Do you know who Steve Bartman is? He is a diehard Chicago Cubs fan who in one infamous moment became the glare and symbol of the long drought surrounding the team’s World Series failures. Bartman was sitting in a seat on the third base line of Wrigley Field, the now infamous seat #113. He had a Chicago baseball cap pulled down, headset on to listen to the game on the radio, and a green scarf.
In the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with Chicago ahead of the Florida Marlins 3–0 and holding a 3-2 lead in the best of 7 series, that’s when Bartman made Chicago Cubs history. It was October 14, 2003. A ball had been hit to the field and several spectators attempted to catch the foul ball. One of the fans, Steve Bartman, reached for the ball and caused Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou to miss or drop the ball. If Alou had caught the ball it would have been the second out in the inning and the Cubs would have been just four outs
away from winning the National League pennant. Instead, the Cubs ended up surrendering eight runs in the same inning, giving up the lead. They went on to lose the game. When they were eliminated in the seventh game the next day, the “Steve Bartman incident” was seen as the turning point of the series.
Bartman was escorted from Wrigley Field and essentially went into hiding to this day. His face and picture of him sitting there absorbing abuse from frustrated fans was on all television sets and newspapers across America.
It is a fascinating sports story; fascinating how one moment can tell such a big story. One small ripple grew into a wave that has spanned for years. I watched the ESPN document “Catching Hell” about Bartman and naturally thought of, unintentionally, ways people in our sport have reached out and changed the game. How one small moment can ripple throughout motocross history.
Example of that type of that type of ripple effect in our sport was when in 1977 a pit board message read “Let Brock Bye-1 Lap”
As the second moto wore on in the final round of the 1977 AMA 125 National Championship in San Antonio, Texas, Broc Glover needed to catch and pass Bob Hannah to win the National Championship over Suzuki’s Danny Laporte. Laporte had led much of the season and Glover had chipped away at the points. Hannah was effectively out of the championship thanks to a shortened series of six races and several mechanical issues.
Glover had won moto one, Hannah finished second and Danny LaPorte third. With one moto to go the points difference was now five points between LaPorte and Glover. Glover had to win.
In Moto2, Hannah was out front by as much as 1 minute, some would say, but to most a realistic 25 seconds ahead of second place Broc Glover, and even further back was Danny LaPorte in third. As they raced in that order, LaPorte was going to be the 1977 AMA 125 National Champion.
As Hannah, who was a teammate of Glover but certainly not a friend, came through the mechanics area, Hannah’s mechanic, Keith McCarthy, held out held out the infamous pit board message. “Let Brock Bye – 1 LAP”. Team orders were not a surprise to Hannah as Team Yamaha had moved several big bike riders down to the 125cc class to aid in the championship and had made it clear to everyone that winning the championship was the goal of the team, something Hannah couldn’t accomplish.
Hannah’s style was a modern day Justin Barcia: wild aggression and raw emotion. He was described as a man stuck wide open on a bike holding on with rusted vice grips for hands. He was loved by fans but didn’t care if they hated him. He wanted to win. Period!
With orders looming, one can only imagine the emotion as Hannah slowed down. Broc Glover caught and passed him. Hannah “Let Brock Bye” . That pass gave Broc Glover three more points and suddenly Broc and Danny LaPorte were tied for the National Championship. Based on moto finishes throughout the series, Broc was declared the Champion.
Broc was ecstatic but not everyone at Team Yamaha was happy. It was a moment that had unintentional impact on the team, the riders and the sport. Hannah was nowhere to be found.He had ridden out into the woods and then upon returning barricaded himself in the truck in tears (remember Barcia comparison). Laporte accepted the fate without much outward emotion. To all the fans that day, few were any the wiser to how Glover had won. Unlike today’s rapid information world of Twitter and internet, word of Glovers’ Championship dribbled out. Details surrounding the championship and the team orders oozed out further behind.
Yamaha’s direction to McCarthy, his misspelled message to Hannah, led to one of the sport’s most famous, dubious and lore moments.
No, it can’t be compared to the weight or scale of Chicago’s BillyGoat curse in which the fans still live under in Chicago, but like Steve Bartman, the moment is one of our sport’s great,unintentional stories that changed the course of many careers and a championship. Like the famous video of bartman sombery sitting reflecting on what had just happened is part of major league baseball lore, so will the picture of McCarthy taken 35 years ago solemnly holding out the board – “Let Brock bye – 1 Lap”.