Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Bartman legacy lives on in Wrigley adventure
I've learned that the Steve Bartman curse is real.
My daughter and I spent the weekend in Chicago visiting otters, scaling tall buildings and doing other things tourists do, and capped off the vacation with Sunday night's Cubs game against the Cardinals.
Wrigley is, if nothing else, an interesting place to see a game, and my daughter learned many things.
I told about some of my past adventures there, including the afternoon when I was sure a Cubs fan died in my lap.
I told her about the ivy and the billy goat, and pointed out how the once quaint tradition of neighbors watching games in lawn chairs atop their roof has been replaced by multi-decked stadium seating owned by corporations.
We visited the statues of Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo – and couldn't find where the team has moved the strange monument to Harry Caray.
I also explained the Cubs fans Will calls “Tylers and Trixies” who arrive in the third inning after partying at Murphy's, Sluggers or any of the other Wrigleyville establishments, walk around the park with drink in hand and leave after a former Cub or another Chicago notable sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
But I also told her about the plight of Steve Bartman, the fan who did what any other fan would do when a foul ball came his way. Of course, Bartman reached up for a ball at a pivotal point in the 2003 playoffs, possibly preventing Moises Alou from catching a ball and opening the door for another epic collapse.
You know you're in Wrigley when you see ivy on the wall and generations of sad fans.
I bear no ill-will toward Mr. Bartman, now somewhere in exile. The loss allowed the Florida Marlins to head to the World Series, where they became the second expansion team in three years to deny the Yankees a championship.
During batting practice, we made out way over to the left field corner and pointed out the general area where I thought the now infamous Bartman incident occurred. I had an idea where this was because Will and I posed for photos reenacting the scene, and two of those shots are going to be included in an HBO documentary scheduled to be aired before or during the World Series. True story.
“This is the one, right here,” an usher said as he pointed to the exact seat, numbered 113.
I will say this: The Wrigley ushers are the most friendly, helpful collection of senior citizens anywhere. Several offered to take photos of my daughter and me, and one directed us to a booth near the gift shop where Caroline would be given a certificate saluting her first time at the ballpark.
I was sitting right in the Bartman seat when a ball hit by a Cardinal batter taking his cuts came bouncing our way. I reached out, felt the ball in my outstretched hand – only to have it knocked out by the fan behind me, dropping to the field where neither an usher or Cardinal shagging flies would bestow it upon us. Apparently such duties are reserved for Manny Acosta.
Caroline recreates the Bartman moment. The doof behind her in the jersey is the guy who knocked the ball out of my hand.
We were denied our prize – just like Bartman. The Cubs, of course, went to blow the actual game, 6-2, though no one sought to blame us.
I'm pretty sure Cubs pitcher Rodrigo Lopez gets the blame, especially after surrendering back-to-back homers to John Jay and Yadier “Bleeping” Molina. Both balls were tossed back on the field, which I explained was a Wrigley tradition, and a stupid one at that.
We were pleasantly surprised when Albert Pujols launched a bomb into the bleachers in the fifth inning, and this time the fan held on to it.
From our perch in the upper deck, we could see and hear the abuse the fan was being subjected to. But even a Cubs fan realized that a home run ball hit by the best player in the game is worth holding on to.