The Chicago Cubs and Steve Bartman reconcile and resolve a lot of pain. In the process the Cubs show a lot of grace, forgiveness, and how reconciliation and healing is possible. Its yet another example of how the world can often do a better job in showing grace than the evangelical Christian church. As Harry Carey would say, “How about those Cubbies!”
“He can apply for asylum in the Sunshine State.”
Jeb Bush offering Steve Bartman asylum
“How can you fully open your heart to someone new, when in fact what you really need is a closure from your past.”
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:8 NIV
Cubs logo from Wikipedia
This blog has regularly written about the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. For example I wrote about the meeting between Brenda Tracy and Nebraska Football Coach Mike Riley. Brenda was gang-raped in Oregon and pursued the situation for years until she found closure and some healing. You can read about it “The Necessity of Finding Closure: What the Evangelical Church can Learn from a Meeting Between Brenda Tracy and Nebraska Football Coach Mike Riley.” Then I also wrote about how Mary Johnson in Minneapolis forgave her son’s killer in “Forgiveness & Reconciliation: The Story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel in Minneapolis….” Then down in Florida there is the incredible story involving Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge. Eric Smallridge had killed Renee’s daughter and best friend in a drunk driving accident. But Eric’s repentance and seeking of forgiveness led to some amazing healing. You can read about that in “Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge: An Incredible Story of Grace, Forgiveness and Repentance in Florida.” And another story that is worth reading along the topic of forgiveness deals with Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida who were on opposing sides in World War II. You can read that story in “The Story of Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida: Forgiveness Amidst the Ashes of World War II.”
Then recently another story emerged out of the city of Chicago that is worth taking note of and considering. I wrote about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series last fall because of how passionate my Mom was about Chicago sports. You can read that post in “A Curse is Broken in Chicago!”
What Steve Bartman did in 2003 and the Last 14 Years
On October 14, 2003 the Chicago Cubs were in a post season game with the Florida Marlins. The Cubs were winning 3 – 0 and were five outs away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945. After all the Chicago Cubs had not been World Series Champions since 1908. At bat for the Marlins was Luis Castillo and he had one out and a full count. The Cubs had a player on second base. Steve Bartman sat in seat 113 alongside the front row in the left field corner behind the bull pen. Luis Castillo hit a pop foul and the Cubs left fielder Moises Alou approached the wall, jumped and tried to catch it. At the same time Bartman reached out with his mitt and attempted to catch the ball but he failed. In the process Bartman deflected the ball from going into Alou’s glove. Alou threw down his glove and screamed at several fans. The Cubs tried to argue that there was fan interference but the umpire ruled against the Cubs. After this incident the Cubs pretty much choked, and went down hill. Bartman sat there in his seat with his jacket, Cubs hat, green turtleneck and wearing headphones and he started to take heat. He was escorted away from Wrigley Field as Cubs fans started to become angry with him, throw debris and scream “asshole” at him. (Sounds like a game in Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin.)
After Bartman was smuggled out of Wrigley Field, his home address and contact information popped up on online message boards after the game ended. Chicago Police had six police cars outside his home offering him protection from threats of violence and more. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who would be long remembered for his corruption in trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat, suggested that Bartman join the witness protection program. Meanwhile down in Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered Steve Bartman asylum.
After the incident Bartman issued a statement saying that he was “truly sorry.” He continued and said, “I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moisés Alou, much less that he may have had a play.” Bartman became a ghost and avoided all publicity. When Marlins fans started sending him gifts he asked fans to send them to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He changed his phone number, turned down interviews, refused endorsement deals, and declined public appearances. He later turned down an ESPN documentary and declined a six figure offer to do a Super Bowl commercial in 2011. This Chicago Tribune article in 2011 details Bartman’s life and how he lived under the radar. He avoided all Cubs games as a Cubs fan and became associated as a part of the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat. On October 2, 2015 when the Chicago Cubs where in the National League Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cubs fan Keque Escobedo started a GoFundMe campaign to send Bartman to the Pirates game. As money was being raised again Bartman declined and the money went to the Alzheimer’s Association instead. In 2016 as the Cubs advanced through the playoffs renewed interest in Steve Bartman occurred, Bartman declined an interview to the Chicago Sun-Times, and when the Cubs won the pennant and moved into the World Series many in Chicago wanted Bartman to throw out the first pitch. The Cubs went on to win the World Series by defeating the Cleveland Indians and the Curse of the Billy Goat died. Even during the celebrations Bartman avoided the activities. What happened next is absolutely amazing and it exhibits grace in a spectacular way.
An Amazing Act in Chicago
The Cubs had wanted to reach out to Bartman for some time. In late July of 2017 the owner of the Chicago Cubs Tom Ricketts gave Steve Bartman a World Series ring that had his name on it. Below is the statement that Tom Rickets gave to WGN in Chicago.
“On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman. We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today.”
Bartman accepted the ring and issued a statement that is pretty amazing considering all that he had gone through. He in turn also gave a statement.
