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   Thursday, February 24, 2005  
Cub Fans Will Eat Bartman's Ball

from today's Los Angeles Times

CHICAGO — The foul ball that unraveled the Cubs' chance for a World Series appearance and left fans steaming is now simmering in a red spaghetti sauce.

Harry Caray's Restaurant Group last year bought and destroyed the infamous "Bartman" ball, an object that to superstitious Cub fans became the ultimate symbol of bad luck.

Now a restaurant is using the ball's shredded remains as an ingredient in its "Foul Ball" spaghetti. Since the dish was unveiled Monday, about 1,000 people have paid $11.95 to sample it. Proceeds are going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Cubs faithful from Fargo, N.D., have driven more than 600 miles to taste it. Fans from England and Italy have asked the restaurant to ship them the pungent sauce.

"The start of baseball season is coming. We have to do something to prepare," said Grant DePorter, the managing partner of Harry Caray's restaurant, founded by and named after the late Cubs announcer.

During the 2003 National League championship series, Steve Bartman — a loyal Cub fan — inadvertently knocked the ball out of left fielder Moises Alou's reach. The Cubs were leading the Florida Marlins 3-0 — just five outs from a trip to the World Series. The Marlins rallied to win Game 6 and took Game 7 to advance to the World Series — where the Cubs haven't been since 1945.

The Bartman ball was blown apart last February, reduced to a pile of shredded wool, twine, leather and rubber. But its destruction failed to bring about the much-hoped-for result — a World Series berth last year — which led tens of thousands of fans to e-mail or call DePorter.

They begged for one thing: Finish the job.

"We went through all the messages, and there were three common pleas," DePorter said.

Drown the remains in beer. Pierce them with a laser beam. Eat them.

DePorter decided to do all three — just in case.

Last week, the restaurant assembled a team of local advisors that included a chemistry expert from Northwestern University, a registered dietitian from Thorek Hospital and a staff member from a food-testing laboratory.

They had to figure out a way to blend the ball's remains into something that would be safe to eat.

"Once all the leather and the rubber were removed, we were left with natural fibers," said Krista Wennerstrom, director of nutrition for Thorek Hospital and a "serious" Cub fan. The fibers were tossed into a big container of beer seasoned with rosemary, thyme, oregano and bay leaves.

"We boiled it, then it went through a distilling and purifying process," Wennerstrom said.

The result was nearly a gallon of a clear, pungent liquid — which was zapped with low-powered laser beams. Finally, it was blended with the restaurant's regular marinara recipe.

"The flavor's a bit on the smoky side," said Paul Katz, the restaurant's executive chef.

The city's health department gave the all-clear after making sure "there would be no actual horsehide or rubber bits in the sauce," spokesman Tim Hadac said.

Cub fans John Perrone and his 20-year-old son, Jeff, drove from northwest Indiana Wednesday to sample the sauce. As they dabbed up the last bits with bread, they said they hoped it would help end the team's bad luck.

"It's ridiculous. But I thought, if it'll help, what do I have to lose?" said Perrone, 48. "It was pretty good. It didn't taste like rawhide at all."

Katz's recipe calls for 4 ounces of the ball-flavored juice to every 8 gallons of marinara sauce. Since Monday, he's used about one-fourth of the "Foul Ball" liquid.

"It has to be gone before the first tickets go on sale" Friday, DePorter said. "We'll start adding more to the sauce."

baron davis goes to golden state + chris webber traded to 76ers + Nazr goes to the Spurs

Previously on busblog...