The first time I realized just how big a piece of Chicago lore Steve Bartman was going to hold was Halloween 2003, a few weeks after Game 6. I was in Bloomington, Ind., and every fifth person was dressed as Bartman. He was--and remains--iconic.
But as many people have pointed out--including members of the 2003 Cubs--this unlucky fan had nothing to do with the team’s failures in Game 6.
Certainly one of the people who believes that is rapper Serengeti. In 2012, he released the song “Don’t Blame Steve” on the “Kenny Dennis” EP, an album dedicated to his recurring song character Kenny Dennis. The song tells the story of Kenny Dennis being one of the people sitting next to Bartman during Game 6. Serengeti and I sat down this summer to talk about the song, the game and, as it turned out, the meaning of life.
Game 6. 2003. Where were you?
I was in West Rogers Park, with Vanessa, Gladys, and Jackie, all sitting on the couch, and watching the game unfold. I remember that play vividly, and then I remember the collapse. And then I thought it was over.
You didn’t think they had a chance in Game 7?
No. It was too much of a collapse. They were too close. … It was just too close to let it slip through your fingertips. It was tough to come back from that.
I don’t even recall Game 7, to be honest with you. All I recall is Game 6, thinking it was over, and it was. I don’t remember thinking very optimistically about Game 7, if I can recall correctly. It was 10 years ago, huh?
Damn. Damn damn. (Pause.)
So give me then the origin of the song.
I don’t know. Maybe just having some fun, feeling like writing a lot, maybe. Just wrote this little tale. I don’t remember exactly how it came about. It’s funny. Sort of humorous. Because Kenny, in the Kenny world, he was the biggest Cubs fan. But when the Cubs traded Hawk Dawson--or they didn’t sign him, or whatever--he totally stopped everything.
So he was at that Cubs game dressed in blue because he didn’t have teal, because he was actually pulling for the Marlins. Because he pulled for anything Florida at that time, because that’s where Hawk Dawson [ended his career], it’s where he was born, and retired. So that was that story--he was there, he was sitting next to Steve, and he was the guy who actually tried to knock the ball down. So are you a Dawson fan?
Yeah. I loved Hawk Dawson. He was the best. How old were you in ’89?
12. Something like that. I used to love Hawk Dawson. H-a-w-k. Tell me then how the video came about.
Alex Beh [the director of Serengeti’s video “Shazam”], he liked the song a lot. And he was like, “We have to do the video.” He was in Chicago. And it all just sort of happened in one day. I just went ahead and did it. It took about four or five hours. So in ’03, were you rooting for the Cubs or the Marlins?
No, that’s Kenny world. I was definitely pulling for the Cubs. I’d been a Cubs fan for so long. I remember in ’98 when they were playing the Braves, they didn’t have a shot. But this time, they actually had a shot. They had a really good chance. They won the first series. They were up. And those Marlins, man, they did it again. That was their second title, which was pretty amazing.
In the song, Kenny is talking about “Blame Alex Gonzalez, that’s #8. Blame 21, Sosa,” and stuff. But he also names players from that Marlins team, to blame them also. Then he also blames people from the ’98 Braves and the ’98 Cubs teams too. [Editor’s note: Kenny also blames members of the ’89 Cubs and ’89 Giants, along with a few other folks somehow related to the Cubs. The complete list of people Kenny Dennis suggests we blame for the Cubs’ perpetual failure instead of Steve Bartman:
First chorus: Randall Simon, Eric Karros, “#8” (Alex Gonzalez), “21” (Sammy Sosa), Wayne Messmer, D-Lee, [Kyle] Farnsworth Second chorus: [Jeff] Assenmacher, Jeff Pico, Damon Berryhill, Lloyd McClendon, Bob Brenly, Candy Maldonado, Roger Craig
Third chorus: Kevin Tapani, Mickey Morandini, Phil Regan, Scott Servais, Alan Embree, [Andres] Galarraga, Ryan Klesko Fourth chorus: Steve Stone, [Mark] Grudzielanek, Dan Roan, [Luis] Salazar, Gary Scott So then last question: Of all the guys that you named, give me your actual top tier most culpable people that you would blame for the Cubs losing in 2003.
It’s just baseball. Sometimes you just let it slip away. It just slipped away. You can’t really blame one person. It’s a team. It’s a team sport. Even if somebody did make a critical error, there were other things that could have been capitalized on innings before. Like say if you struck out with a count of 2-2 and there’s a runner on 2nd in the 3rd inning, you know what I’m saying? It’s just (pause) nah. I’m not blaming anybody. It’s sport. That’s why you love sport. It’s right there, and it doesn’t happen. That’s life. (Laughs.) Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. For more Kenny Dennis, check out the "Kenny Dennis" LP, released this June. Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.