“Although I do not consider myself worthy of such an honor, I am deeply moved and sincerely grateful to receive an official Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Championship ring. I am fully aware of the historical significance and appreciate the symbolism the ring represents on multiple levels. My family and I will cherish it for generations. Most meaningful is the genuine outreach from the Ricketts family, on behalf of the Cubs organization and fans, signifying to me that I am welcomed back into the Cubs family and have their support going forward. I am relieved and hopeful that the saga of the 2003 foul ball incident surrounding my family and me is finally over.
I humbly receive the ring not only as a symbol of one of the most historic achievements in sports, but as an important reminder for how we should treat each other in today’s society. My hope is that we all can learn from my experience to view sports as entertainment and prevent harsh scapegoating, and to challenge the media and opportunistic profiteers to conduct business ethically by respecting personal privacy rights and not exploit any individual to advance their own self-interest or economic gain.
Moreover, I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved. To that end, I request the media please respect my privacy, and the privacy of my family. I will not participate in interviews or further public statements at this time.
Words alone cannot express my heartfelt thanks to the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein, and the entire Cubs organization for this extraordinary gift, and for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an unforgettable World Championship in 2016. I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving forward with my life.”
What the Church can Learn From Steve Bartman and the Chicago Cubs
There are many lessons that exist in this story that the evangelical church can learn from the Chicago Cubs and Steve Bartman situation. I find it amazing yet again that it is the secular world that points the way and shows grace, and humility. In this example the secular world yet again outshines the church. These are some of the take away that one could pull from this story.
There is the amazing act of grace that the Cubs gave to Steve Bartman. Tom Rickett reached out and gave Steve an amazing World Series ring. Steve Bartman most certainly did not deserve it, that ring that was given to him is an example of grace. It is an unmerited act that he received. In the process of giving grace the Chicago Cubs embraced him. Its representative of what the Lord does to sinners, he embraces them. Plus like the prodigal son, the organization pursues someone who is searching and seeking. That in itself is amazing, the fact that the Chicago Cubs reached out to Bartman a couple of times before presenting him with the World Series ring.
There is another major lesson in this story. That lesson is of reconciliation and healing. The Chicago Cubs reached out and wanted to reconcile with Steve Bartman. They wanted to heal him and bring him closure. They wanted to help him and assist in the process. They don’t abandon Bartman or leave him high and dry. To the contrary they wanted to resolve the conflict to the best of their ability. In the process the Cubs showed as to how they cared and wanted to right a wrong. They also did this so that Steve Bartman would not be stuck. That he could live his life, enjoy sports again, and come back to Chicago Cubs games. Its really a beautiful example of what can happen when reconciliation and grace are fused into one. This is what should happen in the Christian faith, the fact that it often doesn’t highlights as to how sick many parts of evangelical Christianity can be.
There is another aspect to what the Chicago Cubs did and that is with the story of forgiveness. The Chicago Cubs ultimately forgave Steve for what he did in 2003. They put if past him and said that its over. He doesn’t have to live under guilt or shame any more, its basically over. The Cubs forgiving Steve Bartman is monumental in many ways. For some people they resisted those who still liked to carry the situation on. For others it became a role model of how forgiveness should be handled. The Cubs moved forward and forgave what happened.
Why Can’t Evangelical Christians Act Similarly?
I read this story and was stunned by it. As you can tell it moved me enough to write a post about the situation. Now here is a question I would like to ask. Why can’t many evangelical Christians act similarly to the Chicago Cubs? Why can’t they behave in the same way? As I type this I can think of so many examples of so many evangelical churches or pastors who act he opposite way. These are but a few.
- You have C.J. Mahaney who is all about being a man who runs, runs, and runs. Many would forgive him if he reached out and admitted his error. I find it especially ironic that I am using a baseball example to highlight how jacked up Mahaney is in the end. After all when he titles a blog called “CJ’s From the Cheap Seats” and published “Don’t Waste Your Sports.” The Chicago Cubs have class in way that Mahaney couldn’t even approach. What does Mahaney’s continued running show?
- Then you have Mark Driscoll of the late Mars Hill Seattle. Mark was all about masculinity. Yet this guy who was all about ownership fled and ran. He fled Seattle for the Scottsdale, Arizona area. There are many people who want to reconcile with him and yet Mark Driscoll just flees. If Mark Driscoll did the right thing he could bring a lot of closure to many people.
- Then I can think of an Air Force Captain who boasted of having “sound doctrine” and called Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington profoundly healthy. Yet he ran despite the pain and trauma that came upon my family in part due to his behavior. He was enabled in the end by Jordan Kauflin who let him off the hook. This is “sound doctrine?”
- I can think of so many churches and situations that I have written about that this post can become a book that would rival all the volumes of Karl Marx’s Das Kapitol.
All too often I have to say often that if you want to understand Christianity and the Christian faith, you need to look outside the church. You won’t find it in places like Redeemer Arlington, or many former Sovereign Grace Churches. You won’t find it in places like Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis or Fairfax Community Church here in the Washington, D.C. area. Its best to keep looking, and remember that 99% of the time you will find it outside the doors and walls of the “local church.” I will let you guys think about that as I end this post. That’s it guys please know that I love you.