By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 16, 2003 03:38 PM

Lifelong Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman, just another anonymous guy in the stands, did what anybody would have done when a foul ball came flying his way: He reached up to grab it.

But when Bartman, 26, reached up on Tuesday night in Wrigley Field, he ended up deflecting a ball that Moises Alou might have caught, contributing to the madness of a massive Cubs collapse. (On Wednesday, the Florida Marlins defeated the Cubs 9-6 in Game 7, capturing the National League pennant.)

On Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times was the first to release Bartman’s name, as editors and reporters debated whether it was worth identifying him in the face of a city that has long feared a Cubs curse.

But once his name hit print, the Bartman home was overwhelmed by reporters who camped outside his house and spoke to a man presumed to be his father, reports the Associated Press. Police asked reporters to stop calling and ringing the family’s doorbell.

Not that everyone is out for blood. The owner of a retreat in Pompano Beach, Fla., reportedly offered Bartman a free three-month stay, along with free steak dinners, free martinis and a free water taxi ride.

In a statement to the press, released before the Cubs’ defeat in Game 7, Bartman — a Little League coach and an employee of a consulting firm — made clear how sorry he was.

“Had I thought for one second that the ball was playable or had I seen Alou approaching, I would have done whatever I could to get out of the way and give Alou a chance to make the catch,” the statement said.

Bartman also said he was “truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart,” and he asked “that Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.”

As reported on Thursday morning’s “Today” show, Bartman remains in hiding. “This is sad that this is happening to him,” said his next-door neighbor.