Calling Steve Bartman….

Boston Red Sox fans finally got to see their dreams come true (twice) – and the Chicago White Sox finally overcame their World Series jinx going back to the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919.

But the Chicago Cubs – well, they’re still waiting – and some folks think that 2003 could have been their year, but for the intervention of Steve Bartman.

Now and the National Sports Collectors Convention are offering Steve Bartman a whopping $25,000 – and all he has to do is show up at their memorabilia show in Rosemont, Illinois on July 31 at 1 p.m. – prove his identity – and sign just one picture of his infamous 15 seconds of fame. Assuming Bartman shows – his autographed picture will be auctioned with the proceeds going to a Chicago-based charity.

“No one in sports memorabilia history has ever been paid $25,000 to sign one autograph — not Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, or any other athlete,’ said Mike Berkus, co-Executive Director of The National – who also notes that they have “personal security to provide to Steve at The National and to a destination of his choosing.’

If Bartman accepts the offer, he will vault into an autograph stratosphere of his own – well ahead of what some famous former athletes have gotten for a single autograph:

  • Babe Ruth: $10,000
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson: $7,500
  • Lou Gehrig: $5,000
  • Michael Jordan: $2,500
  • Joe DiMaggio: $2,000
  • Mickey Mantle: $1,000

Who’s Steve Bartman?

Now, having said that, Steve Bartman is no Babe Ruth. His claim to fame came when he did what every one of us would hope to do at a Major League Baseball game – catch a fly ball. In Steve’s case, that fly foul ball looked (at least to him) like it had been hit out of play in the eighth inning of the sixth game of the 2003 National League Championship. A game that the Cubs led 3-0 in a series they led 3-2. They were, by some reckonings, just five outs from their first World Series appearance since 1945 – and maybe their first World Series championship since 1908. But that ball, which Steve may well have thought was out of play – to much of the rest of the world (certainly to those in the Windy City), looked playable by Cubs left fielder Moisés Alou.

But the umpires saw no interference, and the Cubs then watched the Florida Marlins score eight runs….SIX of them unearned…beating the Cubs 8-3 that night on their way to a come from behind NLCS victory (the next night Florida won the NLCS – after coming back from a 5-3 deficit) and then went on to defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series).

However, on that infamous October night, none other than Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich suggested that Steve Bartman join a witness protection program, while then-Florida governor Jeb Bush magnanimously offered him asylum. In the intervening years since the incident, Steve’s seat (Aisle 4, Row 8, Seat 113) has become a tourist attraction at Wrigley Field.

Bartman has, prudently no doubt, laid low since that infamous night – and the smart money probably is on a repeat non-appearance. The Cubs have unfortunately already begun their famous post-All Star Break “swoon” – but, for the moment, anyway, they are still in first place.

Maybe Cub fans will be in a forgiving mood.