Murtha said he explained to DePorter that his father was buried close to Caray at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines.

"I know my dad and Harry talk all the time," he recalled saying. "So if Harry says to him, 'Steve should come,' he'll be there."

It was Murtha's sly way of saying: No chance.

Murtha believes DePorter has profited off Bartman's situation. DePorter told the New York Times in September 2004 that blowing up the ball helped increase revenue by about 20 percent, or $1.5 million: "And I attribute almost all of it to the ball, people clustering around the case to see it."

DePorter acknowledged that figure but said he had offered, through Murtha, to compensate Bartman.

"So far, Steve has not wanted any compensation," DePorter said.

Murtha said DePorter told him the ball explosion would be "the end for the ball and the end for Steve," but he pointed to the selling of the spaghetti sauce and a book as examples of the continued exploitation of Bartman's name.

"If I had a choice of having the ball blown up and buried, or hanging the shreds in a restaurant, I'd rather bury it," Murtha said. "And whatever they didn't blow up, they put in a spaghetti sauce and sold."

DePorter said he regretted not letting Bartman know about selling the spaghetti sauce. He said he has "respect" for Murtha, has contributed thousands in Bartman's name to JDRF and never has been anything but "supportive" of Bartman.

The Future

Will Bartman ever come out of the shadows?

DePorter believes it's time Bartman ends his self-imposed exile from Wrigley Field, saying fans and players would embrace him now.

"Maybe it's time for him to not be Greta Garbo and the 'mystery,' " he said. "Maybe it's time for him to get out there, go to a game with Ernie (Banks). He would find people want to support him because that's all I've ever heard."

Banks left a message on Murtha's phone Friday asking to set up a private meeting between him and Bartman. Murtha said he would relay the message and that Bartman has "all the respect in the world" for Banks.

Still, it's Bartman's choice to maintain his privacy, and that's what he will continue to do.

Murtha said the retelling of the incident has managed only to obscure the real story — namely, the incredible collapse of a baseball team that was on the cusp of the World Series.

"Distance has provided the media and fans cover for some lousy baseball, and that's what it was," Murtha said.

"Steve is still a baseball fan. On many occasions the Cubs organization has expressed there is no ill will toward him and has welcomed him to attend a game.

"He has no ill will toward the Cubs or toward baseball."

Twitter @PWSullivan