along the left-field line as outfielder Moises Alou tried to make a catch. The Marlins rallied for an 8-3 win and then beat the Cubs in Game 7.
Bartman, who didn’t end up with the ball, had to be escorted out of Chicago’s Wrigley Field as other fans cursed and threatened him. He was labeled a “doofus” and “idiot fan” in Chicago newspaper headlines. Bartman has kept a low profile since, declining interviews and autograph signings.
Bartman’s treatment was similar to that of Bill Buckner, who was vilified by Boston Red Sox fans after allowing a ground ball to get through his legs in the 1986 World Series. Buckner’s error allowed the winning run to score and forced a Game 7, which the Red Sox lost.
Boston finally ended its 86-year World Series drought in 2004, which was Epstein’s third season as the team’s general manager. The Red Sox won a second title in 2007 and Buckner was invited to Fenway Park the following season to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the team’s home opener. Buckner was given a standing ovation by the Boston fans.
“I’m all about having an open mind, an open heart and forgiveness, and I think those are good characteristics for an organization to have as well,” said Epstein, who spent nine seasons in Boston.
Epstein cited the Cubs’ tradition, history and passionate fan base as reasons he came to Chicago.
“Look, he’s a Cubs fan and that’s the most important thing,” Epstein told ESPN of Bartman. “We need to come together as an organization, the fans, the ownership, the front office, the players, everybody, if we’re going to get this thing done. So I’m sure that’s something that will come up at the right time.”