CHICAGO – The fan who played in a key role in the Chicago Cubs' (search) collapse in Game 6 of the NL championship series apologized Wednesday, saying he was brokenhearted.
With the Cubs five outs from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945, Steve Bartman (search) tried to grab a foul ball, preventing outfielder Moises Alou from catching it. That helped the Florida Marlins (search) rally for an 8-3 victory to tie the NL championship series Tuesday night.
The Marlins also won Game 7 to advance to the World Series and cement Bartman's gaffe as a key moment in the Cubs' long, sad history.
"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 Moises Alou, much less that he may have had a play," Bartman said in a statement.
"Had I thought for one second that the ball was playable or had I seen Alou approaching, I would have done whatever I could to get out of the way and give Alou a chance to make the catch."
The 26-year-old Bartman, a youth baseball coach, was escorted by security guards from Wrigley Field after he was threatened by angry fans and pelted with debris.
A police guard was posted outside the suburban Northbrook home where he lives with his parents. His brother-in-law -- who read the statement to the media -- said Bartman was "hiding somewhere. He just wants to move on and he wants the Cubs to win."
Bartman apologized to Cubs fans and ex-players, including Ron Santo and Ernie Banks.
"I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan's broken heart," he said.
"I ask that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs," Bartman said.
His wishes were unanswered. The Marlins won 9-6, leaving Cubs fans everywhere to ponder what might have been if Bartman hadn't gotten in the way.
He became the talk of the town soon after the Marlins forced the decisive seventh game.
Angry broadcasters castigated him. A local newspaper found in a Web poll that thousands of people blamed him for playing a role in the Cubs' loss. Even the governor weighed in.
"Nobody can justify any kind of threat to someone who does something stupid like reach for that ball," Gov. Rod Blagojevich said.
In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush said an offer of asylum to Bartman might be a good idea, and an oceanfront retreat in Pompano Beach offered him a free three-month stay if he needed to get out of Chicago.
Earlier in the day, neighbors and other fans had various opinions on whether Bartman should have tried to catch the ball.
"If you are a fan who's been around for a while, you just know not to interfere with a player," said Don Emond, 66, a longtime season-ticket holder who was at the game. "I think these fans like that are sort of selfish or they don't really care about the consequences of what happened."
Bartman was described by neighbors as such a big Cubs fan that he traveled to Arizona to see the team in spring training.
In brief comments to reporters before going inside his home, Bartman's father defended his son.
"I taught him well," Ted Bartman said. "I taught him to catch foul balls when he comes near them."
Don Kessinger went after countless popups near the stands while playing shortstop for the Cubs in the 1960s and '70s.
"I think he did what 40,000 people would have done," said Kessinger, now in the real estate business in Oxford, Miss.
Even Alou, who was initially furious, seemed to soften later.
"I kind of feel bad for the guy now, because every fan in every ballpark, their first reaction is they want a souvenir," he said. "Nobody's going to think about the outcome of the game."