CHICAGO -- This ball is going, going ... Ka-BLAM!
In an event applying the gloss of Hollywood and P.T. Barnum to
the "curse" of the Chicago Cubs, the foul ball that couldn't be
caught in October's playoffs will be obliterated by a
special-effects expert on live television Thursday night.
The ball-bashing, taking place with spring training just
underway, is being done to bring some closure to one of the most
painful losses in the Cubs' doleful history.
Grant DePorter, who helped buy the ball at a December auction
for $113,824 on behalf of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group, has lined
up three hours of music, comedy and celebrity appearances leading
up to the climactic event -- everything short of Steve Bartman, the
hapless fan who deflected the ball during Game 6 of the NL
The ball will be sent into oblivion by Michael Lantieri, an
Oscar winner who wrecks things for a living and has worked on such
movies as "Jurassic Park" and "Back to the Future." Lantieri, a
Cubs die-hard himself, would not reveal his exact demolition plans
but admitted he has been blowing up a dozen balls a day in his
California lab in preparation.
"That ball's gotta go," said DePorter, managing partner of the
restaurant group, which organized the event as part of its annual
tribute to Caray, the beloved Cubs broadcaster who died six years
ago Thursday. "It's like the ring from 'The Lord of the Rings' and
we're kind of like Frodo, trying to get it over with."
The ball figured in one of sports' biggest collapses. With the
Cubs leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 on Oct. 14 and just five outs
from their first World Series appearance since 1945, Bartman
reached for the ball hit toward his front-row seat at Wrigley
Field, knocking it out of reach of left fielder Moises Alou. The
Cubs then gave up a staggering eight-run rally to the Marlins, and
squandered another lead in Game 7 the next night.
The loose ball was snatched up by a Chicago lawyer and sold at
Amid public misgivings about the way he was vilified for the
wrenching loss, Bartman was invited to participate in the charity
event in front of the downtown Harry Caray's restaurant. But the
26-year-old fan, who has refused all requests for interviews since
issuing an apology in October, has no plans to attend.
"He issued a final statement, and that's pretty much the last
thing he intended to say about it," said family friend Frank
Murtha. "His whole intention was to return to his normal life.''
The ball will get VIP treatment in its last hours, from a
farewell trip to Wrigley and a last night on public display in a
hotel suite to a final "dinner" of prime steak and lobster and
even a massage.
Then comes the final reckoning. Among thousands of fan
suggestions for the act: having NASA put the ball into orbit,
dropping it off the Sears Tower and having Chicago native Bill
Murray, in "Ghostbusters" gear, obliterate it.
DePorter promises only that "it will be destroyed in a way that
there is a mess."
Practicing for the big moment, Lantieri has tortured baseballs
in various ways, concluding that "they're harder than you'd expect
to blow up."
As for Alou, he is tired of the whole business.
"I don't care about the ball," the ballplayer said. "That
wasn't the reason why we lost.'' He added: "I should put my glove
on eBay. The glove that was supposed to catch the ball."