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Steve Bartman ball remains at rest in sports museum at Harry Caray's

In this Oct. 14, 2003 file photo, Chicago

In this Oct. 14, 2003 file photo, Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou's arm is seen reaching into the stands, at right, unsuccessfully for a foul ball along with a fan identified as Steve Bartman, left, wearing headphones, glasses and Cubs hat, during the eighth inning against the Florida Marlins in Game 6 of the National League Championship Seriesin Chicago. Credit: Associated Press / Morry Gash

CHICAGO - Hope springs eternal in Chicago, where fans of the Cubs have had little else to go on for the past century.

So in the hours before Game 4 of the NLCS Wednesday night, Grant DePorter said, "I'm still optimistic that the Cubs are going to pull it out," despite a 3-0 series deficit to the Mets.

Nothing unusual there.

But DePorter is a more prominent fan than most, given his position as CEO of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group, which runs three eateries named for the iconic late Cubs announcer, as well as the Chicago Sports Museum, which opened in April 2014 attached to one of the restaurants in a downtown mall.

He also is the guy who in 2003 paid $113,824.16 for the ball that a fan named Steve Bartman has been blamed for preventing a Cub named Moises Alou from catching a couple of months earlier, changing the course of the NLCS against the Marlins.

In February 2004, DePorter had the ball blown up, with help from special effects expert Michael Lantieri, who also was the special effects coordinator for "Back to the Future Part II."

That was the 1989 movie that predicted the Cubs would win the World Series in a sweep of Miami on Oct. 21, 2015.

None of that happened, as he now knows, but there were the remains of the Bartman ball Wednesday, sitting in a display case in the museum as a star attraction among a number of cool Chicago sports items DePorter has obtained.

New acquisitions that are coming to displays soon: Mike Ditka's personal playbook from Super Bowl XX and the basket, complete with stanchion, on which Michael Jordan scored the winning hoop against the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals.

Already on display are the 12 stitches the Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw required to put his cheek back together after a nasty cut during the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Yes, the actual stitches.

Chicago is famously passionate about its teams in other sports, but the Cubs' run this season has led to an uptick in traffic to both the Harry Caray restaurants and the museum.

"When the Cubs win, that's better for Harry Caray's, and when they lose it's not so good," DePorter said. "Everyone wants to be at Harry Caray's. If you're not at Wrigley Field there's no place more associated with the Cubs."

The "Back to the Future Part II" thing added to the vibe coming into 2015. DePorter intended to bet on the Cubs to win the World Series last fall at odds of 45-1. By the time he got to Las Vegas in the spring, the odds had fallen dramatically.

"We've been counting down to this year for years," he said.

DePorter said he included Red Sox and White Sox fans in the 2003 blowing-up ceremony because at the time the Red Sox had not won it all since 1918 and the White Sox since 1917.

Then the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and the White Sox in 2005.

The Cubs' wait continues.


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