After 14 years, Steve Bartman’s infamous catch has finally paid off. Today the Chicago Cubs announced that it is bestowing the beleaguered fan with a World Series championship ring, in an effort to provide “closure on an unfortunate chapter.”
The unfortunate tale began when Bartman, a Cubs fan sitting in the stands during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins, interfered with a play by reaching over and catching a ball in foul territory. The fan faux pas caused a chain reaction of calamity for the Cubs, who, at the moment, were only four outs from going to the World Series—where the team could have won its first championship since 1908.
Instead, Chicago lost that game and the next, and were done for the season.
Cubs fans have had mixed views over the gaffe, some forgiving Bartman for interfering with the play, while many others tormented the then-26-year-old who became reclusive amid death threats, offering no interviews and refusing to cash in on his notorious fame despite many offers.
“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,” said the Cubs in a statement. “After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today.”
If Bartman’s ring is the same given to the team’s players and staff, it has 108 diamonds on it, representing the 108-year drought Chicago endured without a championship. The ring, reportedly worth $70,000, also has a goat on it, representing the curse of the billy goat, which was allegedly cast upon the team during the World Series in 1945.
For his part in Cubs’ history, Bartman has cast no curses. Instead, he released a statement via Chicago’s WGN. In it, he thanked the Cubs ownership and Theo Epstein, the team’s president, but he also had some opinions for what the ring truly represented.
“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,” said Bartman. “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.”