'Bartman Game' still weighs on Gonzalez

Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou's arm is seen reaching into the stands, at right, unsuccessfully for a foul ball. AP Photo/Morry Gash

NASHVILLE -- With the 10th anniversary of the Chicago Cubs' infamous ‘Bartman Game' coming next year, former shortstop Alex Gonzalez sat down Wednesday for a rare reflection on his role in a game that will live in Cubs' infamy.

With the Cubs five outs away from the 2003 World Series, Luis Castillo hit a pop-up that started to sway into foul territory along Wrigley Field's left-field wall. As Moises Alou closed in, several fans reached out, but Bartman was the one who made contact with the ball. Alou slammed his glove in anger as the wrath of Cubs Nation started to descend on Bartman, who ultimately was escorted from the field for his own safety.

Moments later, Gonzalez booted what might have been an inning-ending double play ball as the Florida Marlins rallied for a Game 6 victory before going on to clinch the NLCS in Game 7. While Bartman's life changed forever and was chronicled in an ESPN '30 For 30' documentary, Gonzalez's role didn't seem to garner the same attention.

"If you ask anyone on that field, it was both. I don't think the attention was just on him," Gonzalez said from the Winter Meetings, where he is working as a player agent.

Gonzalez watched the documentary recently, and predictably, the eighth inning wasn't the brightest of moments in the game.

"It was tough," he said. "Tough all the way around, for everybody."

Especially Bartman, who hasn't talked about the incident since it happened. Gonzalez prefers not to dwell on the error that followed that infamous foul ball.

"Occasionally it comes up," Gonzalez said. "Anytime they ask about my career. It comes up. I leave it as a positive because everyone says what a great team we had.

"Even walking around here (at the Winter Meetings) Cub fans always give me a positive reaction."

Gonzalez calls the error – just his 11th of the season -- on a Miguel Cabrera potential double-play ball, "part of the game." But he understands that fans see the error and the preceding Bartman play as more.

"I knew about their passion, and watching that documentary you can tell how many generations it goes back," Gonzalez stated. "They want a sense of hope. If there's hope they feel like they can be a part of it."

Hope left the building with those two plays and there wasn't much the next night when the Cubs lost Game 7 and a chance at their first World Series since 1945.

"I felt for everyone in that stadium at that time," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez is still proud of what that team accomplished in winning the NL Central and then the divisional round -- plus three games in the NLCS -- that season. He called Dusty Baker his "favorite manager" and his teammates "some of the best I've played with."

"I've been on some really talented teams that weren't able to accomplish what we did in 2003," he said.

But most will remember the ending and how it fell apart in Game 6. Watching the documentary nearly 10 years later didn't change Gonzalez's emotions.

"Same feelings I had during the game," he said. "There's nothing new to talk about. No one wants to be in a situation where you're losing the championship."