OCTOBER 15--Meet Steve Bartman. He's the poor 26-year-old Chicago Cubs fan who last night got his hands on that foul ball headed for outfielder Moises Alou's mitt. Bartman, who attended the University of Notre Dame, works for a Chicago-area consulting firm and serves as coach for a local youth baseball program.
We wanted to speak with Bartman about last night's incident, but he did not return messages left on his office voicemail. And when we dialed Bartman up at his apartment--about three miles from Wrigley Field--we got a recorded message saying that his number had been disconnected.
Which is probably not a bad idea.
In a statement released this evening, Bartman apologized "from the bottom of this Cubs fan's broken heart." He said that he had his "eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moises Alou, much less that he may have had a play.
Had I thought for one second that the ball was playable or had I seen Alou approaching, I would have done whatever I could to get out of the way and give Alou a chance to make the catch."
His extended family is also unable to be reached.
ROCHELLE RILEY: PR pros to Cubs fan: Keep a low profile
October 17, 2003
BY ROCHELLE RILEY
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
It is just our way. We always look for a scapegoat, someone to blame for the latest misstep.
This week, we blamed Steve Bartman.
The 26-year-old Chicago Cubs fan has been on our lists since reaching for a souvenir ball at the same time as Cubs outfielder Moises Alou Tuesday night. The Cubs lost the game. They lost the series Wednesday night.
And we blamed Bartman the way Al Gore blamed Florida. If the Cubs had already won the series, it wouldn't have mattered, just like if Gore had already won West Virginia or Tennessee, Florida wouldn't have mattered.
So Bartman, who seems like a nice guy, is in hiding.
I felt for him, so I plan to start a campaign to have all baseball stadiums remove the first 10 seats in the outfield. That way, this can never happen again.
But since I'm no expert, I also called a few PR professionals to get real advice on what Bartman should do now:
Sorry, sorry, sorry
"I thought that the statement he put out was good," said Bob Berg, vice president of Berg Muirhead and Associates Inc. "I wondered if somebody helped him with that. You know the saying, 'What can I say after I've said I'm sorry?' Usually if you've made a really big mistake, the best thing to do is 'fess up and beg for forgiveness. And he did that."
Berg, who ran interference for Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, knows hot water and grew up in Illinois.
"I was never a Cubs fan as a kid, but all my friends were. So there's a definite psyche involved there. . . . He's probably being harder on himself than anybody else. But I think, from a PR standpoint, about all you can do is what he did. He can get a made-for-TV movie out of it."
Berg said he wouldn't advise Leno or Letterman.
"I understand that it's sports and not life or death, but for people in Chicago, that city is in mourning. If I were him, I wouldn't do anything that would make light of it."
Fans will forgive
Shaun Wilson of WilsonBowens Public Relations disagreed. He would advise Bartman to do Leno and Letterman -- after he relocated to the Sunshine State.
"I would advise him to move to Florida and start a Marlins fan appreciation club. And then run for governor."
All kidding aside, Wilson said he'd encourage Bartman to "focus on the positive."
Leland K. Bassett, chairman and CEO of Bassett & Bassett Inc. Communication Managers and Counselors, offered six tips.
"The first step is to accept reality," Bassett said. "The second would be to make a statement that reflects and articulates the agony and the pain and feelings of true Cubs fans, which he's already done."
Bassett's third and fourth tips? Remember that perception is greater than reality, and give the fans time to heal. Cubs fans, he said, are going through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
"People in Chicago, from what I've seen -- they were in denial," he said. "Now they're in anger."
Bassett said the fans will come around. Already, some have admitted they'd have done the same thing in Bartman's shoes, or seat.
"He was responding with a natural instinct. Any fan in that spot in that moment would go for it," Bassett said.
Bassett's fifth tip was for Bartman not to go drinking with buddies in bars right now.
And his sixth bit of advice? It matched that of other experts: Take a vacation.
The Bartman family is refusing to do any appearances or interviews. No media has been able to locate them since Monday.
"Serious, credible threats have been received. He's in actual danger," said one of his attorneys who asked to remain anonymous.
Contact ROCHELLE RILEY firstname.lastname@example.org. Her columns appear on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Please forgive Steve Bartman.
Will Chicago Ever Forget?
Fan Reached Out and Robbed Cubs of Game They Had to Win
By ESPN.com's Jayson Stark
C H I C A G O, Oct. 15 â€” We don't know his name. We don't want to know his name. We hope no one in Chicago ever learns his name.
We hope he already has joined the witness-protection program. We hope he can start a new life somewhere, rooting for a team thousands of miles from the North Side of Chicago. We hope he forgets. We hope the people of Chicago forget about him.
But that will never happen. No way. Because the Cubs lost a playoff game they couldn't lose Tuesday night. And one reason they lost it is because a 26-year-old guy in a Cubs cap saw a baseball coming his way and decided to try to catch it.
If he'd just seen Cubs left fielder Moises Alou, no more than a yard away, leaping toward the seats in foul territory, glove outstretched, he undoubtedly would have pulled his hands away. But this was a guy stuck in his own little tunnel. And once he flicked that ball away from Alou's glove, it became a tunnel with no light on either end.
Asked if he would have caught that ball if The Fan hadn't gotten in his path, Alou replied: "I think so â€” almost 100 percent. At the same time, I kind of feel bad for the guy now.
"Everybody comes to the ballpark and wants a ball," Alou went on, after the play which kept alive an eighth inning that turned into an eight-run debacle, which turned into an 8-3 loss in Game 6 of the NLCS. "It's unfortunate it happened. I was very upset. I was there. I got there in time. I jumped. I had my eyes on the ball. But everybody who goes to the ballpark wants a baseball. Hopefully, he doesn't have to regret it for the rest of his life."
But with all the national air time The Fan got, how can he not regret it? Only if the Cubs win Game 7, we suppose, and it becomes just another surreal October memory. But how do we know it can ever be that simple?
Asked if he was worried about The Fan's safety after the way he was berated, cursed and abused by his fellow Wrigley-ites, Florida's Jeff Conine said: "Yeah. I am. We're all concerned about that fan. Seriously.