Should Steve Bartman be off the hook with Cubs fans? According to Moises Alou, he should be.
Alou, now with the Mets, said he wouldn't have caught the now-infamous pop foul in the 2003 National League Championship Series that hit the heel of Bartman's hand in the eighth inning of Game 6, prolonging an inning in which the Marlins later rallied for the lead. Florida went on to win the series.
The Cubs were leading the Marlins three games to two in the 2003 NLCS, ahead 3-0 in the top of the eighth inning and five outs from returning to the World Series for the first time since 1945 when Florida's Luis Castillo lifted a foul down the line in left just past the bullpen.
Alou raced over, timed his jump perfectly, opened his glove wide -- and got beat to the ball by a 26-year-old youth baseball coach in Row 116, Seat 9 who didn't do anything more strenuous than stand up. The baseball hit the heel of Bartman's hand and caromed farther back into the stands. In the Marlins dugout, Game 7 pitcher Mark Redman turned to a teammate and said, "Let's make this kid famous."
They did, but only because a few pitches later, Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez made an equally ham-handed attempt on a grounder that should have been an inning-ending double play. Florida erupted for eight runs to win Game 6 and the only real suspense left was whether the kid would get out of Wrigley Field alive that night. The Marlins clinched the NLCS the night after.
"Everywhere I play, even now, people still yell, 'Bartman! Bartman!' I feel really bad for the kid," Alou told Associated Press columnist Jim Litke.
"You know what the funny thing is?" he added a moment later. "I wouldn't have caught it, anyway."
That stands in stark contrast to Alou's reaction at the time. After the play, he jumped up and down with his arms outstretched.
After the game, he said: "I timed it perfectly, I jumped perfectly. I'm almost 100 percent that I had a clean shot to catch the ball. All of a sudden, there's a hand on my glove."
He didn't have kind words for Bartman on that night either.
"Hopefully, he won't have to regret it for the rest of his life," he said.
Bartman is fine and still in hiding somewhere in the Chicago area. The baseball didn't fare quite as well.
Lifelong Cubs fan Grant DePorter, who doubles as president of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group, the popular chain named after the famous broadcaster, paid $113,824.16 for the ball at an auction that December and turned it into a multimillion-dollar publicity stunt. First, he arranged for it to visit Wrigley Field one last time, then set the baseball up in a hotel suite for a last supper of steak, lobster and ice-cold Bud. The day after that, on live TV, it was blown to smithereens.
"It sounds insane now, all that money for a baseball we were going to blow up," DePorter said, standing behind the desk in his office. "But I remember exactly what I was thinking back then."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.