The Chicago Cubs have a rather unfortunate boast: they haven’t won a World Series in over a century. There are many reasons for this, but it has occasionally been said to be due to a curse involving a billy goat and a Greek immigrant and details that really don’t make sense even after you’ve heard them. Their losing streak is one of the worst on record, and yet it looked like it might finally end in the fall of 2003. They had made it all the way to Game 6 of the National League Championship, and seemed destined to become celebrated victors. They might have succeeded, too, if it weren’t for a baseball fan named Steve Bartman.
Mark Prior had been pitching extremely well that night. Luis Castillo of the Florida Marlins was at bat, with two outs to go in the inning, and unintentionally hit a pop foul towards the bleachers. Moises Alou rushed over to catch it, but before he could, Steve Bartman reached down and snatched up the baseball. This is what is known as “screwing over your team through excessive eagerness.” The Cubs were notably rattled by the incident, and the Florida Marlins took advantage of the sudden shift in momentum to score eight runs and win the game.
To be fair, the ensuing collapse can’t really be blamed on Bartman. There’s no way of knowing for certain if Moises Alou would have caught the ball (though he likely would have), and if one overzealous fan can unnerve you that much, then you probably don’t deserve to win. Steve Bartman quickly became one of the most despised men in the city, though, as his name, phone number and address were printed for all to see by the Chicago Sun-Times. He faced constant scrutiny and public derision for months, until he made a sizeable donation to juvenile diabetes that finally allowed him to retreat into the shadows.
As for the offending ball, it was purchased in an auction by Grant Deporter for the sum total of $113,824. He blew up the hated object in a widely broadcast spectacle, and then allowed the remains to be used in a pasta sauce. A fitting end for something that once changed the course of sports history.