Trying to finally put the "Bartman play" to rest, the Chicago Cubs have awarded the beleaguered fan an official 2016 World Series ring.
Steve Bartman, wearing glasses, headphones and a Cubs hat, reached out and deflected a foul ball along the left-field wall at Wrigley Field during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the then-Florida Marlins. Left fielder Moises Alou responded by jumping up and down in protest, thinking he could have caught the ball. Chicago went on to squander a lead in that game as the Marlins tied the series, and the Cubs lost Game 7 to continue the franchise's epic World Series drought.
The Cubs' failure to win the series, combined with Alou's demonstrative reaction to not making the catch, resulted in Bartman's involuntary induction into the franchise's tortured history.
The Cubs buried that history last season, beating the Cleveland Indians for their first title in 108 years. Bartman was presented his ring in owner Tom Ricketts' office at Wrigley Field on Monday morning. The Cubs gave out three tiers of rings to everyone, from players to security guards. Bartman did not receive the same ring given to players; he instead received the ring given to many staff members, ESPN has learned.
"On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman," Ricketts and the Cubs said in a statement. "We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series.
"While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today."
Bartman, who has gone underground since that fateful day, issued a lengthy statement thanking the club.
"Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring," he said in a statement. "I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations. Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organization and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.
"I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today's society. My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.
"Moreover, I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved. To that end, I request the media please respect my privacy, and the privacy of my family. I will not participate in interviews or further public statements at this time.
"Words alone cannot express my heartfelt thanks to the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein, and the entire Cubs organization for this extraordinary gift, and for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an unforgettable World Championship in 2016. I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving forward with my life."
Information from ESPN's Darren Rovell was used in this report.