Curse of the Turtlenecks

CUB FAN STEVE BARTMAN


Fan who deflected ball at Cubs game defended by dad, friends

By MEGAN REICHGOTT, Associated Press Writer
October 15, 2003

CHICAGO (AP) -- The 26-year-old man whose deflection of a foul fly played a key role in the Chicago Cubs' Game 6 collapse is a huge fan of the team and a youth baseball coach.

"He's one of the biggest Cubs fans I know,'' said a 34-year-old neighbor who has known the man since he was a child. "Whenever he can, he goes to games.''

The Associated Press, like most local media, held off on reporting the fan's name.

With the Cubs five outs from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945, the fan tried to grab the foul ball, preventing outfielder Moises Alou from catching it. That helped the Florida Marlins rally for an 8-3 victory to tie the NL championships series Tuesday night.

"They say if you are a Cubs fan, you won't catch it,'' a 63-year-old neighbor of the man said Wednesday. "I don't think that's a natural reaction. It's a natural reaction to catch the ball.''

The man's father also defended him, and said his son was not available to talk.

"I taught him well,'' his father told reporters outside their suburban Chicago home. "I taught him to catch foul balls when he comes near them.''

The man was escorted by security guards out of Wrigley Field in the bottom of the eighth inning after he was threatened and pelted with debris by other fans.

"Hopefully, he won't have to regret it for the rest of his life,'' Alou said.

The man works at a consulting firm in the suburbs, and a spokeswoman there said he did not go to work Wednesday.

His friends said baseball is the man's favorite sport and the Cubs are his favorite team. The fan wore a Cubs hat and a sweat shirt with the name of the youth league team he played for and now coaches.

The man created a national buzz on radio talk shows, and TV programs repeatedly showed his attempt to catch the ball.

"I can't fault him,'' said the 63-year-old neighbor. "My belief is that plays are made on the field, not in the stands.''

Pat Looney, a Chicago firefighter who was seated next to the man, said the fan had a right to try to catch the ball.

"He wasn't leaning over. He was behind the rail, he didn't know Alou was coming,'' Looney said.

Even Alou, who was initially furious about what happened, seemed to soften later.

"At the time, I was real upset,'' Alou said Tuesday. "But at same time, I kind of feel bad for the guy now, because every fan in every ballpark, their first reaction is they want a souvenir. Nobody's going to think about the outcome of the game.''

Associated Press writer Melanie Coffee contributed to this report.

Posted October 15, 2003 at 01:44 PM