What happened to Steve Bartman? The story of 2003 Cubs foul ball incident and where he is now

The Cubs fell short of this year’s postseason, but their fans won’t escape some painful memories of what happened in 2003.

With the franchise just five outs from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945, a fan named Steve Bartman reached up and interfered with a foul ball that could have been caught by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou. Chicago lost, the Marlins would go on to win the NLCS, and one fan’s name is now permanently attached to the history of one of baseball’s biggest brands.

Of course, the heartbreak of 2003 for Cubs fans doesn’t feel nearly as bad after 2016, when Chicago won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. The incident is still one that will live in infamy for multiple generations of baseball fans.

Here’s what you need to know about the Bartman incident and where he is today.

FAGAN: Why Steve Bartman isn’t to blame for Cubs’ 2003 unraveling

What happened to Steve Bartman?

With the Cubs leading 3-0 in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, Marlins infielder Luis Castillo lofted a fly ball into foul territory at Wrigley Field.

Bartman, an otherwise unassuming fan seated near the wall, reached up just as Cubs outfielder Moises Alou leaped for the ball and interfered with the play. Bartman didn’t catch the ball, but it fell into the seats beside him. The result was simply a foul ball, one that wasn’t ruled fan interference.

What followed was pandemonium. The Cubs totally unraveled, allowing eight unanswered runs in an 8-3 loss. Was that all the fault of Bartman? Of course not. Still, Bartman had to be escorted out of Wrigley Field for his safety, and his identity was revealed shortly after the game.

The Cubs lost to the Marlins in Game 7 and were eliminated. They didn’t reach the World Series until 2016, when they won their first championship in more than century.

Bartman, meanwhile, was defended vehemently by the Cubs, but he retreated to a quiet life away from the public eye after releasing a statement apologizing. 

“I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moises Alou, much less that he may have had a play,” Bartman said in the statement. “Had I thought for one second that the ball was playable or had I seen Alou approaching, I would have done whatever I could to get out of the way and give Alou a chance to make the catch.”

“I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart. I ask that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.”

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Where is Steve Bartman now?

Bartman has been out of the public eye ever since the incident on Oct. 14, 2003. CNN, through Bartman’s spokesperson, reported in 2016 that he still lived near Chicago and worked for a financial firm.

Bartman’s spokesperson said in 2016 that his client’s goal has always been “to return to a normal life,” and Bartman has turned down every financial opportunities over the years that would have inserted him back into public life.

Is Steve Bartman still a Cubs fan?

Bartman remains a devout Cubs fan. Through his spokesperson, he said in 2016 that he was “overjoyed” that the Cubs broke the curse and won the World Series.

Bartman’s spokesperson said during the Cubs’ 2016 run that his client did not want to be a distraction in any way, rejecting calls for him to throw out the first pitch at a postseason game or even be featured in the team’s victory parade. 

In 2017, the Cubs gifted Bartman a championship ring, explaining that they hope the gift “provides closure” after the events of 2003. Bartman said in a statement that he was “deeply moved and sincerely grateful” for the ring. 

Bartman continued that he was “happy to be reunited with the Cubs family,” so there is little doubt he remains an avid fan of the team. 

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What did people do to Steve Bartman?

Bartman was the subject of taunts and threats both immediately after the incident and in the weeks and months that followed.

Fans directed derogatory chants toward Bartman and pointed in his direction, while at least one fan poured beer on him. That led security to escort Bartman out of the game for his own safety. Later, police had to stand guard outside of Bartman’s home after his name and information were leaked online.

Bartman’s spokesperson said in 2016 that his client continued to receive threats more than a decade later.

How old was Steve Bartman in 2003?

Bartman was was born on Oct. 1, 1977, so he had recently turned 26 when the NLCS incident took place. 

How much is the Steve Bartman ball worth?

The Bartman ball was sold by a Chicago lawyer in 2003 for $113,824. A Chicago restauranteur purchased the ball and had it destroyed the following year, in an attempt to end the curse.

While the ball isn’t totally intact, its remains are. What’s left of the ball is on display at the Chicago Sports Museum, though it was been mostly torn apart by the attempt to destroy it.

The ball has only gained infamy through the years, but considering its state and the fact that there is no indication the museum plans to relinquish it, it doesn’t appear the current worth of the ball will be revealed any time soon.

Steve Bartman in pop culture

The incident and Bartman himself have taken on a life of their own since 2003. 

ESPN’s “Catching Hell” documentary told the Bartman story in 2011, though Bartman himself declined to be a part of the production. 

Elsewhere, the Bartman incident was heavily referenced during a 2007 episode of “The Simpsons,” in which Homer Simpson is dressed like Bartman was in 2003 and interferes in a similar way.

The incident is also briefly referenced in a scene during a 2006 episode of “Family Guy.”

It can be tough for modern-day baseball to break through into the pop culture world, but the incidents that do get to that point are typically unique, controversial and often bizarre. The Bartman saga fits all three descriptions, which is why it remains such a prominent memory for so many fans two decades later.

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