Man pays dearly to destroy ball, Cub 'curse'
Saturday, December 20, 2003
CHICAGO -- Here's one way to try to end the Cubs' curse: Destroy the ball that was in the middle of one of the team's most heartbreaking defeats.
That's exactly what Grant DePorter wants to do.
DePorter, a friend of Harry Caray and managing partner of the late broadcasters' area restaurants, paid $106,600 at auction Friday for the foul ball that disrupted the Cubs' possible run to the World Series.
"We want to create some closure to the way the season ended," DePorter said.
The ball is to be destroyed in an act of exorcism. It is earmarked for death on Feb. 26, when the restaurant organizes a worldwide toast to Caray.
DePorter plans to ask fans for ideas on how best to banish the ball.
"Harry Caray was a true Cubs fan, and we think he'd want us to do whatever we can to make it easier for fans to put this thing behind us," he said.
Cubs fan Steve Bartman deflected the ball in Game 6 of the National League championship series on Oct. 14. The ball appeared headed for the glove of Cubs outfielder Moises Alou, but he was unable to catch it after it ricocheted off Bartman's hand.
The Florida Marlins rallied to win the game, and the Cubs then lost Game 7 and their chance to reach their first World Series since 1945.
DePorter wants to make sure that if Cubs fans can't control the fate of their season they can at least control the fate of this ball.
"We weren't about to let it get into the hands of a Marlins fan," he said.
The auction was handled by MastroNet Inc. of suburban Oak Brook. Thirty-seven bids had been made on the ball by the time the auction closed about 4 a.m.
MastroNet said the seller was a 33-year-old Chicago attorney identified only as Jim. According to the company, he was sitting near Bartman and picked up the ball when it bounced his way.
The ball was authenticated using affidavits, ticket stubs and other information, MastroNet said.
DePorter said he was pleased his bid surpassed that for the ball that skipped through Bill Buckner's legs in the 1986 World Series, helping the New York Mets beat the Boston Red Sox. Actor Charlie Sheen paid $93,500 for that ball in a 1992 auction, and author Seth Swirsky bid $63,945 to acquire it in 2000.
"The Cubs fans' sorrow is worth more than the Red Sox fans' sorrow," DePorter said.
DePorter said Bartman will be invited to attend the event when the ball is destroyed.
Messages left Friday by The Associated Press with Bartman and his spokesman were not immediately returned.
He has sought to avoid the limelight since issuing a statement shortly after the fateful game, saying he was "truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan's broken heart."