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Cubs Fans Getting Desperate

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Cubs' Bartman ball to be 'executed' on TV

Knight Ridder News Service

Published on: 2/25/04

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- Many teams blow up their rosters after failing to win a World Series. Frustrated Chicago Cubs fans are blowing up a baseball.

In the final chapter of one of the most bizarre sagas in baseball history, Harry Caray's Restaurant Group in Chicago is staging a "Destroy the Ball, Find a Cure, Be a Part of History" event beginning Wednesday and culminating in Thursday evening's nationally televised demolition of the infamous ball.

The condemned ball was deflected by diehard Cubs fan Steve Bartman from the reach of left fielder Moises Alou during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Marlins.

There will be no reprieve for the ball that netted an unidentified fan $113,824 from restaurateur Grant DePorter, a friend of the late Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray.

DePorter said he bought the ball to keep out it of the hands of taunting Marlins fans and hopefully exorcise the "Billy Goat Curse" that originated in the 1945 World Series. That was the last Fall Classic the Cubs participated in.

"This is a giant fan rally for Cubs fans, who are true blue and so loyal," said Beth Goldberg Heller, director of marketing for Caray's Restaurant Group. "Harry would want us to blow up the ball for Cubs fans everywhere, to get rid of this ball."

While Bartman is maintaining a low profile and wants nothing to do with the publicity stunt, Heller said that a family member expressed gratitude for the positive spin and forgiveness that the Caray group has openly bestowed regarding Bartman's inadvertent involvement.

Through T-shirt sales and donations, the event has raised more than $1 million to combat juvenile diabetes.

The ball will be transported on Wednesday from a showcase in Harry Caray's midtown restaurant about a block away to a $300-a-day suite at the Amalfi Hotel where a public viewing is slated from 4-6 p.m. The ball will be given a massage before being served a final meal of lobster, prime rib and a Budweiser.

On Thursday morning, the ball, flanked by four bodyguards, will be escorted to the NBC Tower on Michigan Avenue, where "Today" show host Katie Couric will reveal the manner of execution.

Academy Award-winning special effects guru Michael Lantieri has been testing various methods of horsehide destruction, but in the end, DePorter will choose from about 10,000 suggestions as to how to destroy the star-crossed baseball.

At 7:32 p.m. Thursday, Dutchie Caray, Harry's widow, will propose an annual toast to her late husband. Then, accompanied by music from Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, the execution will be broadcast live during MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

There has been no word from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich regarding a pardon.

Who said the Dead Ball era is over?

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:ph34r: 98% of Red Sox fans agree that electrocuting up the ball may actually help...

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That's one of the most foolish things that I've ever heard of. That ball had nothing to do with the Cubs choking against the Marlins. Maybe they should burn a couple of their own players for not coming up big and living to their potential when the series was on the line in game 7.

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It was the manager's fault. He should've had a fresh arm on the mound. He didn't go to the bullpen until the Cubs lost the lead and the other team had at least a two or three run lead, with the bases loaded. It was like he was trying to lose the game. That is some of the worst management in the history of the playoffs!

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It was the manager's fault.... It was like he was trying to lose the game. That is some of the worst management in the history of the playoffs!

Did you see the Red Sox vs Yankees game 7? That was the worst.

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I watched both playoffs! It almost looked like the managers of the Cubs and RedSox were throwing the games. I'm sure if it was fixed, it would be fixed for Cubs and RedSox to appear in the World Series (high ratings and fan support), but the management of both clubs in late innings was terrible! :angry:

Still, it was the best year since 1998! :P

Anyone remember Beck? He played for both teams. The Cubs had a great team, but Beck was seen as this great all star relief pitcher. He wasn't. They put him in every game and if the lead wasn't at least 3-4 runs, the game was lost. He would load the bases and then give up between 1-3 runs before the outfielders could get 3 outs around the warning track. :lol: If it wasn't for the great offense of the Cubs, he would've never had all those saves he recorded that year. Then the RedSox picked him up and he helped them lose to the Yankees, just as he helped the Cubs lose to the Astros. :( As soon as Beck walked up to the mound I was saying Bernie will homer. Beck has a long history of helping his team lose and that's exactly what happened.

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Chicago -- In a flash, the ball that came to symbolize the Chicago Cubs' cursed history was blown up Thursday night, reduced to a pile of thread by a Hollywood special effects expert.

Hundreds of fans sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" before the ball -- the foul fly touched by Steve Bartman in last October's playoffs -- was obliterated.

Bartman had not been expected to attend the event, held in a tent outside Harry Caray's Restaurant. Some fans were decked out in Cubs gear, others wore replicas of the famous broadcaster's signature glasses and one man was covered in ivy.

"I feel it's finished, it's done and we're ready to move on and now I'm ready to play ball," fan Jessica Scroggin said.

The stunt was designed by Oscar winner Michael Lantieri, who worked on "Jurassic Park" and "Back to the Future."

"We're using a combination of pressure, heat and explosives in this bulletproof tank to destroy that ball so it will not resemble a ball at all when we're finished," Lantieri said earlier.

Because the explosive send-off came outside in a tent, some fans missed it.

"I'm somewhat disappointed, it was a little anticlimactic for us," Adam Fluck said.

Whether the ball was possessed by the curse that legend says afflicts the Cubs or not, fans were happy to see it go. To some, the destruction is a sign of the good things to come this season.

"I think it's very appropriate, it's symbolic of a new beginning," Rachel Cannon said.

Claudette Dockery agreed.

"The can cremate the ball for all I care or send it over Lake Michigan, the best I believe is yet to come," she said.

Cubs fans are ready to move on from the infamous moment.

With the Cubs leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 in Game 6 of the NL championship series and just five outs from their first World Series appearance since 1945, Bartman reached for the ball hit by Luis Castillo.

From his front-row seat at Wrigley Field, Bartman deflected the ball away from left fielder Moises Alou. The Cubs then gave up eight runs to the Marlins, and squandered another lead in Game 7 the next night.

In its final hours, the ball was put on display, given a massage and treated to a "last meal" of steak and lobster, or at least the aroma.

Grant DePorter, who helped buy the ball at an auction for $113,824 on behalf of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group, lined up hours of music, comedy and celebrity appearances.

"It's like the ring from 'The Lord of the Rings' and we're kind of like Frodo, trying to get it over with," Deporter said.

Bartman, who has made no public statements since issuing an apology in October. He did not plan to attend, a family friend said.

So much has been made of the ball's fate that even German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, speaking to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, was aware that something was happening involving the Cubs, if perhaps a bit confused about what.

"I very much hope that thing about the National League championship is going to play out the way you want it to," he said.

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