Steve Bartman catches ball - HISTORY
Year
2003

Steve Bartman catches ball

On October 14, 2003, a Chicago Cubs fan named Steve Bartman plucks a fly ball out of the air before outfielder Moises Alou can catch it—a catch that would have been a crucial out—in the sixth game of the league championship series against the Florida Marlins. As a result of Bartman’s interference, the Cubs lost their momentum and the game. Bartman was escorted from Wrigley Field by security guards as bloodthirsty fans hurled beer cans and other debris at his head. The next day, he went into hiding—but not before he told the press that “I’ve been a Cub fan all my life and fully understand the relationship between my actions and the outcome of the gam—I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart.”

It was the eighth inning of the sixth game of the NLCS, and the Cubs were just five outs away from their first World Series since 1945–five outs away from proving once and for all that the famous Curse of the Billy Goat was dead. (Legend has it that a local bar owner and Cubs fan brought his pet goat to the fourth game of the 1945 World Series against the Tigers, but got thrown out in the middle of the game because, his seatmates said, the pair smelled like a barnyard. The goat’s insulted owner then declared that the team would never win another pennant. When Chicago lost to the Tigers a few days later, he sent a telegram to Wrigley that said simply: “Who stinks now?”)

Pitcher Mark Prior had a 3-0 lead, and he was on a roll. Cubs fans were sure their team was finally going all the way. Even when Florida’s Juan Pierre hit a double, things still looked good for the Cubs. Then, all of a sudden, they didn’t: Switch-hitter Luis Castillo stepped to the plate, worked a full count and cranked the ball hard toward the left-field fence. Moises Alou raced backward, jumped up and reached for the ball. He would have had it, too, but just then Bartman reached out and grabbed it just before it landed in Alou’s glove. The ump called the ball foul; Castillo went back to the plate; and an agitated Prior walked him in nine pitches. In the meantime, Pierre had moved to third on a wild pitch. Florida had men on the corners, the tying run at the plate and just one out.

All hell broke loose. A single to left scored Pierre. Then Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez missed a routine grounder and the bases were loaded. After that, team manager Dusty Baker said, “we couldn’t stop the bleeding. They just started hitting the ball all over everywhere.” By the end of the inning, the Marlins had scored eight runs and forced a seventh game.

Making matters worse for Bartman, Florida won the next game—and the NLCS—9-6. The Sun-Times printed his name and his picture under the headline “Cursed.” A Chicago alderman pointedly suggested that Bartman might consider moving to Alaska; Florida governor Jeb Bush gleefully recommended that he consider moving south instead. It seemed clear, as one Marlins fan noted dryly, that “this guy is their new goat.” Chicago has begun to forgive him, but it’s unlikely to ever forget. Meanwhile, the Cubs still haven’t won a pennant.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Theodore Roosevelt shot in Milwaukee

Before a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Theodore Roosevelt, the presidential candidate for the Progressive Party, is shot at close range by saloonkeeper John Schrank while greeting the public in front of the Gilpatrick Hotel. Schrank’s .32-caliber bullet, aimed directly ...read more

The Battle of Hastings

King Harold II of England is defeated by the Norman forces of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings, fought on Senlac Hill, seven miles from Hastings, England. At the end of the bloody, all-day battle, Harold was killed–shot in the eye with an arrow, according to ...read more

King wins Nobel Peace Prize

African American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in America. At 35 years of age, the Georgia-born minister was the youngest person ever to receive the award.Martin Luther King, ...read more

Yeager breaks sound barrier

U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.Yeager, born in Myra, West Virginia, in 1923, was a combat fighter during World War II and flew 64 missions over Europe. He shot down 13 German planes and was himself shot down over ...read more

Dwight D. Eisenhower is born

On this day in 1890, future President Dwight D. Eisenhower is born near Abilene, Texas.After graduating from West Point in 1915, Eisenhower embarked on a stellar military career–he would eventually become the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II and ...read more

Victor Hugo marries Adele Foucher

On this day in 1822, Victor Hugo married Adele Foucher, his childhood sweetheart. The pair will have numerous children, and the marriage will survive notorious infidelities on both sides. The marriage got off to an ominous start, however, when Hugo’s brother suffered a nervous ...read more

Pulp Fiction debuts

On this day in 1994, the writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a crime drama featuring multiple storylines and a large ensemble cast including John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Harvey Keitel, opens in theaters. Made for less than $10 ...read more

Coal miners die in Wales

On this day in 1913, 439 workers die in a massive coal-mine explosion in Wales. The incident was one of Britain’s worst-ever mining disasters.The Sengenhydd colliery (coal mine) was located about eight miles from Cardiff in Wales. The mine consisted of two pits, side by side, ...read more

Trial begins in Amityville murders

Ronald DeFeo Jr. goes on trial for the killings of his parents and four siblings in their Amityville, New York, home on October 14, 1975. The family’s house was later said to be haunted and served as the inspiration for the Amityville Horror book and movies.On the evening of ...read more

The Cuban Missile Crisis begins

The Cuban Missile Crisis begins on October 14, 1962, bringing the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear conflict. Photographs taken by a high-altitude U-2 spy plane offered incontrovertible evidence that Soviet-made medium-range missiles in Cuba—capable of ...read more

Battle of Bristoe Station

Confederate General Robert E. Lee attempts to drive the Union army out of Virginia but fails when an outnumbered Union force repels the attacking Rebels at the Battle of Bristoe Station.In September 1863, two corps from the Union Army of the Potomac moved to Tennessee to ...read more