By Eric Neel and Jim Caple
Page 2 columnists

Just 48 hours shy of his planned public execution -- he will be blown up on Thursday night in Chicago in an effort to put an end to all Cubs' curses -- the famed Bartman Ball finally broke his silence and addressed the media for the first time since that fateful Wrigley evening last October. The following is a complete transcript of his statement, delivered in the Grand Ballroom at the Chicago Hilton and Towers:

[The ball is accompanied to the podium by the donut ring from Luis Castillo's bat. The donut ring speaks first.]

Steve Bartman
Thanks to Steve Bartman and Moises Alou, the ball will now pay the ultimate price.

"I'm here because I wanted The Ball to know that he isn't in this thing alone. We were all a part of what went down. And me, the bat, and Moises' glove, we all just want to say that we think it's wrong the way The Ball has been singled out like this."

[The Ball then approaches the mic.]

"The Ball will read a statement," The Ball says. "The Ball will not take questions.

"To begin, does The Ball look great tonight or what? The Ball is lean, mean and 30 grams lighter. And before you start stirring up any s---, This has nothing to do with fallout from the BALCO hearings. The Ball got this way on the Atkins Diet.

"Next, the Ball wants to say that $113,824.16 is chump change. The Ball is insulted at the price he brought at auction. The Ball wants a recount. And, more importantly, The Ball wants his share of the money.

"Most importantly, The Ball has had it up to the Commissioner's signature with the blame game. Blaming The Ball for the Cubs giving up eight runs and blowing a three-games-to-one lead is ludicrous. Hate the playahs, not The Ball. Point your pyrotechnics at Moises Alou. Look at The Ball: He's round. He's small. How hard is it to catch him?!

"And another thing, too ... where is your Dusty-hate? In Boston, a town where they know a thing or two about curses, by the way, they ran their slow-hooked manager out of town on a rail. But you guys, you just sat back and watched while Baker left Prior out there until his arm turned to linguini.

"You want a ball worthy of your contempt? Try that pathetic little dribbler that skated under Buckner's legs in Beantown once upon a time. Sorry thing couldn't even get in the air. I was in flight, boys and girls. In flight and carrying your whole sick, twisted history with me, right into Moises' glove. I did my job. Get off me.

"But if you really must blame a ball, blame the ball that bounced off Alex Gonzalez's glove. If that was The Ball, Gonzalez would have scooped him up for an inning-ending doubleplay and we're all still celebrating on Rush Street.

"Speaking of which, The Ball could use a little something to drink right now. These lights are killing me.''

[A Cubs assistant pours him a glass of water.]

Bartman ball
One last look at the infamous Bartman ball.

"The Ball is going to the big glove in the sky tomorrow and you bring him a lousy glass of water? Take this back and get The Ball some scotch. And make it The Macallan, 18-year.''

[A Cubs assistant brings a shot glass.]

"What? Did someone just declare prohibition again? Is this all The Ball gets? Gaylord Perry couldn't throw a decent spitter with this.''

[A Cubs assistant brings a bottle.]

"That's better. Now, this drink reminds The Ball that the madmen plotting his demise are claiming Harry Caray would 'want it this way.' To that, The Ball just says this: The only thing Harry would want right now is a nice, cold Old Style and a clear lane from the booth to the bathroom.

"And do you really think you can kill The Ball anyway? Do what you will with the horsehide and the yarn, my friends, but The Ball has a solid rubber core. The Ball's spirit was here long before you (ask the Billy Goat) and it'll be here long after you've had your flashy little party tomorrow night. You want The Ball? You can't handle The Ball. Kill The Ball and The Ball goes martyr on your sorry asses. He goes immortally yard.

"The Ball goes yard in Wrigley and St. Louis and Houston and Arizona and he goes yard in California and Texas and New York! And he goes yard in South Florida and Pittsburgh and Milwaukee and Detroit. And when the Expos move to Washington, D.C., The Ball goes so yard there he sails through the window and right into the White House. Yeeeeeaaaaah!"

[The Ball collapses. There is a long, awkward silence that is broken by the occasional reporter sniffling and holding back tears. Then a Cubs assistant steps to the podium.]

"Thank you for attending today,'' the assistant says. "And if you'll hold on a minute, we'll have the cork from Sammy Sosa's bat up here for you.''

Eric Neel and Jim Caple are regular columnists for Page 2.