The better half and I went to see “Catching Hell” yesterday at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring. The movie is part of SilverDocs, the theater’s seven-day international event which is in its ninth year. We love going to AFI because it has that classic feel of going to the movies, and spares the viewers the long string of previews.
“Catching Hell” was directed and produced by Alex Gibney, who has examined the worst side of humanity in films such as “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and “Taxi to the Dark Side.”
Baseball fans know the gist of the Bartman story but it’s worth recounting what happened that night, Game Six of the 2003 NLCS.
In the top of the eighth, Chicago led Florida 3 to 0 at Wrigley Field and were leading 3 games to 2. The Cubs, one of the original 1876 franchises, had last won a World Series in 1908. Excitement and anticipation filled the ballpark. Mark Prior, their ace who had won 18 games with a 2.43 ERA (6.2 WAR), was tossing a shutout.
With one out and Juan Pierre on second, Luis Castillo hit a foul ball down the left field line. Bartman and a few other spectators reached for the ball. Bartman touched the ball, which kept left fielder Moises Alou from making the potential catch. The Cubs asked for fan interference but the umpire ruled the ball had crossed the imaginary line between the playing field and the stands.
After the incident, the Cubs imploded, giving up eight runs. In Game Seven at Wrigley, the Cubs were leading 5 to 3 with Kerry Wood on the mound, but lost 9 to 6.
The movie is excellent. I hadn’t known just how hateful the fans became to Bartman, a dedicated fan and Little League coach. The media also needs to take a long sober look at their role in stoking fan reaction.
Gibney frames his story with what happened to Bill Buckner and the psychological effects he went through after making that costly error in Game Six of the ’86 World Series. Fortunately, his story has a good ending. 22 years later, the BoSox fans gave him a warm welcome on Opening Day in 2008 and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch (Fred Merkle received a similar day from the Giants).
One hopes the Cubs will one day win the World Series, and in similar fashion, welcome Steve Bartman back to Wrigley Field.
Better yet, why wait? This man has suffered enough.