Bartman Day Causes White Sox Reflections

October 14 anniversary provides a special opportunity.

Well, another October 14 has rolled around and all of Cardinal Nation knows what that means.  It's the second anniversary of the day Cub fan extraordinaire Steve Bartman entered the lexicon of failed American baseball fandom. 

On that fateful day, Bartman tried to catch a foul ball hit into the seats near the left field line during the National League Championship Series with the Florida Marlins.  Then-Cubs left fielder Moises Alou, trying to reach into the stands to make the grab, screamed in rage and hurled his glove in frustration when he failed to make the catch, crying fan interference.  Bartman would become a beer-soaked object of scorn and derision, escorted from the stadium for his own safety.  He would be blamed throughout all of Wrigleyville for the reversal of Cubs fortune and nearly run out of town.


Bartman Day is now celebrated throughout the nation as that day set aside for Cardinal fans to rib Cub fans, to remind the baseball wayward of how good it really is on the red side of the fence and, in shows of friendship repeated many times, to invite them in to the fold.  Northsiders don't need to be reminded of the events that unfolded that day, but it an interesting exercise to compare the outcome of Wednesday's White Sox-Angels game with that of the Cubs NLCS loss two years ago today.


To compare and contrast the outcomes of these games is an exercise in opportunities and challenges presented, addressed, and won or lost.  On October 14, 2003, the Marlins weren't really handed any capricious advantage.  In this case, the umpires ruled correctly that the ball was in well into the stands and that no fan interference had occurred.  Yet the Cubs, quite simply, disintegrated.  The game devolved from a 3-0 Cub lead on solid pitching by Mark Prior to an 8-3 Marlin lead and victory.  The Marlins would win the next game also, securing a berth in the World Series.


Contrast the Cubs' dismal performance with that of their Southside brethren Chicago White Sox.  In Wednesday night's game, the Sox were handed an advantage, albeit a slight one.  With two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning of the 1-1 game, Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski struck out swinging on a low pitch.  Whether that pitch hit the ground or not can be decided by history, but the fact is the Pierzynski, after taking one step toward the dugout, turned and ran to first base.  The Angels, thinking they had booked an inning-ending strikeout, were walking off the field.  After Angelic complaints and an umpiring crew huddle, Pierzynski was ruled to be safe at first.


Now with a man on first and two outs, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen pinch ran Pablo Ozuna for Pierzynski.  Ozuna stole second and scored on Joe Crede's walk-off double.  The Sox did what the Cubs didn't.  They rose to the occasion.  While one might argue that the roles were reversed in this case, that doesn't hold water.  What DOES hold water is that the Sox mastered the moment and the Cubs, in the face of near-certain victory, didn't.  With those two fateful turns, one Windy City franchise watched TV while the other may go to the World Series.


Today, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, describes Steve Bartman as a scapegoat and truly he is.  He shares as much responsibility for the Cubs losing that game as I do for not attending Thursday night's Cardinal loss to the Astros.  He is blameless, yet blamed.  A good man, and a good fan, vituperated by his own.  Yet his name will always be connected to the closest brush the Cubs have had with a World Series since 1948. 


On this and each October 14, I urge every Cardinal fan to find a Cub fan, remind him or her of the significance of this day, and invite that frustrated fan into citizenship in Cardinal Nation.  I'm certain that your gesture of kindness and humanity will be welcomed in light of the sincerity in which it is offered.


Rex Duncan

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